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Refinery 29

by Teadora Press |


You don’t have to have a multibillion-dollar, multinational company to create major change. Just ask the conscientious cofounders behind Teadora Beauty, which creates beauty products made with sustainably sourced power ingredients from the Amazon. In addition to planting trees, educating consumers, and choosing a smart supply-chain strategy (all to help alleviate illegal deforestation in the Amazon), the indie brand supports co-ops led by indigenous people in the Amazon basin, too. But its coolest endeavor is one that’s helping kids deep in the rainforest in the most surprising of ways — by hooking them up with an Audio/Video Lab. (Our nerdy hearts just melted.)

An AV Club in the Kayapó village of A’Ukre? Yeah, it sounds wonderfully random to us, too. Here’s how it went down: After Teadora Beauty cofounder Tom Moran spent a month living in the remote village learning about the Kayapó people (who have been called “The Guardians of the Rainforest” by National Geographic and are spread out among about 30 villages, with about 9,000 members), he and visiting professors and students from Purdue University and Brazil’s Universidade Federal de Uberlândia had an epiphany. Why not use their shared technical backgrounds — including Moran’s prior experience with Microsoft — to create a place where community teens could record their elders' myths, legends, and knowledge of plants, among other projects?

Using grants and donations, including 1% of net sales from the beauty brand, the crew broke ground on the project in February. The center is now up and running, with local students studying filmmaking and putting the facility to good use (kind of like the kids inStranger Things, but with a much cooler purpose). Some tap the lab to record events and dances. Others document tribal myths and legends that, until now, have only been handed down orally. Others make their own films or memorialize naming ceremonies.

The lab was such a welcome addition to the community, it got a naming ceremony of its own. “The mother of one of the new filmmakers proposed one of these beautiful names for the media center, and the community thought so highly of it, that they voted to accept the name, Kôkôjagõti,” Moran explains. The name has no direct translation, but plenty of meaning. “Beautiful names are passed down from generation to generation, and to some are considered one of the highest honors on a Kayapo community, a way to make you beautiful and whole,” Moran adds.

No matter what the project, Kayapó’s freshly minted digital storytellers are all protecting shamanistic knowledge — something that’s faced extinction, just like the flora and fauna of the forest itself. “The hope is that the village continues to be excited by this project, and this helps them reinforce their own culture and independence,” Moran says. “And perhaps one day, they become an example for other tribes and villages, proudly telling the fascinating stories of the Kayapó people and their Amazon home.”

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