Amazofuturism and Indigenous Futurism in Brazilian Science Fiction

This peer-reviewed article was first published in Vector 291.

By Vítor Castelões Gama and Marcelo Velloso Garcia

This essay will explore two contemporary movements associated with the literature and art of the Amazon region: Amazofuturism and Indigenous futurism. We hope that it will increase the visibility of these two interconnected movements, in order to enrich diversity within the art world, and contribute toward a broadening of cosmologies and worldviews beyond dominant Western imaginaries [1]. 

But to do so, let’s start by trying out some definitions. First, Amazofuturism is a subgenre of SF where the Amazon region is represented in a more positive light, often with an aesthetic akin to cyberpunk and solarpunk. Indigenous futurism, on the other hand, focuses on Indigenous worldviews in the context of the SF megatext, and, while doing so, challenges ingrained colonialist assumptions about Indigenous people. Ideally it is also created by Indigenous people. Finally, Brazilian SF, the broadest of these three terms, is simply science fiction from Brazil. It does not necessarily represent either the Amazon region nor Indigenous people at all, and when it does, may do so either positively or negatively [2]. Now, let’s expand a bit on these definitions. 

Mary Elizabeth Ginway (2015) states that the Amazon was mostly used as a setting for Brazilian SF in two key moments, the first “during the authoritarian government of Getúlio Vargas (1930-1945), the second after the decades-long push for modernization and technological change imposed by the military government from 1964 to 1985” (Ginway 1). For Ginway, the first moment is filled with adventure narratives (much like Jules Vernes’ Voyages Extraordinaires), while the second reflects more closely on Brazilian history, and also takes a dystopian turn. We are now living in a third moment: Amazofuturism, a new movement which has largely gained prominence through the artworks of João Queiroz [3]. While Amazofuturism is still critical of authoritarian government and ecological and economic exploitation, it is generally less pessimistic, portraying a mixed Amazon with positive and negative features. In our useage, Amazofuturism may sometimes, but does not always, incorporate Indigeneous experience, perspectives, and epistemologies. One could argue that, for a literary or artistic artwork really to count as Indigenous futurism, it must come from Indigenous peoples, whereas Amazofuturist works need not necessarily check this criterion. 

Second, Indigenous futurism is a fairly broad term, popularized by Grace L. Dillon. The term refers primarily to speculative artwork and writing by Indigenous people, which expresses Indigenous perspectives and epistemologies, and/or which centres Indigeneous experience. Such work includes Indigenous science fiction, and for Dillon, the movement is shifting the perimeters of science fiction as a whole, and consequently how science fiction is defined what it is capable of. Dillon argues that writers of Indigenous futurism, liberated from the kind of realist fiction that “‘serious’ Native authors are supposed to write,” can be playful and experimental, and can stretch boundaries (Dillon 3). Such writers can “reenlist the science of indigeneity” to explore how “Indigenous science is not just complementary to a perceived western enlightenment but is indeed integral to a refined twenty-first-century sensibility” (Dillon 3). The notion that Indigenous science is integral to this century may sound like a platitude to some. Yet it is an important point to make: there are pervasive prejudices which associate Indigenous people with the past, and refuse to envision them in the future. Such prejudices also often deny traditional Indigenous knowledge any status as ‘scientific’ or ‘technological,’ and deny the validity of Indigenous epistemology. In this light, Indigenous science fiction could not exist. However, it does exist, and is a hugely important part of Indigenous futurism.

Then there’s Brazilian SF. Loosely speaking, science fiction is often seen as a genre with a special connection to the future, in which science and technology frequently play a significant role. That said, it is a term that has never been satisfactorily defined, although proposed definitions continue to spark interesting conversations. Speculative fiction is often treated as a broader term, encompassing science fiction as well as genres such as fantasy, horror, magical realism, etc. On closer inspection, however, the distinction between science fiction and speculative fiction is not that clear, and the role of ‘science’ in ‘science fiction’ is not so straightforward. Not all science fiction is actually about science and technology. Furthermore, science and technology can be important themes in fantasy, horror, magical realism, etc. 

