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Vanishing Amazon

This collection takes a tour through three Indigenous communities in the Amazon, sharing the vision of a woman, mother, and artist.

This collection takes a tour through three Indigenous communities in the Amazon, sharing the vision of a woman, mother, and artist.

The photographs of the Ashaninka, Marubo, and Yanomami that Mirella Ricciardi produced in 1990 explore one of the world’s most diverse and enigmatic regions, often referred to as the “lungs of the planet,” which has long captured the imagination of artists, adventurers, and scientists. There is something deeply feminine about Mirella Ricciardi’s images, as photographer Sebastião Salgado points out when commenting on the unique quality of the images of the people he has visited on other occasions.

Enter a world where ancient wisdom and modern challenges intersect as the forest people battle “the frontiers of fire” on different fronts.

The collection takes a look at the Indigenous communities of the Amazon, showing their intimate relationship, their deep connection with the land, rivers, and creatures that form the intricate web of life in the forest.

Renowned for her radical work with black-and-white photography, which marked the now classic Vanishing Africa, in this exhibition, Mirella Ricciardi combines black and white in equal proportion with color. According to her, she acts on intuition when deciding the type of film to use, depending on the situation that presents itself.

Over the course of about three months, Ricciardi visited the three communities, carrying only two 35 mm cameras, one for each type of film, and a zoom lens on each, to reduce weight and increase mobility. She carried around 150 rolls of Kodak film and her ability to communicate “through gestures and smiles” that brought her closer to her subjects.

She aimed to bear witness to the challenges experienced at that time by the three communities she photographed, which were fighting against invasions and for the recognition of their Indigenous lands. Looking at this cross-section of images produced at the time, gives viewers a chance to witness the resilience, resourcefulness, and innovative adaptations in the face of changing times.

This collection allows viewers to contemplate the delicate balance between preservation and progress, and issues surrounding deforestation, climate change, and invasive modernization.

This collection recently formed part of an exhibition, ‘Mirella Ricciardi: Homage to the Peoples of the Amazon’ at the Museu da Imagem e do Som (MIS), São Paulo, Brazil. It was a collaborative effort, made possible through partnerships between the Indigenous communities, the photographer, Vanishing Africa Ltd archivists, the curators, and the museum. We aim to promote intercultural values and inspire a sense of responsibility towards the preservation of this vital and irreplaceable ecosystem.

Moving forward, the objective is to work with a trustworthy NGO. By focusing on a very precise collection that celebrates each of the community’s ability to maintain self-reliance, their cultural traditions and customs.

Mirella Ricciardi’s wish is to donate a percentage of the proceeds at the point of sale of a picture. The collection will draw from the photographs taken of the Ashaninka, the Marubo or the Yanomami in 1990.

In the words of Mirella Ricciardi, “With this collection I hope to ignite a spark of curiosity, empathy, and reverence for the intricate weaving of life that thrives in the heart of the Amazon.”

Amina Ricciardi-Dempsey


Mirella had the opportunity to meet three communities in the Amazon Rainforest; the Marubo, Ashaninka and Yanomami, photographing their daily lives and capturing their beauty.


The present-day people known as the Marubo are the result of the coming together of several Pano- speaking groups devastated by the exploitation of rubber tappers and loggers. United under the leadership of the shaman João Tuxaua (+1996), they began to live and resist together, maintaining their original identities, each with names similar to those of other ethnic backgrounds of the same linguistic group. Marubo communities are organized around a large, oblong-shaped communal maloca where the families live, in the center of a clearing from which paths lead to the surrounding forest and river. Other smaller houses, which are scattered around serve as storage for objects and for resting during the day. Anyone who arrives in a Marubo village, as Mirella Ricciardi did in 1990, is struck by the exuberance of the forest preserved immediately around the malocas, with a far-away surrounded by countryside. Back then, the Marubo were already facing illegal invasions. They were fighting for the recognition of their land, and it would take another seven years before the Terra Indígena Vale do Javari [Vale do Javari Indigenous Land was demarcated. As with all indigenous areas in the country, Vale do Javari has been the site of many attacks in recent years, culminating in the deaths of indigenist Bruno Pereira and British journalist Dom Phillips.

All photos belong to the Vanishing Amazon collection, 1990 Mirella Ricciardi / Vanishing Africa Ltd ©


The Ashaninka are descendants of the peoples who inhabited the mountain slopes east of Cusco. They were called Antis, which gave rise to the name Andes, by which the Spanish came to call the entire mountain range. Their presence was recorded in the history of the fall of the pre- Columbian empire. According to the mestizo writer Garcilazo Inca de La Vega, a cousin of Tupac Amaru, the last Inca, he had already been taken in by his Ashaninka allies, in the Amazon rainforest, when he was captured by the Spanish. For the next five hundred years, the Ashaninka resisted successive attempts to subdue them by catechization or enslavement. Their resistance is clearly expressed in their preserved architecture, in the clothes they wear, and in the organization of family houses, separated from each other by an “agroforest” with food crops. This appeared in detail in the accounts of the first Spanish visitors as early as the 16th century. Its area of occupation stretches from the eastern Andes to the state of Acre. On both sides of the border, there are approximately one hundred thousand Ashaninka, with about two thousand in Brazil. When Mirella Ricciardi visited the community of Apiwtxa in 1990, the Ashaninka were fighting for the demarcation and formal recognition of the Terra Indígena do Rio Amônia [Indigenous Land of Rio Amônia], which they conquered in 1992.

All photos belong to the Vanishing Amazon collection, 1990 Mirella Ricciardi / Vanishing Africa Ltd ©


About a thousand years ago, the Yanomami inhabited the highlands of the Parima Mountains, which mark the border between Brazil and Venezuela, where Brazil’s highest mountain, the Yaripó (original name of Pico da Neblina), is located. After the arrival of Spanish and Portuguese conquistadors, the Yanomami descended and dominated the valleys, as their inhabitants were decimated by the invaders. With about 38,000 inhabitants (27,000 in Brazil and 11,000 in Venezuela), they are the world’s largest population including other isolated Indigenous people. Among the six Yanomami languages, the most widely spoken are Yanomam (12,000 speakers), Yanomami (9,000), and Sanoma (3,000). Mirella Ricciardi visited the Yanomami territory in 1990. She stayed at the residence of Yanomami leader Davi Kopenawa Yanomami. Under Kopenawa’s leadership, the Yanomami were fighting for the demarcation of their territory. The federal government proposed to divide it into zones around the communities, which would perpetuate the intense invasion of gold miners. The struggle of Indigenous peoples and society has reversed this. Invaders were expelled, and the Terra Indígena Yanomami [Yanomami Indigenous Land] was demarcated in 1992. In 2022, thirty years later, the Yanomami suffered the height of the new mining invasion, which caused the recent humanitarian tragedy, unthinkable even in light of what happened in 1990.

All photos belong to the Vanishing Amazon collection, 1990 Mirella Ricciardi / Vanishing Africa Ltd ©


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print process


The Vanishing Africa Collection utilises the Digital Baryta and Hahnemuhle Pigment printing processes to bring to life these beautiful images.

Digital Baryta Print

Baryta paper has gallery-quality results, with a heavy black-and-white photo paper glossy surface.

Digital Giclee Pigment Print

Both the ‘Giclée print’ and ‘pigment print’ describe a print made from a digital file directly to paper using an inkjet printer.

burning questions or enquiries?

If you would like to see more of Mirella's collections, make a purchase or visit the studio in London, you can reach out to us by filling in some details about your enquiry.

Peter Beard in front of elephants