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Beginning April 2022, Carmo* (New Orleans), in conjunction with the Biocultural Institute, launched a new project entitled,” Origins: Amazonia,” a multi-faceted journey (literal and virtual) intended to provide a vital narrative of Amazonian culture, especially its past and current existential challenges to an extensive local, national and international audience. For a period of at least a year, and longer as needed, there will be a multitude of happenings, including:
- An ongoing tasting menu including authentic regional dishes
- Art and Photography Exhibits featuring Amazonian themes and
artists (on-site and online)
- Artisan Gallery featuring regional crafts and artifacts
- Interactive Exhibits for adults and children
- Films, Documentaries - Lecture series
- Happy Hours
- Musical performances - other related events
Essentially, Carmo will act as a type of Amazonian cultural center,
and all visitors to the space will experience some level of exposure to several relevant programs and exhibits. We estimate a minimum on- site attendance of at 75,000 visitors annually, with hundreds of thousands more visiting our online exhibits and presentations. Additionally, selected programming will be featured in off-site “traveling” exhibits at venues to be determined.
As is generally recognized in the scientific community, we are witnessing an unprecedented attack on Amazonian bio-diversity. Perhaps even a decade more of destruction at its current rate may puch us past a tipping point. It is our belief that the general public desperately needs to understand of the dire nature of what is being lost every day, week and year, as well as the all-too-real connection between what happens in the Amazon and what occurs in regions around the world as a direct result of human-induced climate change.
Currently, the public is not receiving this information in a clear and accessible way, one which would lend itself to visceral or eommotional connection. Rather, they get sound bytes and images from the news, occasional celebrities voicing their support of “eco-friendly” causes, or maybe they even take a second to sign a petition. Unfortunately, given the gravity and timeliness of the challenges we face, we’re not going to petition our way out of the situation.
A major part of the inspiration for this project comes from the perspective of the rich and diverse foodways of the Amazon Basin. By concentrating on the preservation of indigenous and regional culinary culture and traditions, many other issues can be presented in an accessible and engaging way, including indigenous rights, deforestation, pollution and other forms of
environmental degradation, mono-culture farming, and ranching, and a host of other subjects. Indeed, addressing threats to our world’s food systems may be the only way we can address such daunting, ever-mounting challenges.
Ultimately, a long-term goal of the project is to establish relationships (direct or indirect where appropriate) with identified indigenous communities and to assist in shining a spotlight on them in ways that will help them in furthering their existing missions, supporting the development of sustainable solutions for subsistence, whether that involves agroforestry or other agricultural models, or fishing, eco-tourism, etc.. These releationships and connections will not occur in a bubble, rather we'll be working with existing top Amazonian conservation and indigenous rights organizations to assist with and expand upon much of the excellent work they're performing.
Approaching this as a long-term project will allow us to build a critical mass in terms of content creation, networking/relationships both here and abroad, refinement of goals and hopefully, a base of ongoing support. It will also allow us to begin to build bridges of communication and make comparisons between issues we face locally and nationally with similar issues residents of the Amazon face. Local and regional examples might include challenges faced by our indigenous communities and numerous environmental issues, e.g. loss of coastal habitat from hurricanes and development projects. Similarly, indigenous rights and environmental issues are vital and ongoing in the Amazon, e.g. theft of indigenous lands and clear-cutting of Amazon mangrove forest which store twice as much carbon per acre as the region’s rainforest.
There will be a wide range of participants in “Origins: Amazon,” including representatives of indigenous communities both here and in Brazil, scholars, researchers, partner organizations, artists and musicians, chefs and authors. But perhaps the most important participant will be those visitors who take even a bit more understanding home with them and become the individual ambassadors and advocates we so desperately need at this critical moment in human history.
O:A Dinner series is a curated dining experience featuring ingredients sourced directly from Amazonian indigenous communities, as well as fresh local produce, seafood and more. Proceeds benefit indigenous communities. All meals are intrinsically gluten-free. Vegan options are available!