Darko Suvin’s classic definition of science fiction may be useful here. Defining science fiction as Suvin does, by the “presence and interaction of estrangement and cognition, and whose main formal device is an imaginative framework alternative to the author’s empirical environment” (Suvin 20), allows significant diversity of worldviews. Suvin does not think that all estranging literature and art is science fiction. Science fiction is supposed to deal with estrangement interacting with cognition. That is, for Suvin, science fiction involves deviations from reality that let us criticise how we live our lives at any given moment. Such cognitive estrangement — i.e. deviations from reality that generate knowledge about reality — could be related to science and technology, but also to social change, or to whatever writers see fit. After all, science is one of many consensual ways of perceiving and categorising the world. 

Some have found Suvin’s classic definition unsatisfactory, since it often seems to rule out some things that clearly appear to be science fiction, while at the same time including some things that don’t. But perhaps what makes the definition so enduring is the way that it challenges complacency about what forms of knowledge are valuable, and how they get their value. There is a resonance here with Indigenous futurism. Indigenous futurism similarly asks that we critically examine the beliefs, attitudes, methods, concepts, or language that get called ‘scientific,’ and/or valorised as rigorous, objective, empirical, evidence-based, superior, and so on. If certain worldviews that consider themselves ‘scientific’ have been deeply implicated in racism, colonialism, genocide and ecocide, then surely we must either rethink what counts as science, and/or rethink the esteem in which it is held? As Antonio Negri and Michael Hardt (2005) have pointed out, it is in the name of  “scientific progress” that Indigenous knowledge was and is constantly stolen. Examples are as diverse as Curare, a poison used by various Amazonian Indigenous groups, first patented as Intocostrin; the Yanomami blood taken by James Neel and Napoleon Chagnon; and the Uru-eu-wau-wau botanical knowledge, mentioned by Laurie Anne Whitt (1998) [4]. But what is at stake here is not just defending Indigenous knowledge by reclaiming patents or monetary compensations. It’s also reframing what is understood as science, estranging and reimagining the vital concepts which underlie it, concepts such as ‘objectivity,’ ‘experiment,’ ‘neutrality,’ ‘bias,’ etc. To put it another way, bringing Indigenous knowledge together with the Western scientific tradition requires that we rethink not only the content, but also the form of science. 

In this regard, Indigenous futurisms ask that science fiction be critical and transformative. For example, one of the works we’ll analyze here, Todas as Coisas São Pequenas by Daniel Munduruku, proposes the creation of an Indigenous university, where knowledge is developed by respecting Indigenous forms of research and learning. As Daniel Heath Justice remarks, while defending the advantages of reading a given work in the light of speculative fiction: “in its most transformative modes, speculative fiction offers a complementary and distinctive range of reading and interpretative strategies that can undo the violence of the deficit models of ‘the real’ and offer transformative visions of other lives, experiences and histories. Fantasy, science fiction, and horror merit consideration as serious literature with ethical import, deserving of critical and pedagogical regard” (Justice 142). Such transformations don’t come easily. Dillon invokes “the warrior ethic that Taiaiake Alfred (Kanien’kehaka) urges Natives to embrace as ‘thinkers, teachers, writers, and artists’”, and asks, “what better terrain than the field of SF to ‘engage colonial power in the spirit of a struggle for survival’” (Dillon 03)?

