Há certas dúvidas sobre quais foram exatamente os nossos antepassados mais remotos. Os seres humanos modernos só surgiram há cerca de 200 mil anos.[3] Os humanos são primatas e surgiram na África; duas espécies que pertenceram aos primórdios da evolução dos hominídeos foram o Sahelanthropus tchadensis, com um misto de caraterísticas humanas e símias, e o Orrorin tugenensis, já bípede, mas não se sabe o tamanho do cérebro, que no Sahelanthropus era de 320–380 cm cúbicos. Ambos existiam há mais de 6 milhões de anos. [4] Os hominídeos da época habitavam a África subsariana, a Etiópia e Tanzânia, ou seja na África Oriental. Seguiram-se a esses primeiros hominídeos os Ardipithecus e mais tarde (há 4,3 milhões de anos até há 2,4 milhões) os Australopithecus, descendentes dos Ardipithecus. Tinham (os australopitecos) maiores cérebros, pernas mais longas, braços menores, e traços faciais mais parecidos aos nossos.[5]

   Há 2,5 milhões de anos surge o gênero Homo, Homo habilis na África oriental, com ele começam-se a usar ferramentas de pedra totalmente feitas por eles (começando o Paleolítico) e carne passa a ser mais importante na dieta do Homo habilis. Eram caçadores e tinham um cérebro maior (590–650 cm cúbicos), mas tinham braços compridos.[6]

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Photo: Fabricio Carrijo

THE PROJECT

by Fabricio Carrijo

Thousands of people have crossed the border between Venezuela and Brazil, and upon arriving on the Brazilian ground they often become just “the Venezuelan”, as if their existence could be reduced to a single belonging, determined by nationality. However, they are women, men, trans, children, youth, adults, the elderly, displaced human beings with diverse life experiences, converged by the condition of becoming a migrant, a refugee, which does not dilute the other constitutive aspects of their identity.  In the project Migrant Stories we photograph and get in  touch with their life stories. Along the following lines and photos we will share with you part of this experience.

According to the United Nations, more than 5.2 million people have already left Venezuela, especially since 2018, most of them to Latin American and Caribbean countries, mainly Colombia, Peru, Ecuador, Chile and Brazil, in the total of 4.3 million and millions of Venezuelan migrants and refugees on the continent, a situation of displacement unprecedented in the region*. The migratory flow of Venezuelans to Brazil has intensified since 2017, with Roraima, a state bordering Venezuela, the main gateway to the country, mainly through the city of Pacaraima. Once in Brazil, most continue to the state capital, Boa Vista, covering the 215 kilometers between both cities in many cases on foot or hitchhiking, a journey that journalists Costa and Brandão (2018) experienced and called “the route of hunger”.

 “It is as if they have forced us to leave, it was not our desire to come here. We simply had no other option. The situation was so critical that we could no longer live there” Ruth tells us at the refugee shelter Rondon 1 in Boa Vista about her decision to leave Venezuela driven by a mixture of despair and hope. She left behind a socioeconomic context that became unsustainable, and an affective circle that gave her life meaning and security: loved ones, family gatherings, her home, her job; she left a part of herself in her pursuit to not only to rebuild herself, but to have a future. And this expectation about what lies ahead gives her strength to deal with a precarious present, full of absences.              

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Photo: Katarzyna Górka

Ruth lives with her son and husband in one of the nine shelters for migrants and refugees in Boa Vista, which together host, according to UNHCR, an average of  6000 migrants and refugees.  The shelters are the result of the Brazilian Federal Government’s Operação Acolhida (Operation Welcome) launched in march 2018.  This Operation encompasses government at federal, state and municipal levels, armed forces as well as the support of different UN agencies and partner humanitarian NGOs.

Starting in 2018, Migrant Stories is an ongoing project linked to the International Relations Department and the Sérgio Vieira de Mello Chair at Federal University of Roraima (UFRR) in Boa Vista, Brazil. In the project each individual is considered far beyond legal status and statistics of people entering the country and seeking asylum. They are subjectivities, with a name, Caterine, Francisco, Josbelys, Yraída.... a history. The project aims at calling into question dehistoricizing representations of refugees, portrayed as anonymous and speechless bodies, either as powerless victim or a threat to the host society. Migrant stories seeks to bring visibility to contra hegemonic narratives in which the refugee take part as historical subjects with agency. The project endeavours to produce photographic and textual narratives beyond stereotyped representations in attempt to contribute to the deconstruction of xenophobic discourses, foster empathy and, consequently, the peaceful coexistence between displaced people and their host society.

 Migrant Stories is carried out by a team of professors and undergraduate students from different areas of knowledge, encompassing International Relations, Anthropology, Architecture and Law. Its consecution has been involving field work in several refugee shelters in Boa Vista, Roraima, where we photograph and get in touch with some life stories, listen to the refugee’s trajectories, opinions, dreams, get to know their daily lives, learn about and with each of the subjects we engaged in conversations with.

*Data available at the UN Regional Inter-Agency Coordination Platform for Refugees and Migrants from Venezuela (Response For Venezuelans). Access on: July 13th 2020.

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Photo: Katarzyna Górka