Despite Extractivism

This Is My Home

Maria Rosa Pessoa Piedade and Marilene Ribeiro

“Despite all we have endured, we’re still standing and we’re gonna overcome this”

In 2016, while I (Marilene Ribeiro) was undertaking a long-term visual storytelling project on the socioenvironmental impacts of hydro projects, I met Maria Rosa Pessoa Piedade and her family in Altamira city, Brazil. Like thousands of others, Maria Rosa and her husband Jaime had  been forced to move from their home because of the Belo Monte dam. During my stay with Maria Rosa, she and  Jaime detailed their memories and their thoughts concerning what they had witnessed since the Belo Monte dam project was announced. I asked Maria Rosa if she happened to have any image to show me which depicted the Xingu River, her former place of living, or the everyday life there before the dam. 

She nodded and said she had some images she recorded with her mobile. As I opened Maria Rosa’s files, I realized she had actually used image-making as a channel to pour her anguishes and thoughts. The images made by Rosa are altogether records, memories, catharsis, protest, indignation, and love letters addressed to her homeland – in other words, an imagery of what constitutes her self. Maria Rosa systematically documents not only the losses involved in the process of damming a river but also the inherent value of everything that hydropower projects usurp. The conflicts revealed by Maria Rosa in this video piece I have compiled here along with excerpts from our conversation resonate the feelings of oppression, anguish and violation exposed by every individual that has been affected by this so called “project for the development of the Amazon region”. I might describe Maria Rosa’s visceral labor in the videos she produces with her mobile as a sensitive record of the immateriality of the losses and of the magnitude of the impacts dams have caused worldwide.

This Is My Home. Video, Colour, 10 min., 2018, Brazil | UK

Originally announced as a solution for development and global warming, hydropower plants have actually washed out ecosystems, destroyed freshwater life, and impoverished those who inhabit along the rivers. Amongst other geopolitical pressures, these mega infrastructure projects have happened as a response to the lobby of the mining industry (in Brazil, mainly related to the extraction of iron ore, gold, and aluminium) as mines need a great amount of energy to operate as their work continues non-stop all year round. Therefore, when it comes to dams and hydropower, what is at stake is neither sustainability nor the country’s welfare or the combat of global warming, but rather how to highly profit and keep ‘business as usual’ and how to keep and detain more and more power over countries that contain abundant natural resources as well as how to control people, rivers, and ecosystems.

As one of the last strongholds of free-flowing rivers on the planet as well as a remarkable site of precious underground minerals, the Amazon region has lately been the “stage” of mega development endeavours, like Belo Sun (which aims to be Brazil’s largest open-pit gold mine) and the Belo Monte hydro project (the world’s fifth biggest hydropower plant), which, as explained above, are interrelated.

At the same time, Maria Rosa does not let herself be defeated in this quite unfair conflict she has taken part in, as she highlights in her recording that is presented by the end of this 10-min video piece, “despite all we have endured, we’re still standing and we’re gonna overcome this”. As we have been in contact since our first encounter in 2016, she and her family have indeed managed to survive the dismantling the hydro project has subjected them and other thousands of families to. Nevertheless, many other families have not managed to rebuild their lives yet. More than ten years have passed by since riverside dwellers started this struggle in the Xingu river for their rights, their autonomy, their livelihood, their culture, their dignity, and Norte Energia (the public-private partnership in charge of the Bel Monte dam), the government, and society as a whole still owe this to these citizens. Up to date, riverside dwellers of the Xingu carry on fighting through many fronts in this exhausting, endless combat. One of these fronts has been the ‘Riverside Dweller Council’ (Conselho Ribeirinho) – a gathering of individuals from the riverside communities affected by Belo Monte as an initiative of the riverside dwellers themselves to discuss and organise their claims and proposals that can take them back to the river. Despite our neglect, despite what has been named “development”, they carry on demanding society another attitude before nature and traditional communities instead of this one which is rooted on selfishness, profit and exploitation.

This work is part of the long-term project Dead Water, funded by the CNPq and The Royal Photographic Society, and received vital support from the Brazilian Movement of People Affected by Dams – MAB.


Movimento dos Atingidos por Barragens – MAB (Brazilian Movement of People Affected by Dams)

Movimento Xingu Vivo para Sempre

Conselho Ribeirinho (Partner of the Rede Xingu +)

Instituto Socioambiental

Dams in Amazonia
Collective initiative by Fundación Proteger, International Rivers, and ECOA that researches and provides up-to-date information on hydropower schemes in the Amazon

About Marilene Ribeiro

Marilene Ribeiro is a Brazilian visual artist and researcher whose practice is focused on interdisciplinary endeavours, bringing together photography, video, intervention, and collaboration. Her works are engaged in the political agency of photography and in the role of image-based media in society. Ribeiro's projects tackle the subjects of identity and contemporary issues, namely the environmental and the Human Rights agendas. She has been the most recent recipient of the PHotoESPAÑA Discoveries Award and has also been awarded the Royal Photographic Society Award, amongst others.


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.

ONCA logo

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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