Activist artist returns

Pete Morris
Art blogger

Mount Maunganui artist Ana Mendina arrived back in New Zealand a short time ago after spending time with the Yanomani tribe in North West Brazil.

The Yanomani live near the headwaters of the Amazon River and have been fighting to preserve their way of life in the face of threats from powerful gold mining interests in the region.

Brazilian born, Ana has established good relationships with the people of the forest through her art involvement with their struggle to save their culture. 

During this time she developed a deep understanding of the region and affinity with its people.

This relationship continues and is a major part of Ana’s personal and artistic life.

I met up with Ana again recently at her Mount Maunganui studio and couldn’t help but be impressed by this young woman’s unswerving commitment to educate others about the Yanomami through her painting and the spoken word.

Ana with Yanomami spokesman Davi.

In the photo we see Ana with Davi Kopenawa Yanomami, the much respected leader and spokesman for the indigenous tribes in this remote area whose way of life is currently under threat. 

Davi has spoken to the British and Swedish Parliaments in an attempt to draw attention to the plight of his people - a modern day genocide caused by exploitation and disease.

Ana is a fine arts graduate, has studied in Australia and at the University of San Jose in Costa Rica. She has continued her studies in anthropology, art and iconographic research in the Amazon. 

Through her art Ana also paints about the massive, highly complex jungle environment that is currently being destroyed on a vast scale.  This damage to the ’lungs of the Earth’ will, if not halted, have a significant impact on all life globally.  The Amazon River is also a major focus for Ana and her art. 

On August 6, 2011 Ana’s work was displayed in the ’River Lives: Stories From the World’s Greatest Rivers’ section of the ’Aqua Exhibition’ at the Auckland Museum. 

Ana’s depiction of the Yanomami village she stayed in.

Ana is inspired by nature and the relationship between man and the natural world.

Her work not only explores the physical beauty of Amazonian flora and fauna, but also the mystical realities known to those who have lived there in harmony with nature since earliest human habitation.

Her new works are painted with acrylics on large loose canvases. Her love of primitive art, folk art and enthusiasm for life burst through in these exuberant, colourful paintings. It is this zest for living expressed in paint, and a pent up eagerness to express her thoughts and beliefs on canvas that attracts me to her art.

Many of Ana’s artworks show the iconography of the indigenous people, include both the realities of today’s world and the sustaining spiritual world that allows the peoples of the Amazon to be at one with their environment.

Ana’s work is a celebration of the Amazon, the culture and life of its people.

Now that she is in New Zealand the opportunity to delve into Maori art and design is a natural extension to Ana’s lifetime immersion in art. 

To find out more about Ana’s work visit  or contact her at

Pete Morris is an occasional painter and an art lover. He is a freelance writer with a particular interest in promoting the visual arts in Tauranga and the Bay of Plenty.


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