Smikra Wahikwa: The Future Is Ancestral

A Love Letter To Earth In Collaboration With Choose Earth Collective For The Barbican

We are honoured to have collaborated with Choose Earth Collective on “Smikra Wahikwa” or “The Future is Ancestral,” an interactive Indigenous-led installation that sits at the heart of The Barbican’s latest exhibition ‘Our Time on Earth,’ currently entering its final month at The Barbican. 

“Smikra Wahikwa” is the creative visualisation of a love letter to Earth written by Indigenous leaders Sônia Guajajara and Célia Xakriabá and co-created by Choose Earth Collective. The words and symbols printed across hanging banners in a “fabric forest” remind us that We Are Earth and act as a passionate call to Western cultures to “reforest our minds” and put nature at the centre of our thinking. 

The installation was conceived in collaboration with Choose Earth Collective, including Samantha Roddick, Sônia Guajajara, Célia Xakriabá, Earthrise Studio, Mishka Westell, PATTERNITY cofounder Anna Murray, and guest curators FranklinTill. The exhibition “Our Time on Earth” is being held at The Barbican till the 29th of August.

"What is going to cure the Earth is our capacity, our ability to reactivate our connection to the Earth"
Célia Xakriabá


“Smikra Wahikwa” sits at the heart of ‘Our Time on Earth,’ its materiality a moment of relief from the digital works surrounding it. The decision to visualise Sônia Guajajara and Célia Xakriabá’s love letter to Earth across a physical “fabric forest” was purposeful. Sônia and Célia’s message is kept as close to its original form as possible, and the filters between these words and the viewer are minimal

The banners with their repeated slogans, bold colours, handwritten fonts and ideologies symbolised through illustrations by Mishka Westell are a recognisable form of protest art. The red colour is based on the paint from the Ucurum plant that Brazilian Indigenous peoples use to dye their skin. “Smikra Wahikwa” is “a celebration of the ancient methods of communication that have been at the helm of transforming our world throughout history,” explains activist and artist Samantha Roddick, member of Choose Earth Collective. “One of those methodologies is how we collectively come together and rise through our own value system.” Protest is a form of collective communication that’s been repeated throughout history. 

While many other installations in “Our Time on Earth” envision a future world through digital means, “Smikra Wahikwa” expresses a current reality. The art’s materiality and tactile analogue quality represent something human, personal and within reach. The artwork delivers a sense of urgency for a situation happening now.

“We wanted to make a statement that while there are solutions coming from the tech industry, there are a plethora of solutions arising from the revolution happening on the ground in Brazil, Indigenous peoples are actually having to stand on the front lines physically to defend a space that we’re theorising about.”
Samantha Roddick

Although Indigenous communities comprise less than 5% of the world’s population, they protect 80% of the Earth’s biodiversity. Indigenous communities have an Earth-centric worldview that recognises humans as part of nature and the in-human as kin. As such, Indigenous communities hold many of the answers to healing our planet back into a state of flourishing diversity. The West must look to them to find other ways of living and different patterns of being. 

“It can be very disempowering to think that we need have loads of money to do creative acts,” explains Anna Murray, co-founder of PATTERNITY, a member of Choose Earth Collective. “But “Smikra Wahikwa” reminds us that the solution is in our hands.” The future is Indigenous, and we must support the frontline defenders who put themselves at risk now to preserve life for all. 

You can read the Love Letter in full here. 

“The lungs of the world are Indigenous.”
Sônia Guajajara and Célia Xakriabá


‘Our Time on Earth’ celebrates the power of global creativity to transform the conversation around the climate emergency. “This exhibition explores what the human imagination can do in response to human destruction,” explains Barbican creative director Will Gompertz.

‘Our Time on Earth’ reaches across boundaries and disciplines, drawing on art, design, science, technology, music and philosophy. 18 works from 12 different countries reignite a sense of awe in our beautiful planet and provide a radical reimagining of how we live, where technology reconnects us to our Earth and Indigenous insight to our roots.

"We invite humanity to this collective task; to assume this commitment to reforest minds and hearts, for the healing of the land. To Retake the relationship of the land as a relative, as a mother, as a grandmother, and not a commodity"
Célia Xakriaba


Sonia and Célia’s words illustrated powerfully across the banners urge us “to reforest our thoughts and decolonise the land.” It’s a reminder that we cannot heal our planet without understanding that We Are Earth: “The Earth is our sister, our daughter, our aunt, our mother, our grandmother. The Earth is our womb, our food, our cure,” they write. 

“We need to get back to the true source of creativity, and that’s the intelligence of the cosmos,” explains Anna. “Indigenous people hold that direct link with the Earth that we in the West have lost.” “Smikra Wahikwa” blends human creativity with nature’s. The installation mimics the structure of the forest, playing with height, movement, natural fibres, earthy tones and transparency to create an immersive experience that engages our senses more emotively than a flat screen or canvas. 

“We need to get back to the true source of creativity, and that’s the intelligence of the cosmos. Indigenous people hold that direct link with the Earth that we in the West have lost.”
Anna Murray


Choose Earth Collective is a collaboration between Indigenous and non-Indigenous creatives, including Samantha Roddick, Earthrise Studio, Mishka Westell, PATTERNITY and Sônia Guajajara and Célia Xakriabá.

The creative collaboration for ‘Our Time on Earth’ reached across four different timezones and was “a coming together to reseed our heartfelt imaginations by re-building loving relationships with each other and the world we live in,” explains Samantha. “There was a political and philosophical decision to hide the non-Indigenous creatives within the collaboration and put Sonia and Célia at the top. We want to say that we’re doing this because we have heartfelt similarities in our beliefs – that culture and creative skills can help us transform the way we behave, act, think and be. We don’t want to commodify what people have done so that they shine beyond another. We want to use our leverage for access for those that don’t have it.” Sam Roddick

Choose Earth is an ongoing innovative storytelling and fundraising project, amplifying Indigenous creativity and intelligence as a vehicle for change. The project uses multimedia storytelling to support Brazilian Indigenous communities’ fight for social and environmental justice. By resourcing a network of frontline defenders, like Sônia and Célia, we are ensuring the survival of all life on Earth.


Sônia Guajajara

Sônia Guajajara is a leading member of the Indigenous movement in Brazil and worldwide. She is from the Guajajara people in Brazil, one of Brazil’s most numerous Indigenous peoples, living at the eastern margin of the Amazon region in the Maranhão State. 

Célia Xakriabá is a teacher, poet and activist from the Indigenous Xakriabá people in the Cerrado biome of Brazil and a leading member of Brazil’s Indigenous women’s movement. She also played a pivotal part in the Reforesting Minds movement, based on Indigenous ancestry and wisdom that advocates for a change in consciousness of the global population in relation to our Earth. 

Current Western strategies to tackle the climate emergency have failed to consider Indigenous ideas, values and practices. But there needs to be a collective rethink that puts our Earth’s defenders’ philosophy and strategy front and foremost. 

We must join and deeply listen to these protectors of the last biodiverse areas left on Earth to relearn how to hold a caring relationship with nature and each other. Let’s imagine a world in which the future is Indigenous.

“The Earth is our sister, our daughter, our aunt, our mother, our grandmother. The Earth is our womb, our food, our cure"
Sônia Guajajara and Célia Xakriabá
Célia Xakriabá