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'Rights of Nature' exhibit at MOA has solutions for B.C. land defenders: curator

Showcase of Indigenous Amazonian objects could inspire local activists fighting Kinder Morgan and other projects.

One of the displays at the newly opened Amazonia display at the Museum of Anthropology at the University of B.C.

Cara McKenna/Metro

One of the displays at the newly opened Amazonia display at the Museum of Anthropology at the University of B.C.

A newly opened display featuring South American Indigenous art in Vancouver contains lessons for B.C. activists who are fighting pipelines, mines and hydroelectric dams, says the exhibit's curator.

Amazonia: The Rights of Nature opened at the Museum of Anthropology at UBC on March 9.

MOA curator Nuno Porto said the exhibit is centred around legislative changes in Bolivia and Ecuador that make the rights of nature part of their constitutions.

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He said the changes are thanks to grassroots efforts, and have given Indigenous communities in those countries new rights when it comes to development ravaging their territories in the Amazon rainforest.

“We are listening to a series of stories of people who have solutions to the same problems, and are actually living the same kinds of threats to their way of life, as we are here in B.C.,” Porto said.

“I think that's helpful in the sense of the notion that we are not alone. It's really a global threat to which there has to be global answers.”

The exhibit contains an array of intricate Indigenous art including ceramics, basketry and textiles that are created from natural elements including wood, feathers and clay. There are also infographics on the walls showing how more countries are legally protecting nature and a multimedia learning centre.

The pieces were assembled from both donations and MOA's existing collection.

Porto said he wanted to show a holistic and equal way of life lived by South American Indigenous communities – and counteract capitalist ideals that have led to destructive resource development in both the Amazon and here in B.C.

He believes that not only could Indigenous communities in B.C. learn from Amazonian activists, but ties between the two could be useful to Indigenous people in South America who continue to face threats including political violence.

“While these people are fighting for their rights and their rainforest, they are aligned with us in a way,” he said.

“Because they become part of a fight to diminish global warming and greenhouse effects.”

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