Culture

See The Stunning Portraits This Photographer Took Of People From The Most Endangered Indigenous Tribes In The World

We’ve come to a moment in our culture where we’re reckoning with the mistakes our ancestors made in the past. The fallout from widely-accepted historical practices of misogyny, racism, and colonialism is persistent. It’s up to people in positions of power to use their privilege to better society. Colonialism, in particular, has an especially negative lingering global impact–largely because it has been so insidious. Only recently have colonists like Christopher Columbus been widely condemned for the violent and inhumane methods they employed to conquer and oppress indigenous peoples.

English photographer Jimmy Nelson has spent his entire career travelling the world and documenting the unique lifestyles of various indigenous tribes across the globe. In his book “Homage to Humanity”, he compiles his photographs in a vibrant and informative tome that shows its reader the commonalities among all of us.

via @jimmy.nelson.official/Instagram

Throughout his 30-year career, Nelson traveled to countless countries, including Peru, Ecuador, Thailand, Mexico, Sudan, China and Papua New Guinea.

While travelling, Nelson had the opportunity to take portrait photographs of people from indigenous ethnic tribes throughout Latinidad, like the Oaxaca, the Zapotecs, and the Chichimeca. The portraits are stunning for their detailed and tender depictions of various cultures in full ceremonial garb, the beauty of their unique traditions on proud display for the camera.

One photograph shows a woman from the Zapotec tribe in Mexico, her face painted as the “Lady of the Dead”. Another shows a young girl from the the last Inca community in Peru, the Q’eros tribe, wrapped in K’eperina blanket, staring defiantly at the camera. “[My job] is about being open to the world,” says Nelson. “With no judgement, no basis and nothing but love for other places and other human beings”.

via @jimmy.nelson.official/Instagram

Nelson’s life goal is to document the lives of indigenous tribes throughout the world before their ways are permanently eradicated through modernization.

Indigenous peoples are defined as “ethnic groups who are the original or earliest known inhabitants of an area,” before the land has been “settled, occupied or colonized” by other inhabitants. Indigenous tribes are rare because of how pervasive and all-consuming colonialism has been in recent history–particularly in North and South America. Philosophies like “manifest destiny” convinced (largely white) populations that it was their duty and right to settle lands that native populations had been living on for centuries.

According to worldbank.org, there are 370 million indigenous peoples living in over 90 countries throughout the world. And although they only make up 5 percent of the global population, their numbers account for 15 percent of those living in extreme poverty. Not only that, but due to the wealth of generational knowledge they have about how to tend to their lands, indigenous peoples are estimated to safeguard 80 percent of the world’s biodiversity.

Luckily, in 2007, the United Nations passed the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous People, a guide for its members on the collective rights of indigenous peoples

via @jimmy.nelson.official/Instagram

According to the United Nations, the UNDRIP “emphasizes the rights of Indigenous peoples to maintain and strengthen their own institutions, cultures and traditions, and to pursue their development in keeping with their own needs and aspirations”. The declaration was a necessary step in righting the wrongs of the colonizing forces of the past who believed that Western and European ideals were superior to the ways of native populations.

In an interview with The New York Post, Nelson describes how spending time with people who are not as deeply exposed to the hustle and bustle of modernization has changed his outlook on life. “We’re always thinking about the future.” he said. “But [these tribes] very much live in the present and in the moment, it’s wonderful.”

via @jimmy.nelson.official/Instagram

Nelson hopes that his book of photographs will humanize the people of indigenous tribes so that his readers recognize that they are no different from the rest of the world.

Nelson’s photos are not only featured in a book, but also digitally in the form of his “Jimmy Nelson” app. Readers can use the app to scan over every image in his “Homage to Humanity” book, which will give the reader access to exclusive behind-the-scenes content that includes interviews and short videos. He hopes this feature will give viewers an insight into his process behind creating his artwork. You can see more of his artwork here.

As for the rest of the world it would be wise for everyone to take a page out of Nelson’s book when it comes to his views on humanity. The photographer is passionate about connecting with humans from all colors, creeds, and walks of life. “I think it’s amazing how close you can get to people without talking to them,” he says. “We speak different languages but that doesn’t seem to matter. We are all the same.” Never have there been truer words to live by.

