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Lula and the Yanomami: Uproar Over Photos in Brazil

Amazônia Real, Gold of blood Yanomami. Aerial view of the Mucujaí river region in the Yanomami Indigenous Land (Photo: Bruno Kelly/Amazônia Real).

Two situations caused major uproar in Brazil this month, both involving photos.

First is a double exposure image of Lula with shattered glass pointing at his heart. The other of a Yanomami woman who died due to severe malnutrition. Debates which used to be directed at the Lula/Bolsonaro dichotomy have turned inward, within leftists, over how to handle post-victory political crises.

Many people were horrified at the photo of Lula on the cover of a major São Paulo newspaper, claiming it incited violence against him. The shattered glass was from the capital building attack on January 8th, and the artistic composition by a renown leftist photographer was harshly criticized because it’s too dubious in a landscape where most feel there is no space for nuance.

To me, the photo depicts a bulletproof scene, where there was a failed attempt to destroy his presidency, and he leaves smiling victorious among the ruins. But to others, the possibility it might promote violence against the president, as if someone ought to shoot him in the heart, was enough to promote violence against the photographer herself. She was the target of an online mob until a more problematic scene arose.

Quite frankly, since the first news of what happened to those in the Yanomami territory, I couldn’t read anything about it because I couldn’t stand looking at the photos that came with the texts. Social media became infested with images of not just a crime, but of victims of what is the brink of genocide. The sharing of these images were justified as needed evidence, but that never convinced me. In court cases involving white children, the visual evidence is not publicized. More often than not, testimonies are enough. From the beginning, to utilize the images felt dehumanizing to me.

Now that one of the women from this community died from malnourishment, Yanomami leaders are finally pleading for people to stop sharing her image in a show of respect for Yanomami tradition. Still, people argue against it, saying this image has to be shared on the internet as eviden