Room 03: ARTistic and ARTisanal

Wall: Amazon 


The long history of miners and mining culture in the Brazilian Amazon and the Guianas finds expression in local art works. Along the highway BR-163 in the Brazilian Amazon, it is impossible to miss the giant statues of garimpeiros at the entrance of villages. They are a tribute local people pay to the small-scale gold miners who are seen as significant pioneers of the Amazon. They act as a landmark claiming the identity of miners as explorers and developers, and champion gold mining for sustaining the local economy. The statues symbolize gold miners’ presence in the villages and their political position on land rights and the use of natural resources. This encounter of past, present, of old, and modern is also visible in local street art. The graffiti “Itaituba o Eldorado Encantado” (Itaituba, the enchanted Eldorado) shows the interpretation of mining culture by the younger generation in a romanticized image that hardly matches with contemporary mechanized mining. Such street art shows a romanticized image of the garimpeiro that hardly matches with the complex activity performed nowadays. In French Guiana public walls are also used for opposition to gold mining.

Personal adornment also expresses how gold mining is central to past and present personal lives. The large tattoo of a bulldozer on the arm of a garimpeiro reveals how working as a machine operator is the achievement of a life.  Miners often wear golden rings, necklaces, bracelets, and watches. These jewels have an intrinsic connection with the outcome of their work, being symbols of success, of a miner’s wealth. They embody the dream of all people who have come looking for prosperity.

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ARTistic and ARTisanal
Big Dreams: Life Built on Gold