Indigenous Literature and Contemporary Writers

Indigenous literature in Brazil has been changed since the 1990s by the organisation of Indigenous political movements, which led many authors to publish their stories directly in Portuguese or in their Indigenous languages, without the mediation of an interpreter. Daniel Munduruku (2018) suggests that, today, there are “about 40 self-styled indigenous authors who are producing literary material with some regularity. They belong to at least 20 different peoples and come from almost all Brazilian regions.” This same author in an interview points out that in his childhood, he used to read a lot of science fiction and comic books (Munduruku, “Iberoamericana” 220). It is no surprise, then, that one of his works, the short story “A Sabedoria das Águas,” was included in a science fiction anthology, Estranhos Contatos, organized by Roberto de Sousa Causo [5]. “A Sabedoria das Águas” (1998) tells the story of the couple Koru and Maíra. The majority of the story is about a traumatising encounter with strange creatures which, when seen by Koru, produce light from their hands to blind the protagonist and flee. Koru seeks to understand what those creatures were and what it means to live like them. In the end, the story poses the question: is it worth it to “know all things and dominate time and space”? Should one always seek to explore the unknown and integrate it into one’s existing understandings? Koru answers this question in the negative. What he needs is already there, with the company of Maíra and with the support from his kin.

A Sabedoria das Águas was later republished as a standalone book, without references to its prior publication. This recontextualisation changes the possible interpretations for the reader, by making the science fictionality less prominent, achieved by removing some of the original paratexts (its place in the anthology, the editor’s remarks, the mentions to CLFC’s reunion) and adding others, such as different marketing strategies. Although we can only vouch for our reading, it seems to us that, with the first contact trope de-emphasized, the narrative loses some of its critical power. Without these paratexts, although the text is the same, the first contact frame may not be picked up by the reader. The reader may be less able to interpret the aliens’ solitary lifestyle, their thirst for “richness, fame, respect and power,” and their voracious appetite for knowledge, through the lens of Western individualism (Munduruku 150). For example, near the end the two characters are confronted by the aliens, who propose the following: “You will know about before the beginning. Those who know have richness, fame, respect and power. […] You’ll give life and death for those you chose. All will respect you. You’d be the most powerful of men” (Munduruku 150). But Koru and Maíra ponder about what are the drawbacks of this proposal: “you must renounce the love of your people and your wife will by taken by us, that’s the price to those who want to unveil the truth about the world: you’ll conquer all, but will always be alone. You’ll stalk like a jaguar that always has to kill its prey, for coexistence is not possible; you’ll have prestige, but will live in the shadows of your own power” (Munduruku 150). By contrast, Koru and Maíra defend another source of wisdom, that of Indigenous tradition. In this sense, it is precisely by reading “A Sabedoria Das Águas” as science fiction that we can best reveal its nature as Indigenous futurism.

A similar interpretation can be elicited from an artwork by Denilson Baniwa, depicted in the next figure [6]. This figure shows E.T., the titular character of Steven Spielberg and Melissa Mathison’s famous 1982 science fiction film, painting an Indigenous boy’s face. The Hollywood alien is reclaimed on behalf of Indigenous art and culture. While in the movie, E.T. is lonely and homesick, here it seems like E.T. is engaging in an act of kinship. On Earth, both figures in the illustration are marginalised and treated as “other.” As said by Gwyneth Jones, “the aliens we imagine are always other humans in disguise, no more, no less” (Jones, 364). At the same time, the image challenges this sense of marginalisation, by creating a link between the Indigenous people of Earth and E.T.’s technologically advanced people (who are capable of interstellar spaceflight, almost magical medicine, telepathy, etc.). 


Figure 1 – E.T.  Source: bit.ly/2I0Al6H

This artwork quite literally illustrates the importance of representation. Mari Kurisato (2019) recalls that when she was younger, she thought that Luke was from an Indigenous group, because “he was a brave hero imbued with strong medicine powers (the Force) and a special weapon from his ancestors. Proof of his heritage was even right there in his name: ‘Skywalker,’ which is very similar to the famous Ojibwe warrior Goes Across the Sky Woman” (Kurisato ch. 3). Kurisato’s remarks resemble those of Stephen Graham Jones (2019), who talks about needing “some Indian role models, growing up. I needed some Indian heroes. And I didn’t have to go far, far away. I just had to go to the theater. Thank you, Star Wars” (Jones 89).

