Juliana Gomes (Jaguatirika)
Juliana Gomes is an indigenous, LGBT, and neurodivergent woman. Juliana was born in the interior of Goiás and currently lives in the state of Rio de Janeiro. She is a history student at the UFF, activist of the indigenous movement, speaker, and self-taught visual artist, working with oil paintings, watercolors, murals, and digital painting.
Juliana uses art as a form of spiritual manifestation and a tool of struggle, of education, and denunciations, addressing issues of anti-colonialism and ancestry. She signs her works as Jaguatirika, the nickname her grandfather called her.
Art activist: Jaguatirika
Based in Saquarema, Rio de Janeiro, Brasil
Culturally Arts Collective features:
"On Our Lands", August 30th - October 11th, 2022,
Milostka Center for Exhibitions
When did you begin painting and why? Can you tell us about the artwork you shared with us?
I usually say that I have been an artist and painter since I was born. Everyone or almost everyone has always painted as a child, has always experimented or heard and felt the music that nature makes, whether it's the sound of winds, birds, or the sound of the waters of a river. I just never stopped doing any of it. And that happens to me because art as an institution, isolated from what nature is life, is a European invention. It is the western mania of denaturalizing everything natural and placing it in compartments where only a few would have access and would be part.
This is what this colonial and capitalist society does: it denaturalizes the natural, alienates and makes people unlearn how to live. What our ancestors knew how to do for millennia, people today don't know anymore. They need ready-made solutions invented by the same people who created the problems. And I think that everyone is born an artist, but some cease to be as they unlearn how to live.
My artistic work as a whole aim to be both a manifestation of our spiritualities and ancestry as well as a mechanism for anti-colonial struggle and education. Demarcating Brasília with Jenipapo and Urucum represents the National Congress in Brasília, which is where Brazil's institutional political decisions take place, covered in graphics of different peoples, representing the union of nations in the struggle for land demarcation. The design is all in shades of black and red, the colors of genipap and annatto, and in the sky, you can see a large snake, to show that Brasília is also an indigenous territory and that our enchanted ancestors also inhabit this space.
Demarcate Brasília with Jenipapo and Urucum by Jaguatirika
Digital drawing. 29.7 cm x 21 cm. 2022.
When did you start to explore your heritage through your work and how does your art practice contribute to advocate for Indigenous rights?Has your style changed through the time?
Since I was a child, I have been in contact with the heritage of my people, our histories, and our ancestry, although I did not grow up in the village with the rest of my nation. But my mother always talked about it with me and I always received many stories through dreams and I also always drew them. But I start to show these drawings to the world when I start to make the digital version of them and publish them on my Abyayalese page with the beginning of the covid pandemic. But my work, in addition to a manifestation of my ancestry, is also a work of denunciation and dissemination of our demands and struggles for rights. My work contributes to our struggle because it makes our voices reach further and I also hope to be able to build narratives that deconstruct colonial stereotypes about us.
My drawing style is not static and is always renewed and expanding. I hope to always allow myself to get lost and thus find new ways to convey the messages I want to convey because art is movement and I don't need to be tied to a specific style. So I do believe that he has changed and that he will continue to change.
Who has influenced your work, or continues to influence your work?
I am certainly influenced by contemporary indigenous artists such as Denilson Baniwa, Sallisa Rosa, and Wanessa Ribeiro. They are inspiring artists who have opened and continue to open many doors for other younger indigenous artists.
Wanessa Ribeiro, in particular, always advises and encourages me to explore new paths.
During our research for this project we have come across very impressive facts, such as that indigenous communities are only 5% of the world's population, but they protect 80% of global biodiversity. However, our society still neglects the voices of indigenous communities, ignoring the incredible contribution of these peoples to preserve our natural resources and help the climate crisis. In your opinion how do you think it’s possible to increase global consciousness of indigenous rights?You have a pretty cheeky take on colonialism, Western civilization, oppression. What are you trying to express? What is your message?
We can never expect the hegemonic classes of the capitalist elite to open space for us to speak and give us visibility, because we have completely antagonistic society projects so it is clear that this space will always be denied to us by those who hold power, including power media. What we need to do is take these spaces by force and from our organization as oppressed peoples and as a working class. This will be our local struggle and our global struggle will be like this, based on a lot of study and organization, not through the co-option and emptying of our guidelines by green capitalism that perpetuates the same problems through new packaging. There are certain spaces that we must destroy and not occupy.
What I am trying to express through my work is that we need to fight against colonization and against capitalism, to overcome this system of exploitation of the land and on people and build other realities, taking our original cosmovisions as the horizon of other possible worlds.
Do you think that it's indigenous artists have the responsibility to educate the world about their community cause and fight for justice? What’s is your personal battle? Tell us some personal/ family story - is there something which is hurting you?
I don't think it's a responsibility that should be placed on our shoulders. It is very exhausting and unfair that the white people who created our social and environmental problems are waiting for us to solve all the problems. But in fact, it is almost inevitable
that we are part of this struggle, a struggle that has surrounded us since our birth. Our fight is first and foremost for survival, so it's not like we have the choice not to fight. As an indigenous, poor, working, lgbtqi+, and disabled woman I have many daily battles to fight, but they are more than personal battles, they are collective battles.
Something that hurts me, for example, is the constant violations of our rights by the Brazilian state. At the moment, they are trying to pass bill 490 in Brazil, which aims to make it difficult to demarcate indigenous territories. All the time they are trying to exterminate us, symbolically and physically.
Juliana in a protest against Bolsonaro's unjust environmental, indigenous policies in Brazil, holding a banner that says "Fora Bolsonaro, Fora Mourão; Get out Bolsonaro, Get out Mourão"
Photo of Jaguatirika protesting against Bill PL 490
When we look at the representations of indigenous people in art history, it becomes very obvious the objectification and oppression of those communities, are usually seen as inferior. As an artist, do you feel the impact of colonialism and eurocentrism in the art world? In order to you, what is the key for changing the narratives?
It is always clear how those who portrayed us and portray us see us. Like a wild animal. And look, I'm an animal, that's not a problem for me. They try to animalize us because they are not only racists but speciesists who think they are superior to other beings who are our relatives. The bigger problem is how they want to move away from nature and build hyper-rational humanity in opposition to what is nature. It is a very great arrogance that ignores thousands of worlds and knowledge. The Eurocentric logic is the same as Christian and agribusiness logic, the logic of monocultures. Both food cultures and traditions.
This colonial logic, among many others, impacts all spheres of our lives, and in the art world, it would be no different, especially for us. The word “art” does not even exist in indigenous languages precisely because it does not exist as an institution isolated from what nature is life. As the artist Sallissa Rosa says, art composes ritualizes what life is. To change these narratives requires a lot of effort and humility, to rewrite a history that is anti-colonial, and also to listen to indigenous voices that have been persecuted or ignored for centuries.