5 Minutes The aftermath of the biggest ecological disaster in Brazil's historyScroll for more information
5 Minutes is the first chapter of an ongoing investigative documentary project that denounces the environmental injustices carried out by mining corporations around the world. This work focuses on the aftermath of the biggest ecological disaster in Brazil's history: the Samarco mine tailing breach. In November 2015, the ‘Fundão’ tailings dam, run by the mining companies Samarco, Vale and BHP Billiton, collapsed in the state of Minas Gerais. The rupturing of the dam triggered a relentless wave of sludge that engulfed everything standing in its way. The rust-red plume of mud containing toxic mining waste left a path of destruction from the village of Bento Rodrigues down the Doce River all the way to the coast, decimating an area the size of Portugal. Careless practices of growing the economy create a culture that places little to no importance on the well-being of the citizens, to the point that preventable catastrophic disasters take place. 6 years have passed since the Samarco mine tailings dam collapsed and no individual or corporation was held responsible, the long-term damages to the environment have not yet been seriously addressed and hundreds of thousands of victims are still waiting for reparations whilst living in temporary housing. This was not the first avoidable environmental crime directly caused by humans and will not be the last. Legacies of colonial hegemony go beyond the violent mineral extraction, amplifying existing environmental injustices. Adopting an experimental narrative, this work intends to materialise the socio-environmental impacts caused by the mining activity which are often imperceptible to the human eye. 5 Minutes is an attempt to structure evidence via a collaborative practice with the people impacted, people who had no more than 5 minutes to legally address the crimes committed by the mining industry against their lives and their lands.
My most recent work examines the aftermath of the 2015 Samarco mine tailing breach, the biggest environmental disaster that has ever happened in Brazil. Through photographs, interviews and local reporting I aim to address the liability of individuals behind the life-threatening manoeuvres of the mining activity that has long disrupted lives and ecosystems in the Global South. By centring and elevating the human stories behind serious environmental degradations I aim to bring a social perspective to stories reporting on the climate crisis. Working closely with locals is a way to reinforce the indispensable role of Traditional Peoples as an obstacle to the impacts caused by deforestation and environmental degradation around the world whilst challenging western centred narratives.
My process starts with an in-depth research of archival imagery, poetry and cartography, elements that enable me to establish an initial connection with the land and Peoples I will engage with. This initial phase comprises of lots of reading, sketchbooks and mind-maps to organise my ideas and thoughts in a visual way. The research is an ethical and key part of the process considering I aim to establish a continuous conversation with the participants. Developing a long-term and respectful relationship with my collaborators is fundamental. Considering that my projects are based on community engagement, it is essential to learn the history and culture of the ones I will document so as to understand and unlearn the preconceptions I bring with me.
The next step is the field work which initiates with a slow paced conversation with people who are part of the community. The slow paced approach is a process that allows me to provide a space where we all are able to listen with our bodies rather than just our eyes. Listening is the second crucial part of my projects. Participants are the ones who should tell the story. My position is to facilitate so that they feel comfortable to share and co-create a visual representation of the socio environmental issues happening in their communities. Photography comes very late in my practice. The presence of a camera can be intimidating and the idea is not to invade space as an outsider but to earn permission to enter. By experimenting with alternative analogue processing, I aim to bring a materiality to my interventions by blending organic elements with the film. When immersing the film on elements that are present on the lands I document I aim to raise to the surface the deterioration suffered by landscapes that at first glance would seem pristine and undamaged.
Very often environmental damages are mainly discussed and reported by people who are not present in the frontline, therefore leading to stories that are disconnected to the realities happening on the ground. Central to my practice is emphasising the resilience built by communities on the frontline of the crisis. In reclaiming ravaged shared spaces, communities demonstrate the importance of their ties on fighting an economic culture that places little to no importance on the well-being of citizens.
ABOUT REBECA BINDA
I am a Brazilian documentary photographer and independent researcher whose practice investigates the relationship between socio-environmental justice, ecocide and legacies of colonisation. By collaborating with communities that are currently facing restrictions and violations to the environment they inhabit I aim to analyse how community ties are crucial to tackle climate crisis and mitigate social inequalities. Through an in-depth research of archival imagery, poetry and cartography I aim to centre and elevate the human stories behind hazardous environmental degradations. Central to my practice is emphasising the resilience built by traditional communities on the frontline of the crisis. In reclaiming ravaged shared spaces, communities demonstrate the importance of their ties on fighting a culture that places little to no importance on the well-being of citizens.
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