Figure 2 is another artwork by the same artist, interpreting a famous moment from The Empire Strikes Back.

Daniel Munduruku’s Todas as Coisas São Pequenas (2008) illustrates another important aspect of Indigenous futurism. It tells the story of Carlos and Aximã, Carlos’s spiritual guide to Carlos. Carlos is a rich CEO whose plane crashes in the jungle and is rescued by Aximã. Carlos in his journey back home begins to understand how unbearable is the lifestyle he has chosen for himself. The novel demonstrates some of the ways utopianism can work within Indigenous futurism. That is, Todas as Coisas São Pequenas does not outline the characteristics of some ‘ideal’ society, but it does stage a fruitful confrontation between the baseline world and the Indigenous view of the same world. 

Jill Dolan’s (2005) comments on utopia, although focused on the performing arts, may be helpful here. Dolan suggests that utopia is close to “Brecht’s notion of gestus, actions in performance that crystallize social relations and offer them to spectators for critical contem­plation” (Dolan 7). Utopia is not about finding the “representations of a better world,” but rather, about “a hopeful process that continually writes a different, better future” (Dolan 13) and which “lets audiences imagine utopia not as some idea of future perfection that might never arrive, but as brief enactments of the possibilities of a process that starts now, in this moment at the theater” (Dolan 17). Utopia is “always a metaphor, always a wish, a desire, a no-place that performance can sometimes help us map if not find. But a performative is not a metaphor; it’s a doing, and it’s in the performative’s gesture that hope adheres, that communitas happens, that the not-yet-conscious is glimpsed and felt and strained toward” (Dolan 170). 

Similarly, Camilla Jalving (2012) proposes that the term “utopia” is relevant to art criticism, not much in the sense of a description of an imaginary and/or impossible society, but as an interpretative lens on what could be, given different sets of conditions. That is, “as a way of regarding work and praxis that emphasizes the performative and society-changing potential of art” (150). 

Daniel Heath Justice (2018) points out that while “Indigenous writers have confronted that oppressive context and created a richly expansive literary tradition that engages with colonialism, these traditions are in no way determined by colonialism” (Justice xix). Although Todas as Coisas São Pequenas certainly counteracts common prejudices about Indigenous people, it is not determined by that only. In fact, the novel shows a utopian outlook, proposing a way in which a more positive future could be reached, without denying the ugliness in the world. 

Daniel Heath Justice continues: “Indigenous texts are by and large responsive, not reactive. They are at least as concerned with developing or articulating relationships with, among, and between Indigenous readers as they are with communicating our humanity to colonial society, if not more so” (Justice xix). The Indigenous futurist movement is larger than its critiques of colonial legacies, larger even than its reinscription of knowledge and ways of knowing that are typically marginalised or erased by those legacies. Indigenous futurism is something that is being done by particular individuals with their own particular tastes, predilections, pleasures, desires, ideas, and experiences. The Indigenous futurist movement is filled with all the many diverse things that Indigenous creators and fans care about; it is a movement of collective and individual self-fashioning and self-expression through the creation, interpretation and consumption of culture, a worldmaking activity through which Indigenous people and non-Indigenous allies reveal themselves and connect with one-another. These two perspectives (critique and community) can be used to interpret the following collage from Mavi Morais (@moraismavi).

