Leticia Valverdes

2020 - Ongoing

Brazil, my country of birth, has been affected by the Covid pandemic in devastating ways and is the country with the second highest death rate in the world. The Amazon has been hit like no other area. During the lockdown in the UK I saw myself having to become a teacher for my three children.

While following schools' lessons, I watched from a safe UK home, the news of president Bolsonaro’s behaviour in relation to the pandemic and his government’s lack of response to containing the virus nationally, and deliberate attack to the Amazon and its people. The pandemic combined with the burning, deforestation and mining makes the region and its people extremely vulnerable and endangered.

I realised that my kids needed to learn of that reality. More than times tables, I wanted them to know that the Amazon and its people are in great danger. It moved me to print some of the images in my archive and, together, we transform them. In the process we discussed what are the threats and challenges facing the region. I hope to have sensitively educated my children to this imminent tragedy, while trying to articulate some of my own emotions felt in relation to the situation.

My children now know that the native Amazonian people have protected the forest for millennia.That their sacred land holds gold and other riches that the West seeks to extract.That the Brazilian president’s rhetoric in favor of developing the Amazon validates crimes and invasions.

Now they know about ecocide and genocide.

That clandestine gold miners cut through the forest bringing disease, displacing the earth and polluting rivers.

They know there is blood involved, and to represent it we created a formula of beetroot juice and paint. They know that fires are started before the soya and cattle comes.There was also burning of the paper to represent the burning of the forest.

While transforming these images with my children, and through their eyes, I could personally touch on the grief and sensation of impotence I feel for the fact that whole tribes can cease to exist. Yet I wanted to be reminded of the beauty of the moments I shared with such peoples and the forest. I wanted to find some hope in the process. I see the wisdom and purity of my children mirrored in that of the original peoples’. Our creative process over those images was instinctive and cathartic, free of technical restrains and boundaries. Full of playfulness and poetry.

I also hope our series can inspire other young people to learn, to ask questions and to love the habitat and the people I so love and that humanity cannot afford to lose. Just praying is not longer enough. .

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  • #prayforamazonia-Upside Down World-
    “The fact that the Amazon is still seen as something faraway and also, or mainly, as a periphery shows just how stupid white Western culture is—a culture first of European roots and then of U.S. ones, and a stupidity that molds and shapes the political and economic elites of the world and likewise of Brazil. Also, to some extent, the intellectual elites of Brazil and the planet. Believing the Amazon is faraway and that it is a periphery, when the only chance of controlling global heating is to keep the forest alive, reflects ignorance of continental proportions. The forest is the closest close that all of us here have. And the fact that many of us feel faraway when we are here only shows how much our eyes have been contaminated, formatted, and distorted. Colonized.” Eliane Brum

  • My kids now know that the native Amazonian people have protected the forest for millennia. That their sacred land holds gold and other riches that the greedy West seeks to extract. That the Brazilian president and his allies’ rhetoric in favour of developing the Amazon validate all sorts of crimes and invasions. . While transforming these images with them I could personally touch on the grief felt for the fact that whole tribes can cease to exist yet show my children the beauty of the moments I shared with such peoples and landscape.

  • #prayforamazonia-Virus
    The virus swept through the region like past plagues that have travelled the river with colonisers and corporations (New York Times)

  • #prayforamazonia- Blood on His Hands
    “BRAZIL’S far-right President Jair Bolsonaro is accused of having blood on his hands yesterday after a young indigenous land-defender was shot dead by illegal loggers in the Amazon.”

  • #prayforamazonia-Ritual I
    “My kids now know that fires are started on purpose and then the cattle and soya comes. They know that the indigenous people can become more ill of Covid than us people in the cities. They know there is blood involved.”

  • #prayforamazonia-Roots
    "For us to be capable of resisting, we must become the forest—and resist like the forest,” Eliane Brum, Brazilian newspaper reporter and filmmaker based in the Amazon city of Altamira.”

  • #prayforamazonia-Dont' Look Away
    “The increase in violence in indigenous territories is a direct result of his hateful speeches and steps taken against our people.”

  • #prayforamazonia- Ilness
    "Definition of ethnocide: the deliberate destruction of an ethnic culture"

  • "Bolsonarism’s number-one power project is to turn the public lands that serve everyone—because they guarantee the preservation of natural biomes and the life of native peoples—into private lands that profit a few. These lands, most of which lie in the Amazon Forest, include the public lands to which Indigenous peoples have the constitutional right of use." Eliane Brum

  • #prayforamazonia- Wounded Rivers
    "Rivers are the givers of abundance and life yet can bring death and disease."

  • #prayforamazonia-Guardians of the Forest
    Blood in the Amazon: Brazilian activists are murdered as Deforestation Increases

  • #prayforamazonia-Plant Wisdom
    “In a normal year, the Amazon rainforest absorbs about 2.2 billion tons (2 billion metric tons) of carbon dioxide, studies suggest.”

  • #prayforamazonia-Rainforest
    “The Amazon River basin is home to the largest rainforest on Earth, covering about 2.67 million square miles (6.9 million square kilometres) in seven countries.”

  • #prayforamazonia- "The Amazon Is Ours”
    "New study shows gold mining in the Amazon is leeching nitrogen out of the soil, raising mercury concentrations and stopping new trees from growing for years.”

  • #prayforamazonia- Carbon Storing
    “Today, president Jair Bolsonaro, is weakening the environmental protections there in order to give agriculture more power. This came to a head when, in summer 2019, more than 30,000 wildfires burned in the Amazon, sparking worldwide outrage”

  • #prayforamazonia-Vultures
    “The Amazon rainforest has been reduced by about 17% since the 1970s. Cattle ranchers, loggers, and farmers are mostly to blame for the deforestation, but the demand driving them comes from all around the world. Brazil's economy depends on agriculture, especially beef and soy, which is grown on cleared land in the Amazon.”

  • #prayforamazonia- Praying is not enough
    “Social media users concerned over the long-term environmental consequences of deforestation and fires in the Amazon region began the online campaign #prayforamazonia to bring awareness to the issue.”

  • #prayforamazonia-making off

  • #prayforamazonia-Making off

  • #prayforamazonia-Making off