firstname.lastname@example.org Rafael Vilela is an independent Brazilian photographer currently reporting on social injustice and the environmental crisis in his country. He was one of the founders of Midia NINJA , an initiative that today has more than...
Focus:Documentary, Photography, Assignments, Storyteller, Environmental Stories, Breaking News, Social Justice
An unidentified Guarani-Mbyá warrior waves a flag made of plastic from garbage at Pico do Jaraguá, the highest point in the city of São Paulo, Brazil, on June 30, 2021. The protest, composed of hundreds of indigenous ancestral residents of the villages around the peak, was held with the intention of blocking the signal of the telephone and television communication antennas as a way to draw attention to the loss of indigenous territorial rights during the government of Jair Bolsonaro. This photo is part of “Forest Ruins” project, an essay on the pressure of urban development and real estate speculation on the Guarani indigenous territory in Pico do Jaraguá, one of the last remaining areas of Atlantic Forest in São Paulo city, Brazil. The ecosystem has lost approximately 80% of its vegetation since the beginning of colonization and today 620 indigenous people live in six villages spread across five hectares. The Guaranis-mbyá strive to maintain their language, traditions, culture and the environment on the edges of the largest metropolis in Latin America during the pandemic. The photographic documentation of this spontaneous protest was done in a consensual way with the leaders of the local indigenous movement and was not posed.
Young Guarani Mbya awaits the beginning of the Guarani New Year ceremony in the village of Aldeia Guyra Pepó, in São Paulo State. “It’s two different worlds. One world that has always existed and the other that has arrived. The Nhandereko, the Guarani way of life, is within us. What is outside is not so important, the child can spend the whole day on the cell phone, on the computer, watching television, but there is no way to get it out of us," says Sonia Ara Mirim, one of the leaders of the Guarani territory in the northern part of São Paulo. August 21, 2020.
Hortencio Karai, 107, observes the sky in Itakupe village, in the North Zone of São Paulo. Karai had COVID-19 and survived after 15 days of suffering and confinement inside his house, treating himself only with traditional plants of Guarani medicine. "The city is invading our territory, whether we like it or not, it is approaching. We see it coming closer. Our ancestors didn't care about a specific territory, they lived one or two years then they moved. If we leave this place for two years it will become part of the city". His life story has been defined by physical work - always planting, fishing, hunting or moving from one village to another on long walks. At the age of seven he experienced the slavery of the white man in Argentina but managed to escape through the woods. He passed through Argentina and Paraguay before arriving in Brazil. August 19, 2020.
Young Guaranis fight a fire in their territory. In total about 18 hectares were destroyed after the incident of unknown origin. "This is our job, we are guardians of the forest" says Anthony Karai. June 21, 2020
Thiago Karaí Kekupe, the young Guarani Mbya chief, fights a fire in his territory. In total about 18 hectares were destroyed after the incident of unknown origin. "We can't accept the forest being destroyed, being taken by flames, which some people consider normal. If we burn, we hurt ourselves. Our lives are at risk." June 21, 2020
A Guarani child swims near his village. The pressures of the city of São Paulo on their territory intensify with real estate speculation and the advance of the urban sprawl to the farthest regions of the metropolis. "We don't have drinkable water in the village, the only water we have is from a natural spring" says Thiago Karaí Kekupe, a young Guarani Mbya chief. March 7th, 2020
Guarani women prepare for confrontation with the military police in the Jaraguá indigenous territory, in São Paulo. Facing the devastating loss of centenary trees, a group of young leaders from the indigenous villages in the Jaragua decided to lead the occupation of their traditional land. Through a pacifist action, they were able to maintain their movement for 40 days. March 10, 2020.
A guarani house built with wood in the middle of a eucalyptus plantation in Guyra Pepó Village, in the interior of São Paulo State. After the construction of a highway on their land in São Paulo in the 2000s, the Guaranis-mbya had the right to choose a new land in the interior of the state as compensation for their loss. This right was only realized in 2017, when 36 indigenous families began to occupy a land filled with eucalyptus plantations near Sorocaba city to start a new life. August 21, 2020.
Climate Change, Culture, Documentary, Editorial, Environment, Essays, Ethnic minorities, Faith, Fire, History, Human Rights, Indigenous, Latin America, Minority, Nature, Oppression, Pandemics, Personal Projects, Photography, Photojournalism, Racism, Spotlight, Urban
Forest Ruins is a personal ongoing project that addresses the role of cities in the climate crisis from the perspective of the Guarani Mbyá Indigenous people in the city of São Paulo, Brazil, and how their philosophy, culture and traditions offer alternative paths of existence and resistance to a colonial development model. São Paulo is located in the Atlantic Rainforest, a biome that has only 20% of its original area. One of the few remaining areas in the city is located in the 492-ha reserve of Jaragua Peak, which is home to 700 Mbyá indigenous people, organized in 6 villages, and it is the smallest demarcated indigenous land in the country. Telling the unrevealed story of the Guaranis on the edges of the largest city on the continent is a provoking reminder for Western culture to rethink its consumption habits, to look back at its rivers, areas of preservation and degradation as the environment in which they are inserted. I started this research 2 years ago with the support of National Geographic Society and a selection of the images produced were published on NatGeo’s and in the book RED FLAG, winner of the World Press Photo 2021 Book Award.