Logo An Amazon Concertation
"Imaginary, concrete and possibilities: A meeting to revisit the past, Think about the present and compose a future"

The future is built in the present, from what we feed in our imagination. Therefore, the need to revive our awareness of the Amazon is urgent.

The theme of the 4th plenary of 2021 of the Uma Concertação pela Amazônia initiative, held virtually on May 17, was “Imaginary, concrete and possibilities: a meeting to revisit the past, think about the present and compose a future”.

Opening the event and connecting the way we build our imagination with the way we look at and value our past, Lilian Schwarcz presented the Black Encyclopedia. The work, recently launched by Companhia das Letras, seeks to promote the reunion of Brazil with the memory of more than 500 silenced black people, many of them in the Amazon region. In addition to the historian and anthropologist, the project is authored by Flávio dos Santos Gomes, a historian specializing in quilombos, and Jaime Lauriano, an intellectual and artist.

It took seven years of investigation by the authors into the history of 550 characters that do not appear in official historical records. They are activists, revolutionaries, religious leaders, healers, merchants and mothers who fought for the manumission of their families who had their deeds and narratives silenced.

To give these characters a face and form, the project invited 36 black artists, who produced 103 canvases that were later donated to the Pinacoteca de São Paulo. The set became an exhibition – with the same name as the book – and which will be on display until November 2021. In addition to the exhibition, the works become part of the Pinacoteca’s collection of portraits, which means an increase in the number of works of black artists in the museum, which increased from 26 to 129 works. Recognition of past and present black heroes and artists.

Speaking of recognition, photographer Marcela Bonfim, the second guest of the plenary, narrated her story and presented the project (Re)knowing the Black Amazon – Peoples, customs and black influences in the forest.

Born in Jaú, in the interior of São Paulo, she graduated in economics from PUC-SP in 2008. She went to the capital of São Paulo after graduation, in search of a job, but she never managed to be chosen in the final stretch, despite always moving forward. well in the selection process. She suspected the reason, she only came to recognize herself as a black woman – with her pains and possibilities – when she went to Porto Velho, Rondônia, in search of new professional opportunities.

When walking through the streets of the city, she began to deal with a constant question: would she be a Barbadian? She didn’t even know what that meant. She discovered that in the region, at the beginning of the last century, there was an intense migratory flow of people from the Barbados Islands, in the Caribbean. Black people who went to work on the Madeira-Mamoré railroad, a symbol of power at the time and which ended up shaping, in a way, the way the city saw and welcomed them. The descendants, to this day, carry this image, of autonomous people, with habits inherited from the English colonization and great musical ability.

“They still suffer from racism, but they are bodies within an understanding of power: they played instruments, brought soul and jazz, built an education network, in a way that they modified the space”.

The identification with the people of Barbados ended up taking her to photography, where she was able to refine her view of blackness and, finally, to reconnect with her ancestors.

“The photograph showed me the importance of dignifying all the bodies that are here. The Amazon is indigenous, of course, but art is an instrument of education and a tool to rediscover the face and history of these people”.

His show has been around 13 Brazilian states since 2016 and can be seen at https://www.amazonianegra.com.br/.

When we rescue the past and reframe the present, we can finally reimagine the future, making it more plural and desirable. During the plenary, the participants were also able to learn about the Amazônia 2030 project, with the participation of Juliano Assunção, Executive Director of CPI Brasil and Professor of the Department of Economics at the Pontifical Catholic University of Rio de Janeiro (PUC-Rio).

Juliano said that the initiative presents the prospect of recognizing and reconnecting with the Amazon based on its potential and aims to generate data and knowledge to support an action plan for the Brazilian Amazon, so that the region is able to achieve another level of economic and human development and sustainable use of resources by the end of the decade.

Amazônia 2030 is the result of the union of Brazilian researchers and organizations such as the Instituto do Homem e do Meio Ambiente da Amazônia (Imazon), the Centro de Empreendedorismo da Amazônia, both headquartered in Belém, with the Climate Policy Initiative (CPI) and the Department of Economics at PUC-Rio. The project foresees three years of research (2020 to 2022) and the publication of ten works, which at the end of the process will compose a diagnosis and action plan that will be presented to decision makers.

The first three completed works show that the region, to a large extent, suffers from an artificial occupation model, far from the natural comparative advantages associated with the forest and far from providing employment and income opportunities for local populations. This is evident in the study Labor Market in the Legal Amazon – A Comparative Analysis with the Rest of Brazil, carried out by PUC-Rio researchers Flávia Alfenas, Francisco Cavalcanti and Gustavo Gonzaga. Based on data from the Continuous National Household Sample Survey (Pnad) by the IBGE, which visits 36,000 households in the Legal Amazon every quarter, the researchers analyzed the labor market between 2012 and 2020 and found a rather dynamic reality, with low performance, high informality and high dependence on the state.

There is still much to be done. The Amazon is still an immense suburb and Brazil’s task is to transform it into home, into home”. That was the great message from documentary filmmaker João Moreira Salles, one of the guests at the plenary session. In a series of reports for Piauí magazine – of which Salles is a founder – he narrates stories of how the largest tropical forest in the world has been perceived by people who have a relationship with it, since the 16th century.

The title of the series – Arrabalde – came during the six months that Salles spent in Pará and summarizes part of the Amazonian contradictions: in the dictionary, arrabalde is “part of a city or town that is outside or adjacent to its limits; suburb; far away from the center; surroundings, surroundings”.

For most Brazilians, the Amazon is far away, it is the outskirts. But it is also an outskirts for people who live there, especially in urban areas, where the connection with the forest is almost non-existent. Rescuing the memory of all the peoples that inhabit the Amazon is part of the (re)construction of this new imaginary for the region. In addition to the indigenous and riverside populations, it is essential to restore the protagonism of the black people who have inhabited the Amazon since the 16th century and suffer from great invisibility.

Containing destruction also means facing this challenge of a symbolic and cultural nature: incorporating the Amazon into our idea of a nation, of Brazilianness – but in action, not just in discourse for foreigners to see.

The future is built in the present, based on what we feed in our imagination. Therefore, the need to truly amazonify our forest imaginary is urgent.

For Guilherme Leal, director of the Arapyaú Institute, the moment is delicate and challenging, due to the enormous threats that the Amazon is currently facing. Therefore, the priority is damage containment. However, it is also a moment for the formation of a new mentality and a new way of seeing the forest – seeing it as a “place of happiness, a meeting with oneself, of dignification”. Just like Marcela Bonfim did, who made the encounter with the forest an encounter with life itself and its roots.


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