Brazilian indigenous artist Jaider Esbell dies at 41, cause of death unknown
Brazilian artist Jaider Esbell, one of the leading figures in contemporary indigenous art, was found dead at age 41 in his home in Sao Paulo, authorities said Wednesday.
Officials did not say what killed Esbell, a member of the Macuxi indigenous group from northeastern Brazil who rose to international fame with politically charged works on climate change, indigenous issues and the destruction of the Amazon rainforest.
Esbell, who won Brazil's prestigious PIPA prize for the visual arts in 2016, had recently sold two works to the renowned Pompidou Centre in Paris.
His work currently features prominently in the Sao Paulo Biennial of Contemporary Art, including two inflatable, multi-coloured snake-shaped sculptures on a lake that welcome visitors to the expo.
"With clarity and generosity, he became one of the leading voices for indigenous artists, building bridges and exchanging knowledge with the institutional circuit of the contemporary art world," the expo's organizers said in a statement.
His death, discovered on Tuesday, was "completely unexpected, especially considering his temperament and his position as a catalyzer of energies," said the expo's curator, Francesco Stocchi.
Esbell grew up on the Raposa Serra do Sol indigenous reservation in the northern state of Roraima.
A writer as well as an artist, he moved to the state capital, Bela Vista, at 18, working days at the electric utility and nights in a library until his artistic career took flight.
"My best work is politics, not those colorful drawings, or the snake in the lake; those are elements to grab attention and spark discussion on issues such as global warming and ecological urgency," Esbell told AFP last month.
"This is a key moment, because everyone is fighting, but nobody is fighting for the ecological emergency."