A Photographer Is Capturing New Mexico’s Chicanx Community Through Portraits

Culture

A Photographer Is Capturing New Mexico’s Chicanx Community Through Portraits

Courtesy of Frank Blazquez

Photographer Frank Blazquez is paying a loving homage to Chicanx culture in the Land of Enchantment. The photographer is showing the world what it looks like to be Chicanx in New Mexico to highlight the diversity in a shared experience.

Frank Blazquez wants to show the world what Chicanx culture looks like outside of California.

“I am an Illinois transplant, so I was fascinated, and eventually obsessed, with the differences in my ethnicity’s iconography,” Blazquez says about the inspiration behind his project “Barrios de Nuevo Mexico: Southwest Stories of Vindication.” “For example, in New Mexico, as opposed to the Midwest and East Coast, there is a strong connection to American geography. You’ll see Latinx people with New Mexico state symbols tattooed directly on their faces and skulls. But refreshing similarities such as hairstyle also struck me.”

The other reason Blazquez started to document these lives was because of the devastating and widespread impact of drug addiction.

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Sleepy with his Daughter

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Blazquez admits to once having a drug problem and eventually overcoming those struggles. Some of the people that he photographs are former drug users or others who have sought redemption.

“I started in 2016 just walking around Albuquerque’s Central Avenue in the War Zone earning my street photography badge. When I almost died a couple of times, I started to use my Instagram page more often to set up shoots and contact homies from my former days of opiate abuse,” Blazquez explains. “My friend Emilio created the random handle @and_frank13 and I kept it after he died in 2017 from drug complications; an event that made me work harder to present portraits of New Mexicans demonstrating faces of dignity, hence my project ‘Barrios de Nuevo Mexico: Southwest Stories of Vindication.'”

Photography was a passion for Blazquez that grew into something bigger than him as he learned.

Blazquez’s interest in photography and love of his culture combined to create a photo series celebrating the people in his life. Blazquez turned his lens to the people in his life to capture a beauty he saw in his own community that is often overlooked and ignored.

Blazquez is hoping to show people that Chicanx culture has spread farther than California because of an exodus.

“Homies escaping the three strikes law in California created an exodus in the ’90s that transferred new symbols from organizations, namely 18th Street, Sureños, and Norteños,” Blazquez explains about the Chicanx community in New Mexico. “As New Mexico is an expanse of serene beauty that attracts people to escape from former lives, in turn, symbols were exchanged such as black and gray tattoo and font styles with purist craft structure adhering to Southwest archetypes—fat ass cursive and serif fonts with ornate filigree stems.”

He acknowledges that California is known for its Chicanx and Latinx communities but there is so much more to teach people.

“LA fingers do not represent the millions of brown people outside of California and it certainly does not represent native-born New Mexicans,” Blazquez explains. “I learned the Latinx experience is entirely different in various locations—the California stereotype doesn’t carry itself across America. It’s enlightening to know that brown culture grows and adapts independently.”

The photographer also wants to teach people that the Latino community is vast and diverse.

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Homemade New Mexican Tattoos // #dukecity

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“That the Latin-spectrum in America is not pigeonholed to any sole category,” Blazquez says. “Knowing that the labels Mexican, Mexican-American, Chicanx (a/o), Latinx (a/o), Hispanic, Mexica (not Hispanic nor Latino), Indo-Latino, Afro-Latinx (a/o) are just several of the hundreds of labels available to classify my culture’s diaspora is important.”

“Duke City Diaries” is a mini-series on YouTube that Blazquez has produced to take you deeper into the lives of the people in his photos.

“I knew the profound faces from my 2010’s New Mexico experience would make great art and explain an important POC narrative at the same time,” Blazquez says. “Creating the short YouTube documentary series “Duke City Diaries” was also an offshoot from my portraiture and one that created distinct reception. The hateful and racist comments kept me moving forward to show a larger audience that racism still exists.”

Blazquez is currently working on a new photo series called Mexican Suburbs diving deeper into his themes of Chicanx culture and the opioid crisis.

