Support to the Association Witness Image for the Implementation of the Project Awà- Guajà: Earth’s most Threatened Tribe

Project location: BRAZIL, Amazon rainforest
Project start date: December 2012 - Project end date: June 2013
Project number: 2012-076
Beneficiary: Associazione Witness Image


The Awá are one of the last remaining nomadic tribes of the Amazon, as well as the most endangered one. Only few hundreds of them still survive in the Brazilian Amazon, where they face extinction due to illegal deforestation. In fact, they are losing their forest home to illegal loggers, cattle ranchers and colonists who keep murder tribe members.
First discovered in the mid-1970s, 360 surviving members of the Awa tribe are currently in contact with the outside world, with a further 60-100 believed to be taking refuge in the forests. They are hunter-gatherers, relying solely on the Amazon as a food source. The tribe utilizes products of the forest in their day-to-day life, using palm leaves to make shelters, clothing and baby carriers, resin from trees to make fires and plants to cure a number of illnesses. The theft of a tribal people's land engenders destitution; once self-sufficient communities are forced to rely on food hand-outs; malnutrition and illness soar and life expectancy is drastically reduced.
Furthermore, Awá people are sometimes imprisoned, attacked or murdered in order to get them off their land. In many ways, northeast Brazil is like the ‘Wild West': a lawless frontier. There is a culture of impunity in which violence against the country's indigenous and tribal peoples flourishes. The perpetrators know that they are unlikely to face justice.
Only the Brazilian government, more specifically the Ministry of Justice, has the power to evict the loggers, ranchers and settlers that are illegally occupying and deforesting Awá territory. Its support of the Awá is paramount to their survival.

Witness Image received a grant from the NPF to make a photo-documentary on the threat of extinction of the Awà-Guaja tribes, in order to inform the public about the drama of this small nomadic tribe who lives in very remote areas of the Amazon rainforest.

The photographer Luca Catalano Gonzaga will make a 3-week trip to Amazon.
His first destination will be the region of Maranhão, where Catalano will reach the city of Sao Luis; then he will move to the Amazon rainforest with means of transport such as car, train and boat. Along his journey, Luca Catalano will be supported by local guides and a local interpreter.

The implementation of this project will foresee the creation of over 50 images covering two subjects as the lifestyle of the Awà Guaja tribe and the threat to their survival. Furthermore, a multimedia project will be produced consisting in a video displaying a slideshow sequence of photographs.

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