Biennale of Sydney

Denilson Baniwa

Denilson Baniwa, Pajé Yawareté brings news in the village of Santa Isabel Oiapoque, 2018, digital photograph. Courtesy the artist. Photograph: Sallisa Rosa

Denilson Baniwa

Born 1984 in Amazônia, Brazil
Lives and Works in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil


Denilson Baniwa was born in Rio Negro, Amazonas in Brazil. His career as an artist was shaped early in childhood, informed by the cultural references of his people. In his youth, he began his career in the struggle for the rights of Indigenous peoples, and moved through the non-Indigenous universe, seizing references that would strengthen the stage of his resistance.

Baniwa is an anthropophagous artist – an artistic movement in Brazil that preceded Modernism, and which sought to transform colonial logic through Brazilian Indigenous cosmogony – as he appropriates Western languages to decolonise them in his work. The artist is known for breaking paradigms and opening ways for Indigenous people in national territories to be protagonists.

"Indigenous peoples of the world have managed to remain connected with the universe, by understanding that they are part of it, not beings that are superior to everything.

"The separation and subjugation of nature that whites have been involved in is not part of Indigenous understanding. Part of Indigenous knowledge is the use of elements and substances that connect humans with the universe, forming bridges between this world of humans and others. Worlds of animals, plants, the invisible – this world is accessed by the Pajé Onça.

"The Baniwa people call the shaman Maliri. The strongest and most knowledgeable shaman is called the Pajé Jaguar or Pajé Onça. With his powers, he can walk the universe and worlds, bringing healing and knowledge to be shared with the community.

"My job in bringing Pajé Onça's performance to the places I pass through is to rescue Indigenous memory and Maliri's presence, bringing them to these sites. We need to hear what he has to say."