The fire destroyed the last records of Indigenous languages no longer spoken, and irreplaceable examples of material culture from now colonized Indigenous groups. Years of government neglect and underfunding led to dangerous conditions at the museum and culminated in its destruction. Some view the government’s handling of the National Museum as analogous to their treatment of Brazil’s indigenous nations. There are hundreds of distinct Indigenous groups currently living in traditional ways in the Brazilian Amazon. However, they are under increasing threat from violence and encroaching industrial activity. Immediately after taking office in January of 2019,Brazilian president Jair Bolsonaro began radically stripping the Indigenous nations and their lands of their rights and protections. Deforestation of the Amazon rainforest quadrupled in the first month of Bolsonaro’s presidency alone.
The loss of the Amazon rainforest is not only catastrophic for the Indigenous people who make it their home, but for all Brazilians in relation to their history and culture. Further, it impacts all of us around the globe. The Amazon rainforest plays a vital role in regulating global climate. It stores huge amounts of harmful carbon dioxide and is responsible for creating 20% of the planet's oxygen, earning it the name "the lungs of the planet." The Indigenous nations of Brazil have intimate knowledge of this delicate ecosystem, making them not only stewards of the Amazon rainforest, but of the planet at large.
This exhibition is a love letter to what was lost in the fire that destroyed the National Museum of Brazil, and a cautionary tale of the current political situation in Brazil, which has compounded the losses suffered from the fire. It is a letter to the Indigenous nations of Brazil, to all Brazilians, and to all of us who rely on the Amazon, the “lungs of the planet.”