READ: Photographer Diego Huerta Took An Update Photo Of The Most Beautiful Girl In Mexico

An Indigenous Community In Venezuela Celebrates The Return Of A Highly-Scared Stone That Was Taken By A German Artist

Things That Matter

An Indigenous Community In Venezuela Celebrates The Return Of A Highly-Scared Stone That Was Taken By A German Artist

BerlinXplorer / Flickr | AP

Colonialism is alive and well. Look no further than the frequent examples of Europeans, Americans, and others taking property from Indigenous communities around the world in the name of science or art.

The British Museum is full of incredible artifacts and exhibits from around the world – due to its history as a colonial power that pillaged the communities it ruled. Although there is a growing call to start retuning many of the pieces, the museum has failed to take action.

Although it’s not all terrible news. At least one artists has returned a sacred object he took from an Indigenous community in Venezuela back in 1998.

An Indigenous community in Venezuela celebrates the return of a highly-scared stone that was taken from them by a German artist.

The sacred stone returned to its home in Venezuela, more than two decades after it was taken for a public art exhibition in the German capital, Berlin.

Venezuelan state TV showed a large crate containing the 30-ton stone (that’s more than 60,000 pounds) being lifted by a crane from a ship docked at a Venezuelan port – beginning its journey back to the Gran Sabana region. The stone, sacred to Venezuela’s Pemon community, originated in the famous grassland region known for its flat-topped mountains and the world’s tallest waterfall.

The stone’s removal stirred strain between Germany and Venezuela, including protests by tribal members outside the German embassy in Caracas.

It had been displayed among five large stones in Tiergarten Park in Berlin near the Brandenburg Gate and Holocaust Memorial.

Credit: Z.C. Dutka / Flickr

The so-called Kueka stone from Venezuela represented love, according to the artist’s webpage. Other hulking stones collected from around the world in the Global Stones Project symbolized awakening, hope, forgiveness and peace. 

The Pemons believe it represents the story of star-cross lovers, each turned to stone by a deity as punishment for marrying a member of another tribe.

Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro has described the stone as “spiritual treasure.”

President Nicolás Maduro in a nightly TV broadcast welcomed it home, calling it a “spiritual and cultural treasure” at a time when Venezuela and the world battle the coronavirus pandemic. He said the stone will next be trucked to the remote corner of southern Venezuela where it originated. 

“The Kueka stone begins its its journey back to the place it had always been for thousands of years,” Maduro said.

Venezuelan officials said Germany returned it in a “friendly agreement,” as a sign of “goodwill and willingness to respect the peoples’ cultural rights.”

The Kueka stone was taken from Venezuela more than two decades ago to be part of a public exhibition in the German capital.

Credit: BerlinXplorer / Flickr

Bavarian artist Wolfgang Kraker von Schwarzenfeld removed the so-called Kueka stone from Venezuela in 1998. He claimed that the Venezuelan government had given him permission to use it for an exhibition, saying it would symbolize love.

Von Schwarzenfeld’s Global Stones Project brought together five large stones from across the globe, with the others symbolizing awakening, hope, forgiveness and peace.

“I spoke with ministers, indigenous people, managers and the man on the street, and learned about Venezuelans’ ambitions and problems,” von Schwarzenfeld said. “I filed an application and started the project. South of the Orinoco River, I found a red granite boulder to be the first stone for my project.”

The stone’s return marks a solution agreed to by all sides.

Maduro’s government championed the cause of the Pemon community, working its diplomatic relationship with Germany to get the stone back.

Culture Minister Pedro Calzadilla told state television the donation was “illegitimate” because the stone was part of “the cultural patrimony of the (Pemon) community”. Prosecutors are looking into the stone’s removal because “whoever authorized the removal of the Grandmother committed a crime”, he said.

Pemon tribespeople often demonstrated outside Germany’s embassy in Caracas with spears, feather headdresses and banners saying “The Pemon People Want Our Wise Grandmother Back.” The German envoy promised to relay their feelings to Berlin, while telling them it would be no easy task to return the stone. 

German Foreign ministry spokesman Andreas Peschke said Berlin wanted a solution “agreed by all sides – Venezuela, the indigenous groups, the artist and the city of Berlin.”