There is an anecdote related by Daniel Munduruku (“Banquete” 47), in which a professor pesters an Indigenous elder, continually bragging about how Mankind has reached the Moon. To which the elder eventually responds, “I know, I was there.” What does the elder mean by this response? For one thing, it reveals the illegitimacy of the professor’s bragging. Whatever the pros and cons of Western techno-scientific knowledge, the professor has no grounds for appointing himself its spokesperson in order to belittle the Indigenous elder and Indigenous forms of knowledge. Certainly, this braggart has never been to the Moon himself, nor does he really know how to get up there. Second, the answer may allude to the history of colonial powers pretending that the lands that they invade are empty, or at least empty of meaning until they arrive to conquer them. The elder may also mean that the Moon, in his perspective, is in a sense densely populated, since the Moon could be many things: not only a physical place, but a symbol, a friend, an illumination, a part of many stories, an element of a shared imaginary, a locus of difference and divergence, etc. In this sense, the Moon is something complex and mysterious, and there may be many ways of inhabiting it. Finally, even if the answer is just a jest to dismiss a boring person, it highlights the differences between their two worldviews. Why go to the Moon, when we have so many problems here? Perhaps there are good reasons for going to the Moon. But as it happens, landing on the Moon was not a sign that we had transcended war and conflict, but rather a manifestation of US-Soviet rivalry.

Figure 3 – Collage from Mavi Morais. Source – instagram.com/p/B3HxtnxHCHF/

All these themes and questions are evoked by Mavi Morais’s collage. The artwork is not exactly about the “conquest” of the Moon in itself. To read the presence of Indigenous people and traditional technology on the Moon’s surface through the lens of science fiction implies a different world, in which Indigenous people can reach the Moon if so desired. It signals, furthermore, that Indigenous people will continue existing in the future. As Kwaymullina (2015) argues:

So we tell stories, always, of our realities. But we are frequently misconstrued as writing of myths rather than truths, and of engaging with metaphor rather than metaphysics. And we continually suffer the indignity of having our stories, our cultures, our knowledges and our very identities characterised as relics of the distant past. Therefore, the very act of conceiving of an Indigenous place in the future — or of the future as an Indigenous place — is an act of defiance. (Kwaymullina ch. 17) 

As Jill Dolan and Camilla Jalving might also suggest, it is not really reaching the Moon that matters here, at least not in any literal sense. What matters is the representation of different possibilities, which allow us to keep actively imagining, desiring and fighting for better futures. What matters is to give the loud signal: ‘Today, we exist, and we can reach where we desire.’

Amazofuturism and its predecessors

We won’t attempt a comprehensive overview here, but instead highlight just a few works which may be considered predecessors to the contemporary Amazofuturist movement. One of the first works of science fiction that uses the Amazon as a setting is Gastão Cruls’s novel Amazônia Misteriosa (1925). Many of the motifs which appear in Amazonia Misteriosa reappear in later works such as Ivanir Calado’s A Mãe do Sonho (1990); Joca Reiners Terron’s A Morte e o Meteoro (2019); Fausto Fawcett’s Pororoca Rave (2015); and Mário Bentes’s “Pajemancer” (2018). In this essay, we will pick up on two motifs. The significance of each alters over time, against the background of transformations in Brazilian society, and the changing politics of the Amazon and its ecological devastation [7]. The first motif is mediation by a scientist, often by an ethnologist or anthropologist who serves as narrator. Such narratives, in other words, often invite us to inhabit a gaze and an ideology which risks marginalising Indigenous perspectives. The second motif is conflict between different types of societies, that is, a specific Indigenous society against another form of society. Such juxtapositions often put utopian themes into play. For example, each society may place higher or lower in a utopia/dystopia spectrum, according to the criticisms intended by the work, allowing the comparison of these possible societies. Occasionally these conflicts also touch upon the subject of the extermination of Indigenous people through agents of colonialism, a trope known as the “vanishing Indian.” We will briefly discuss the usage of both motifs in works mentioned above.

Regarding the first motif, Cruls’s protagonist in Amazônia Misteriosa is a doctor, and the novel continually engages with Western-style scientific discourse more widely. For example, it begins by adopting the form of a travelogue, filled with precise descriptions of the rainforest. Similarly, Calado’s and Terron’s novels both make use of an anthropologist as mediators in their narratives, both as narrators. They also include references to living personalities, for example, the protagonist of Calado’s novel is named after the anthropologist Roberto DaMatta, and in Terron’s novel one of the two anthropologists is named Boaventura, which could be a reference both to the sociologist Boaventura de Sousa Santos and to the indigenista Orlando and Cláudio Villas-Boas. 

