Lannan Foundation has awarded its 2000 Cultural Freedom Prize to Claudia Andujar. Claudia Andujar was born in Neuchâtel, Switzerland in 1931, and spent her childhood in Romania and Hungary. In 1956 she immigrated to Brazil. A photography project documenting the way of life of the Carajá Indians in Central Brazil led Ms. Andujar to a career in photojournalism. Her work has been published in Life, Look, Fortune, Aperture, Realidade, Setenta, Claudia, and other magazines.
In the early 1970’s she met a group of Yanomami Indians in the Amazon Basin of Northern Brazil. Intrigued by their way of life, she gave up her career as a photojournalist to embark on an in-depth photographic essay on the Yanomami. She received a two-year fellowship from the John Simon Guggenheim Foundation for this endeavor.During the fellowship Ms. Andujar was witness to one of the most significant cultural dislocations to occur in Yanomami history, when the government began construction of a transcontinental highway in Northern Brazil. Villages were razed to pave roads, and the Yanomami suffered a devastating measles epidemic. Ms. Andujar temporarily gave up photography to help establish health outposts for the Yanomami.
During the 1980’s, Ms. Andujar witnessed another devastating incursion into Yanomami territory, when thousands of illegal, small-scale gold miners made their way into the Amazon to make their fortunes. By the end of the 1980s, there were 40,000 gold miners in the Brazilian Amazon while the entire Yanomami population numbered just 11,000. During this period the Yanomami faced even more epidemics, most notably malaria. Twenty percent of the Yanomami died in the 1980’s as a consequence of the gold mining intrusion.
To bring attention to the plight of the Yanomami, she played a key role in the creation of the Commission for the Creation of the Yanomami Park, the Comissão Pró-Yanomami-CCPY. After a campaign of 15 years, in 1992 the Brazilian government demarcated more than 96,000 square kilometers of lands, an area the size of Portugal, to be set aside for protection and use by Yanomami people.
Throughout the years Ms. Andujar has used her photographs to celebrate the rich culture of the Yanomami people. Her photographs have given the outside world a glimpse into the complex spiritual and magical world of the Yanomami. In 1998, she published the book Yanomami: The House, The Forest, The Invisible featuring eighty-five of her photographs. Her work has been shown internationally, in both solo and group exhibitions. Her photographs are in the collections of the Museum of Modern Art in New York, the Eastman House in Rochester, the Amsterdam Art Museum, and other museums around the world. She has contributed to numerous book projects, documentaries, and photographic exhibitions on the Amazon and its indigenous populations.
Ms. Andujar lives in Sao Paolo, but spends much of her time in the state of Roraima, where the Brazilian Yanomami live. She is currently working to raise funds for the creation of a Yanomami cultural center, and continues to organize exhibitions of her photographs.