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Fisherman with net, 2020

This research project (Nov. 2018 - Feb. 2020) has featured collaborative work with the Caiçara fishermen of Ilhabela Island, S.P., Brazil. It is an on-going project, temporarily paused by the Covid pandemic, but will continue with exhibitions and further socially-engaged collaborations.

The Caiçara fishing communities of coastal Brazil, specifically on the island of Ilhabela, demonstrate traditional knowledge of the sea. This research project features collaborative engagements undertaken with them, with the aim of sharing their observations, wisdom and concerns.


Caiçara live primarily by artisanal small-scale fishing, cultivation of modest crops, and recently, catering to tourists. Their ways of life have remained substantially unchanged hundreds of years, until recently. The pattern of their lives highlights changing ecological conditions, manifesting vulnerability of the ecosystem and traditional fishing practices.


Linked intimately to the environment, their ways serve to magnify many of the world’s most pressing concerns about climate change, the need for conservation, the effects of governmental regulation and the devaluing of traditional knowledge. The representation — or misrepresentation — of a people to the wider world crucially shapes their fortunes and promotes or inhibits their ability to effect positive conditions in their environment. This participatory fieldwork transcends disciplinary boundaries through active witnessing.

The journal article, ‘Traditional Knowledge of the Sea in a Time of Change: the Caiçara of Ilhabela, Brazil' is published in the Journal of Cultural Geography, Oct. 2020 (DOI 10.1080/08873631.2020.1839711).

Mary Modeen

Fishing, 2019
Fishing net, lace.

Fishing, 2019

​This project is funded in part by the Global Challenge Research Fund Mobility Grant, and the Duncan of Jordanstone College of Art and Design, University of Dundee, Research Committee.

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