Ginway (2015) suggests that for many science fiction writers of the first half of the twentieth century, “the Amazon is a place of adventure, a setting for stories whose imaginative events ignore the region’s anthropology, history and indigenous cultures” (Ginway 1). This observation is partly applicable to Amazônia Misteriosa, at least as in regard to the region’s recent history at the time, making it seem somewhat politically and culturally disengaged. The second motif is still present in Cruls’s work in the protagonist’s encounter with the Amazons, the legendary society of female warriors, and the ritual drinking of “aiquec” (a drink similar to ayahuasca). Once the protagonist has taken “aiquec,” he is able to enter dialogue with Atahualpa, the last Inca emperor. The contact with Atahualpa, then, provides the reader the possibility of comparing Incan society and European, and by reminding the reader about the destruction of the Incas, allows them to reflect upon the Brazilian society at that time.

Motifs of utopian/dystopian confrontation can be found throughout A Mãe do Sonho by Ivanir Calado and A Morte e o Meteoro by Joca Reiners Terron [8]. In the first, beings from the Brazilian collective unconscious, meu pau de óculos, de cartola and de meia, defend the last representatives of an Indigenous group threatened by extermination by a mining company. The protagonist discovers that a highway is being planned through the lands of an uncontacted Indigenous group. The menace to the Indigenous people recalls the massacre of the Waimiri-Atroari during the construction of the BR-174 highway. Therefore, thinks the protagonist, the Indigenous group must be relocated before evil comes their way. When the protagonist speaks of these people, a utopian tone can be detected in descriptions of their suspended town, with its tree houses and vines holding it above ground. The city is compared with Lothlórien, from Lord of The Rings, and combines native technologies (such as the Jirau for suspending the city) with elevators and many other technologies to camouflage it, although these technologies are not very detailed in the novel. The utopian tone is also clear in the description of its people: “They were the most peaceful people he had ever seen. And the most mocking. Always laughing, completely involved with their world. Happy — if this makes sense to anyone who can read” (Calado 90). The dystopian turn comes soon after when almost all members of the group, except one child, are slaughtered. Then the novel expands on the consequences of an entire collective unconscious having to survive in only one person. 

Joca Reiners Terron bases his work on a similar premise: an Indigenous group have their land seized and must go elsewhere. In a dystopian version of Brazil, where the Amazon has been mostly destroyed, what remains has become insufficient for the survival of an Indigenous group called Kaajapukugi. The Kaajapukugi have “been hunted with determination by the state and its extermination agents: miners, loggers, landowners and their usual henchmen, police, military and politicians” (Terron 14) and, therefore, must be transferred to Mexico as political refugees [9].

It is noticeable that both Calado and Terron make use of various elements from speculative literature to criticise the extractivist mindset fomented by capitalism. Calado’s novel is aimed at the specific period of the Brazilian dictatorship, many echoes from it can be perceived today [10]. For example, a parallel can be easily traced in the next figure in which a politician, now Minister for the Environment, shows his campaign ideology.

Figure 4. A flyer from the election campaign of the current Minister of Environment

The flyer features an image of bullets, and advocates violence as a solution to all issues: “against the plague of boars; against left-wing political parties and the Movement of Homeless Workers; against robbery of tractors, cattle and supplies; against criminality in rural areas.” The slogan also alludes to Indigenous extermination, which again brings us to the second motif commonly used to represent the Amazon region, that of a conflict between different types of societies. Some more recent SF continues to make use of the motif of the “vanishing Indian,” or the extermination of Indigenous people. For example, the next four novels have something in common: they all have difficulty in imagining the coexistence of a corrupt Brazilian society with Indigenous people. These are Fausto Fawcett’s Pororoca Rave (2015), which alludes to the pororoca, a big wave that is formed within Amazon rivers, as well as the rave DJs who are searching for a “primordial” sound, a quest which takes them through the the northern regions. Technology and mysticism, poverty, crime and corruption, syncretism and self-discovery are central to this work. Mário Bentes’s “Pajemancer” (2018) has a not dissimilar setting. The title is the union of pajé, or shaman, and mancer, as in cybermancer or necromancer. In this short story the protagonist is said to be a descendant of the last of the Indigenous group Sateré Mawé, now working as an investigator in a futuristic Manaus, capital of Amazonas. Alexey Dodsworth’s 18 de Escorpião (2016) relocates Brazilian Indigenous people to another planet, called Neokosmos, because life on Earth has become unbearable, an idea shared with the already discussed A Morte e o Meteoro by Terron.

