In one photo, an elderly Indigenous woman holds a large blue bucket on her head. It’s full of clothes, but in it, too, is the earth; she is literally carrying the weight of the world on her shoulders. In another, a young Indigenous man in a headdress and wearing a gas mask stands proud in front of a graffiti-strewn building. The image is superimposed against the universe; a spaceship hovers above and an uprooted tree floats among the stars.
This is “Indigenous Futurism.” It’s the brainchild of Kadu Tapuya, a 25-year-old multimedia artist and member of the Xukuru People, an Indigenous tribe from the Brazilian state of Pernambuco, which hugs the country’s east coast. He imagines a future for Indigenous peoples that is grounded in their cultural traditions and values—rather than being based on the dominant Western culture—while at the same time infusing that vision of the future with elements of Indigenous spirituality and cosmology.
Tapuya’s work encompasses photography, graphics and video, but it’s his digital collages of Indigenous Futurism that turn heads. The images, part of a series of 20 photographs printed on canvas, address issues of decolonization and the restoration of Indigenous sovereignty. His work conveys knowledge that Tapuya imagines only being strengthened, rather than destroyed, over time: a vision of a world in which Indigenous people are the protagonists in their own stories, surviving and resisting. “The Mata Sul de Pernambuco was and continues to be a place of great Indigenous resistance,” Tapuya says, “despite so much violence and [attempts at] erasing Indigenous identity. A buried seed does not die
Kadu Tapuya is a visual artist who uses the concept of Indigenous Futurism to portray the resistance of Indigenous peoples in contemporary times. He is the coordinator of the Movimento de Retomada Mata Sul Indígena (South Mata Indigenous Movement).