Spirit of the Amazon is the work of photojournalist Sue Cunningham and writer Patrick Cunningham. It is a celebration of cultural difference and a call for better stewardship of the world. Sue's stunning photographs demonstrate the spiritual and material value of the Xingu tribes to all mankind; they keep the forest alive and they protect the climate of South America and the rest of the world. Their spiritual connection to their environment and the wider Earth shows us an alternative way to connect to the natural richness of the planet, built on foundations completely different from those of global materialism.
During their expedition by boat, the authors followed the course of the Xingu River, a tributary of the Amazon, travelling 2,500 km through the heart of Brazil. They visited 48 tribal villages in this remote part of the Amazon, accessible only by small plane or by negotiating the rapids of the Xingu.
This is the story of the tribal communities they met; their daily lives, their connection to the land and to the rivers, the threats which pervade each day of their lives. It is also a validation of their importance to the rest of the world; why these small, remote and often secretive indigenous communities are so important to our own lives and to our shared planet. It is a celebration of their vibrant cultures, their rituals and their rites of passage, of cultures very different from each other, but with a shared spiritual basis which respects the trees, the rivers and the rain. And it is a call for the world to protect them, their lands and their forests and rivers from the destruction which our avaricious greed for natural resources drives ever closer and deeper into their realm.
Sue and Patrick Cunningham, photographer and writer, are partners in life. They are dedicated to showing how the future of the planet can be better than the present, and they are passionate about Brazil s indigenous people, who they value as teachers and friends. In the heart of Brazil lies the Xingu, one of the world s last great wildernesses, which is home to ancient forests and peoples with ancient roots. For 25 years Sue and Patrick made short visits to indigenous communities in areas which are remote from contact with the rest of the country. Winning the Neville Shulman Award from the Royal Geographical Society enabled them to lose themselves in the Xingu for six months. They grew to understand the depth of the cultural disparity which makes indigenous peoples different while recognising the common humanity which they share with all the peoples of the planet. The Original Brazilians they encountered taught them to experience the natural environment as both a spiritual and a physical entity.
"As someone who has traveled extensively in the Amazon forest and amongst Its native peoples this book brings back so many memories for me. The Cunningham's journey down the Xingu River was no easy task, but they achieved and recount here an epic journey that so vividly describes their adventures, the Amazon rainforest and particularly the inhabitants with whom they have such a special relationship."
– Professor Sir Ghillean Prance FRS
"Sue and Patrick Cunningham s vision of the indigenous peoples of the Xingu river basin is unique in many ways. They were the first outsiders ever to take six months descending the full length of that mighty Amazon tributary. On that epic and many other journeys, they had permission to visit almost fifty villages, of a wide variety of tribes. They were welcomed as old friends, so could join in everyday life, shamanic rituals, and spectacular festivals. They were accomplished photographers and observers. And they were seeing Brazilian Indians at a fascinating time in their transition from traditional to more modern society."
– Dr John Hemming CMG