Brazilian science fiction has demonstrated a range of attitudes toward Indigenous people, from exoticisation and romanticisation, to marginalisation and indifference, to ferocious critiques of neocolonial genocide. However, the recurrence of these two motifs across so many works suggests that across all these different attitudes, such science fiction struggles to truly embrace Indigenous experience, to imagine Indigenous people except in conflict, or to imagine Indigenous people ultimately surviving such conflict.  By our definition, such works may arguably be considered Amazofuturist, but they are certainly not Indigenous futurism. However, we argue that the more hopeful visions of contemporary Amazofuturism seek to redress these shortcomings. In particular, artwork by João Queiroz utilises cyberpunk aesthetic motifs, but with an important difference: there is no “High Tech, Low-Life” (Sterling xiv), which the previous analysed works adhere to, but only “High Tech, ‘High’ Life.” Therefore, differently from Brazilian novels, in which Indigenous life is constantly threatened by the menace of neocolonialism, Queiroz’s portrayal depicts the Amazon as an independent and self-sustaining place, where people live in communion with nature, helped by complex technology. This representation can be seen in the next figure (5).

Figure 5: ‘Amazofuturism’ by João Queiroz
Source: http://www.instagram.com/p/BxN7481F3Tj/

The painting mixes some visual references from Andean Indigenous people and Amazonian Indigenous people to create its atmosphere. Some interesting aspects typical of Queiroz’s art include the brightness and the connection between nature and technology, which can be seen here, for instance, in the prominent biomechanical arm, suggesting a perfect balance of the (post-)human, the natural, and the technological. In contrast to Western science and technology, which has often developed at untold cost to nature, this Amazofuturist image suggests the possibility of science and technology that is in harmony with, and even perhaps an expression of, ecological limits and laws. The next figure showcases a similar perspective. 

Figure 6: Icamiabas by João Queiroz
Source: http://www.instagram.com/p/B1KWkOjAvbn/

The picture is based on the story of the Icamiabas, which are the famous female warriors that fought against the conqueror Orellana. For this reason, reminded of the Amazon warrior women of Greek mythology, Orellana decided to call the river “El Rio de las Amazonas,” or the Amazon River. The image shows a hunting ensemble and, peering from the top center of the print, a silhouette of a skyscraper. Besides the biomechanical arms, the hunting bow is also of interest, with a design that could fit in contemporary archery tournaments. Finally, the presence of the Icamiabas themselves is significant: their survival and flourishing in this mysterious and tantalising future is where João Queiroz’s artwork diverges from his literary counterparts, by directly contradicting the “vanishing Indian” trope. Indeed the work implies that, beyond mere subsistence and survival, the region was, is and still will be defended.

Conclusion

Although the nomenclature “Amazofuturism” has only been recently proposed by Queiroz, his artworks exists in a rich dialogue with a longer tradition of Brazilian speculative literature and art. It throws light not only on the possible future development of such work, but also on its history, by bringing into focus plausible precursors, highlighting their strengths and shortcomings. Above all, many of the works analysed are deeply pessimistic, whereas Queiroz’s work shows the more optimistic possibilities of science fiction. We would welcome Queiroz’s aesthetic, showing the region and its Indigenous people in a more positive light, being taken up by more artists and writers. As Eduardo Galeano said, the function of utopia is to walk, it is the process. So even though the political climate is grim, Queiroz’s artwork offers a shining beacon of hope. 

