Astronomy as a Tool to Face COVID-19 Isolation in an Indigenous Village

Under Other Skies project to face COVID-19 Isolation in Indigenous Village

The “Under Other Skies” project is using astronomy as a tool to help face COVID-19 induced isolation in the indigenous village ‘Aldeia Verde’, in Mina Gerais, Brazil. It aims at bridging different visions of the Universe by collecting indigenous knowledge. The project’s main objective is to record, transcribe and translate unpublished songs about the sky and stars, to create school material for Brazilian villages and schools. 

The team is composed of two indigenous professors and leaders of the village Aldeia Verde, four anthropologists from the department of education of UFMG, four astronomers, one educator and one creative practitioner in community engagement and citizen science. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the team has adapted the project to online delivery (a webpage/virtual gallery instead of a booklet) and online workshops on 1) recording myths and chants about the native sky and stars, and on producing drawings about the same subject, led by Roberto Romero, Isael Maxakali and Sueli Maxakali; 2) sky observation. Both workshops have been postponed until it is safer to organize them.

In the meantime, the project continues to support people in the village who are facing difficulties arising from isolation. They successfully installed 2 antennas which now provide a stable internet connection for the entire community. A video was recorded, shot by Sueli Maxakali and edited by André Victor and Cristiano Araújo, of a meeting of shamans in the village to discuss the COVID19 emergency.

The project team contributed to an online blog, published by Big Data from the South Research Initiative, dedicated to forgotten and silenced voices of marginalised and disadvantaged communities and populations. The contribution, entitled ‘Under Other Skies: Astronomy as a Tool to Face COVID-19 Induced Isolation in the Indigenous Village of Aldeia Verde, Brazil’ has also been published in the book ‘COVID-19 from the margin, pandemic invisibilities, policies, and resistance in the datafied society’.