»AYÊNÁN IS THE INITIAL PARTICLE THAT IGNITES EXISTENCE.«
In 2020 the indigenous, in southwestern Colombia based media collective Ñambi Rimai embarked on a journey: The route begins near the Siona territory in the Amazon basin on the Putumayo River. The next part of the trip leads through the holy land of the Inga and Kamëntsá peoples to the Quillacinga territory in the Putumayo highlands. High up in the Páramos, where the Quillacinga live, is where the Putumayo River originates. The collective chose to follow the route taken by Spanish conquistador Hernán Pérez de Quesada in the year 1540. Searching for the legendary Eldorado, he was part of the first European expedition to the interior highlands of the Colombian Andes.
In a manner of speaking, the pan-Amazonian collective of ten embarked on a counter-expedition by ritualistically returning the gold to the place where, according to the tales related by some of the conquerors, it grew on trees and only had to be picked. The journey and, consequently, the film, ended with a devout ceremony. The members of the collective formed a circle and, while bowing to one another, hand each other a golden nugget encased in a slowly melting block of ice, which is eventually and full of reverence laid at the foot of an Espeletia. This plant plays an important role in the Andes’ ecosystems because it can feed the water contained in the morning mist into the ground. Like the Muisca’s rulers, the collective also lights a bonfire at night — signifying a form of bio-cultural peacemaking between regions, cultures, and non-human worlds.
The powerful imagery is connected to further commentary on behalf of the collective as well as other indigenous persons. In several instances, it becomes clear how dramatically and enduringly the appearance of the whites has changed life on the Amazon. The indigenous population was forced to adopt white ways of thinking while simultaneously using these in order to protect themselves from them. In particular, this includes learning the Spanish language and the equivocation of land with capital. The sobering result: Wherever whites go, they leave destruction in their wake, and one would be better off without their presence.
The two-channel video AYÊNÁN: TERRITORIOS DE AGUA by Felipe Castelblanco and Lydia Zimmermann is part of Castelblanco’s practice-based artistic research Cartographies of the Unseen, which examines indigenous territorial ways of thinking and aesthetics in the Global South. (Lisa Bosbach)
In cooperation with Ñambi Rimai Media Collective
Supported by Fachausschuss Film und Medienkunst Basel and Prohelvetia - Coincidencia
Ñambi Rimai Media Collective for Biocultural Peace Building
Est. 2019. Is an Indigenous Media Collective form by Inga, Awá, Siona, Kamënstá and Quillacinga land defenders, operating in the Southwest of Colombia between the High Andes and the Lower Amazon. Its mission is to support processes of self-governance, cultural preservation, and communication across indigenous territories and beyond through film, radio, and multimedia productions.
Images: Felipe Castelblanco & Lydia Zimmermann, AYÊNAN: Territorios de Agua, 2022 © Felipe Castelblanco & Lydia Zimmermann