Despite Extractivism

Denilson Baniwa on creating art on the front lies


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As part of the webinar on Creative engagements on the front lines that took place in advance of launching the online exhibition and conversation, Denilson shared his experience of doing creative work on different ‘front lines’.

He reflects on the challenges of doing art during the COVID-19 pandemic and self-isolation, which has and continues to affect Indigenous peoples in uneven and violent ways in Brazil. He also sees this contemporary moment as a way to value different knowledges and explore ways that traditional and Western medicine, for instance, might collaborate.

He sees his work as the work of communicating and relating with otherness, and differences between Indigenous and non-Indigenous experiences, doing art that performs and recognises different philosophical, cosmological and spiritual perspectives. This perspective is central to his contribution to Extracting Us – The Natural Time of Ephemeral Things – which arises from the experience of the pandemic and the fluid boundaries between “natural” and “artificial” things.


Hi! I am Denilson, I am an Indigenous person of the Baniwa people, Rio Negro, Amazonas. I’ve come here today to introduce myself and talk a bit about my work really quickly.

What is the experience like: of creating art on the frontlines, of using art as resistance? and what is it like now during the pandemic?

It’s difficult to say what it’s like right now during the pandemic because we find Indigenous people and artists, in all reality, working at the frontlines forever in a range of types of crises, you know? Economic crises, crises of violence, social crises, that always affected Indigenous populations in Brazil. I think what has changed now is the impossibility to travel, to have interaction amongst ourselves and with communities and with other Indigenous peoples.

We had plans for 2020, to hold seminars, discussions, meetings, exhibition projects, that all had to be postponed or cancelled because of COVID-19. In terms of my work, of it being activist work, of being on the frontlines as a communication as a means of communication for the Indigenous movement, I see it very much as a work of alterity, of otherness, of how to place myself in the world trying to understand these two world that I know well. The Indigenous world, the world of my peoples’ villages, of my culture, and the non-Indigenous world where I studied and currently live, where I have social relationships. In my art, I reflect very much on this, of certain types of alterity (otherness), an understanding of the other and an attempt to understand these worlds.

In this process, I try to put some frictions that occur when these worlds collide. So these can range from social frictions, epistemological, philosophical, ideological, even frictions around understandings of the world itself, of cosmogonical and cosmological visions. For example, I have this work that I created now during the pandemic, during this process of self-isolation, that I’m trying to respect as much as possible. Seeing this moment as a moment that humanity experiences due to many factors trying to understand how I, as an Indigenous artist, can simultaneously think about protections and traditional medicines, as well as also observe and understand Western medicine as well. Always these two forms of knowledge collaborating and not conflicting, as was the case in past times.

Well that’s it. I hope that we can engage in a good conversation and share ideas. Ideas on how to delay the end of the world, on how to live in this transition between worlds, and how to understand Indigenous culture as a source of knowledge, as important, as complex as Western knowledge. Hugs to you.

You can follow Denilson’s work and get in touch with him on Instagram:


The Extracting Us exhibition and conversation series is co-curated by Siti Maimunah, Elona Hoover, Dian Ekowati, Alice Owen and Rebecca Elmhirst with critical insight and support from independent curator Celina Loh. Online exhibition designed and developed by Celina Loh with the Extracting Us Collective.

This project is made possible by support from 
ONCA Gallery, the Centre for Spatial, Environmental and Cultural Politics at the University of Brighton, the Wellbeing, Ecology, Gender and cOmmunity research network funded by the European Union Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme (Marie Skłodowska-Curie grant agreement No 764908), and collaboration with the Women in Action on Mining in Asia (WAMA) collaborative network and the ‘Sustainable’ Development and Atmospheres of Violence: Experiences of Environmental Defenders project funded by The British Academy.


WEGO-ITN (Wellbeing, Ecology, Gender and cOmmuny International Training Network) is an EU-funded research network contributing to the political ecology, feminist studies, human geography, anthropology, and development studies’ understanding of extractivism, commoning, care, communities, livelihoods, embodied subjectivities and resistance to development. WEGO-ITN is made up of scholar-activists working on feminist political ecology from ten institutions in six European Union countries: Germany, Italy, Norway, Spain, The Netherlands, and the United Kingdom and ten institutions from eight countries for training and secondments: Australia, India, Indonesia, Italy, New Zealand, Portugal, Uruguay and USA.

The Centre for Spatial, Environmental and Cultural Politics (SECP), based at the University of Brighton, undertakes interdisciplinary research to address global and planetary challenges such as climate change, human migration, social inequalities and resource access or depletion. SECP explores the environmental, spatial and cultural dimensions of ecological and social challenges in specific places, to offer new knowledge and practice for the creation of more sustainable and socially just societies.

