NGO Thydêwá: Connecting Communities - Leeds International Festival
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NGO Thydêwá: Connecting Communities

Leeds International Festival 18 28 April 2018

This momentous event saw some of Brazil’s indigenous peoples make the long journey over to the UK, to discuss how technologies have impacted their lives.

This inspiring event shared information about the culture and traditions of different indigenous groups from north-eastern Brazil, and in particular about the ways in which, with the support of the NGO Thydêwá, these communities have used digital tools to increase their visibility, fight prejudice, and lobby the government for their rights.

The NGO’s founder, Sebastián Gerlic, alongside translators from Leeds University’s School of Languages, Cultures and Societies, were on hand to facilitate the dialogue, but it was imperative that some members of the community could be in Leeds, telling their stories for themselves.

As well as sharing their experiences in a dialogue with attendees, comparing their stories, and amplifying their voices, the event enabled members of these indigenous communities to display artworks in an exhibition which stemmed from their indigenous digital arts, encouraging further intercultural interaction beyond the main event.

NGO Thydêwá have been empowering these communities by training and equipping them with digital tools and technologies for over fifteen years. They have had their actions recognised by a series of different prizes, both nationally in Brazil and across the broader, international stage. Owing to the uptake of the initial project, NGO Thydêwá has now launched a current project specifically aimed at indigenous women, and the production of indigenous, digital art.

Credit: Photo credit: Sebastián Gerlic
Photo credit: Sebastián Gerlic

NGO Thydêwá also run an ethno-journalism site called Indios Online, which connects the diverse indigenous peoples of north-eastern Brazil so that they can run educational networks and support each other in their fight for their rights, as well as sharing information about environmental sustainability and even selling their craftworks.

The NGO has created a documentary – Indígenas digitais – and this was screened during the event (in Portuguese, with English subtitles). The film explores the communities’ use of digital technologies, what impact they have on the communities’ lives, and what they mean to them.

Credit: Sebastián Gerlic at Leeds International Festival 17
Sebastián Gerlic at Leeds International Festival 17

The event was delivered by both Sebastián Gerlic, the director of NGO Thydêwá, and Maria das Dores de Oliveira, of the Pankararu community, facilitated by Dr Thea Pitman, of the University’s School of Languages, Cultures and Societies.

The NGO has created a documentary – Indígenas digitais – and this was screened during the event (in Portuguese, with English subtitles). The film really explores the communities’ use of digital technologies, what impact they have on the communities’ lives, and what they mean to them.

Of course, access to technology can also be a burden, taking members of the community away from their inherited cultural customs and traditions and towards the worldwide assimilation that international dialogue can create. Sebastián Gerlic tackled this early on with the NGO Thydêwá project, arming its users with the powers of the Internet, but warning them to its vices and distractions.