While the attention of the world is focused on the spectacle of the Olympic Games in Rio de Janiero, Brazil, The Alexia Foundation is witness to a very different reality from that being broadcast. Over the past three years, two of our professional grant recipients have received their funding based on work done in Brazil. The 2016 Alexia Grant winner, Aaron Vincent Elkaim, was awarded the $20,000 grant for his work on Brazil’s major hydroelectric expansion in the Amazon Rainforest. 2014 winner Sebastián Liste received his grant to create a visual map of the new culture of violence in Latin America.
Elkaim’s Where The River Runs Through shows us the intertwined people and ecosystems of the Amazon River basin as development in the name of national progress threatens to destroy it. The Belo Monte Dam Complex is a crucial component of the government’s Accelerated Growth Program intended to spur economic growth in Brazil. It intends to drive the industrialization of the Amazon with over 60 major hydroelectric projects. The completion of the Belo Monte Dam, the third-largest dam in the world, has displaced over 20,000 people.
Although hydroelectric dams are touted as clean, renewable sources of energy, they in fact flood hundreds of square miles of land and permanently transform the complex river ecosystems. The energy generated is to be used to provide electricity to Brazil’s booming cities thousands of miles away. The dams will also provide energy to mining initiatives in the Amazon, which will further compound the negative impact on the ecosystem.
“We understand the importance of the Amazon Rainforest, yet what happens there is often shielded from our vision,” explains Elkaim in his proposal.
His work intends to “focus on witnessing the fallout from Belo Monte and other regional dams. This [includes] the impacts of the loss of construction employment for local and migrant workers, the growth of collateral industries such as mining, logging, ranching, and agriculture, and most importantly the stories of those who are being robbed of their birthright, the natural world that surrounds them.”
View Elkaim’s full proposal here: http://www.alexiafoundation.org/stories/Where-the-River-Runs-Through
Liste’s The New Culture of Violence in Latin America gives us insight into violence throughout the region. The violence, he tells us, is devoid of any ideological end. It affects young, second generation urban dwellers who are exposed to high consumer expectations fueled by advertising and mass media. Because the young people cannot meet these expectations by conventional means, they turn to drug trafficking and force. Firearms are a way to construct an identity and achieve the financial means to fulfill their aspirations. The criminal violence is met by increased police violence, both of which have major economic consequences on the population.
His began this project in the favelas of Brazil. His application was accompanied by images of an impoverished community who took up residence in an abandoned chocolate factory in Salvador de Bahia, Brazil. Despite their lack of socio-economic support from the government, they created a safe place for themselves to live. In his images, we see the determination of an impoverished people to make a better life, as well as the circumstances that can drive individuals to violence.
Liste’s final project revisited different socio-economic levels in Brazil, examining how they contributed to or circumvented the violence there. It also looked as the production of cocaine in Peru, the emergence of a new generation in Cuba and the abduction of 43 students in Mexico.
Liste’s final project will be posted shortly. View Liste’s full proposal here. http://www.alexiafoundation.org/stories/the-new-culture-of-violence-in-latin-america