We suggest that Queiroz’s work is both Amazofuturism and Indigenous futurism. Indigenous futurism, likewise, is not yet widely practiced in Brazil. Nevertheless, we argue that it is a key term for art criticism in Brazil and beyond. Indigenous futurism opposes reductive, pessimistic, and exoticising discourses about the Amazon region and Indigenous peoples, challenging Western stereotypes and allowing the complexity of Indigenous voices and perspectives to be shared. Together, both these interconnected movements attest to the power of the speculative imagination in social and political resilience and regeneration.

Endnotes

[1] Or, if you prefer an even more inclusive definition, science fiction from and/or about Brazil.

[2] To draw a bit from Aristotle’s methods of definition, we might say that Amazofuturism displays the Amazon region positively, but is not obliged to do so in regards to the Indigenous people. On the other hand, Indigenous futurism represents Indigenous people positively, but is not restricted to the Amazon region. Brazilian SF, the broadest term, is not restricted to a positive view either of the Amazon region or of the Indigenous people, who are indeed frequently ignored.

[3] Although we esteem Queiroz’s work (@q1r0z) our paper will focus more on literary works that could be considered as precursors to Amazofuturism in Brazil. Another artist who also engages with cyberpunk references, and can be analyzed in further discussion, is Keoma Calandrini (@srkoema).

[4] http://www.survivalinternational.org/about/yanomami-blood-controversy

[5] It is also worth noting the reunion held in 1997 between indigenous authors Daniel Munduruku, Kaka-Werá Jekupé, Olívio Popyguá and CLFC, the Science Fiction Readers’ Club, an event also organised by Roberto de Sousa Causo.

[6] His social media account has the handle @denilsonbaniwa: http://www.behance.net/denilsonbaniwa

[7] Cruls’s novel is from a period after the region’s rubber boom, in which Brazilian Amazon region was in a continuous economic decay, which would only recover at the time of the Second World War (Allied forces could not benefit from Southeast rubber plantations). His novel, however, does not engage much with Amazon’s history, preferring to criticize Brazil as a whole. It should be noted that previously to the novel, Cruls had never been to the Amazon. Ivanir Calado’s novel, in contrast, comes from a period after Brazilian Dictatorship (1964-1985), which is characterized by extractivist projects that meant the death of thousands of rural workers and of Indigenous people. Given the current political policies, the extractivist agenda is still in full force. For a more comprehensive history of the Amazon, see Souza (2019).

[8] For another take on Calado’s A Mãe do Sonho, see Causo (2003) and Ginway (2005). The first argues that the work demonstrates “the inherent stupidity of the dictatorship and the obtuse character of Western capitalist society when dealing with non-western beliefs”. The second claims that “A Mãe do Sonho” denies the common portrayal of Amazon as a passive entity, describing the culture from the region as an active force of resistance. 

[9] It should be noted that many of these works, as with part of Brazilian literature, end up denying the agency of the Indigenous characters, making them passive recipients of the story or simple premises for plot advancement. Sometimes this might be with a malicious intent, although that is not the case of any of the novels analyzed here. Yet, there is a very fine line between trying to represent the Indigenous people in a positive light, and representing them in ways that are reductive and oversimplifying. For example, in 18 de Escorpião, Indigenous groups are relocated to another planet, where they live in a peaceful manner. However, while the non-Indigenous characters do the intellectual work, the Indigenous people are left to do only manual work. 

[10] A possible consequence of having this type of discourse legitimized may be seen in the fact that the Indigenous Land Raposa do Sol have been invaded by miners again, furthermore, this year only at least 10 indigenous leaders have been assassinated. Source: bit.ly/3ahiG6Q and https://bit.ly/38hfrLy. Updated information can be found in the instagram handles @apiboficial; @socioambiental

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