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ONCA is a Brighton based arts charity that bridges social and environmental justice issues with creativity. ONCA promotes positive change by facilitating inclusive spaces for creative learning, artist support, story-sharing and community solidarity. ONCA Gallery works with artists, educators and organisations to co-deliver exhibitions, events and workshops that explore social and environmental issues.

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About Despite Extractivism

As with the Extracting Us exhibition, we invited the Despite Extractivism contributors to consider how their work can follow our guiding principles:

• The online exhibition brings together artistic and creative contributions that explore everyday community experiences of and responses to extractivism, and/or engage in ongoing conversations around extractivism, communities and care, in its various forms and registers.

• It includes three core aims:
– to challenge ‘north-south’ and ‘producer-consumer’ narratives on extractivism
– to listen to perspectives from those most affected, and develop actions of solidarity and resistance across countries and continents
– to challenge the viewer to make (sometimes unexpected) connections and develop solidarity (e.g, inviting the viewer to take specific actions or connect with the community

• The exhibition thinks about extractivism and care in terms of materials from (and of) the earth, and considers the experiences of humans and the rest of the natural world.

• The exhibition will include narratives of resistance where possible/relevant; and avoid relying on pathos that might develop an ‘us/them’ feeling

• The exhibition will work with quality materials while also challenging ‘professional’ or ‘distanced’ kinds of aesthetics

Despite Extractivism assembles expressions of care, creativity and community from diverse sites of extraction and geographical contexts. Extractivism is characterised by the violent accumulation of resources, which often devastates and disrupts affected communities and the natural world. Collectively, the works in this exhibition illuminate and explore ways of questioning, subverting and resisting the logics and impacts of extractivism.

Despite Extractivism
is part of the ongoing ‘Extracting Us’ collective journey exploring the  diverse, uneven but sometimes connected ways in which resource extraction also extracts from communities. It is an invitation to explore questions around extractivism and its logics, but also to explore the already-existing alternatives.  How do communities and creatives (struggle to) cultivate care for nature and for each other despite extractivism? Can sites of extraction be a fertile ground for alternatives?  Can artistic interventions help foster new sensibilities and solidarities with distanced extractive contexts?

Like weeds growing through the cracks in concrete, and in their flourishing slowly forcing the cracks to widen, the contributors to
Despite Extractivism scatter here their seeds of ways of thinking or being in extractive contexts. 

There are stories of artists who are involved with communities inhabiting landscapes threatened by destructive projects, imagining and practising ways of being which subvert and resist extractivism:  V’Cenza Cirefe’s
Counter-mapping in the Sperrins (resisting gold mining in Northern Ireland), Chesney’s Down The Line (resisting the HS2 railway in England)  and Federico Pardo’s forthcoming contribution (resisting gold mining in Cajamarca, Columbia).

There are illuminations of other tactics of resistance, from the creativity of the Kartini Kendeng women ecological defenders and their portrayals by Dewi Candraningrum (resisting cement mining in Java, Indonesia), to the counter-mapping initiative by the Pari Island community, JKPP and collectives to stop extractive tourism (Seribu Islands, Indonesia).

There are explorations of the uneven geographies of extractivism, with Karin Edstedt’s (Title) embroidery depicting the disproportionate environmental injustices of mining on indigenous communities (copper extraction conflict in Laver, Sápmi; coal mining in Kalimantan, Indonesia), and Sandro Simon’s audiovisual work Bidonmondes drawing attention to the omnipresence of extractivism through the everyday repurposing of imported palm oil canisters in the Sine-Saloum Delta, Senegal (originating from extractive palm oil plantations in Indonesia and Malaysia).

There are intimate accounts of uprooting due to extractive projects, accompanied by the persistent determination to build or rebuild lives in Between Rivers by Daniel Macmillen Voskoboynik (Intergenerational care and multidimensional extractivism, Russian Urals), This is my Home by Maria Rosa Pessoa Piedade & Marilene Ribeiro (dispossession caused by the Belo Monte dam, Brazil) and In the Forest We Believe by Albertus Vembrianto (Covid-19) exacerbates migration from a coastal area affected by gold mining waste, Papua, Indonesia).

Finally, there are invitations to engage with practises and performances which inspire embodied reflection on the destruction and destabilising effects of extractivism in distanced contexts: Arabel Lebrusen’s Toxic Waves II (in response to deadly failure of a dam at the Córrego do Feijão iron ore mine in Minas Gerais, Brazil ) and Choules+Roisner’s
REGOLITHIC (in response to global extraction).

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