Friday, August 12, 2016

A picture, a picture!! A photography workshop with the children of La Libertad

"What is that?", was a common question when I took the stuff out that I brought to La Libertad from my bag.. I can remember their faces and smiles.

As always, whenever I announced to the kids some art activity they were eager and active to join me. Their natural curiosity and desire to explore and learn drove them to participate. As the previous workshop about masks, this time wasn't an exception.  Two of the components of the activities I planned were a photography and a video workshop. During the days that I was in La Libertad I was really lucky, because there were no official classes at School.  The children had the time to participate in the workshops during the morning and in the afternoon each day. And of course they were the first to arrive to the class!! Even before me...

For photography I decided to use film cameras instead of digital cameras. Humidity was one of the reasons I preferred the old process. To get the cameras I asked my friends to lend me one, and I finally ended up with two. Ben sent me a good amount of color film cameras from the States but unfortunately they didn´t arrive in Leticia on time. This is a good reason to go back to La Libertad and complete my work. I would love to go back soon!!

I had prepared some material to introduce the course before getting to the village. One of these was a cylinder that was used as a way to explain how an image on camera is formed. It is a device made from household materials where the viewer can see an upside down image through a tiny hole. This is the principle of the "camera obscura" at the very beginnings of photography.

Let´s explore other places. Let´s go!

In the image below the children take turns to look through the hole.

Jeison is seeing through the hole of the "Camera Obscura" simulator
The children were surprised when they saw the upside down image inside the cylinder. They pointed the cylinder at the plants and others things that surrounded them. "Were you be able to see something?", I asked them. And  I know it is not easy to understand why an image is seen upside down, and it is hard to explain why.  Anyway this was part of the warm-up exercises before taking pictures with the camera.

The other strategy I used was to try to see when we only had a rectangle to look through. Children first drew what they saw through the rectangle. They could move it closer or further from the eyes. That way they can frame the image.

Yeison´s drawings seen through the paper viewfinder.

Jainover´s drawings seen through the paper viewfinder.

And now they are ready to use an actual camera!! "You have to see through this viewfinder on the camera.", I explained to them. And the most important question, "What can I take a picture of?"
We walked in the village to find subjects. Animals, people, places, plants... to just explore!!

Jainover assists the other kid on how to use the camera.

On the Amazon River. 

You might wonder: how about the results? Show me the pictures the children took!!  Well -I am in the process of developing the pictures. I hope the film works!

Sunday, August 7, 2016

Talleres de arte en La Libertad

Bichos, culebras, anacondas, peligros ocultos e indígenas que no han tenido contacto con la llamada civilización. Esa es la idea que nos vende Hollywood en sus películas y en general la imagen que podríamos tener quienes no hayamos visitado la Amazonía. Pero la realidad es totalmente diferente. Antes de emprender el viaje tuve la incertidumbre de un paisaje agreste y extraño pero lo que me presentó y que me llevé una vez de regreso a la ciudad fueron alegrías, aprendizaje y buenos recuerdos.

Como parte del voluntariado, en La Libertad desarrollé varias actividades relacionadas con mi campo profesional: un taller de video, otro de fotografia y dos de dibujo. Estas actividades me mantuvieron en constante movimiento y para ello hice una planeación de los ejercicios antes del viaje, en Bogotá. Y para ello llevé algunos materiales básicos. Pero para que todo esto fuera posible, para que tanto las actividades como mi estadía en La Libertad fuera agradable no puedo dejar de mencionar el apoyo y ayuda de Gustavo Cadena y del director de la escuela en La Libertad, quien me me permitió usar un salón de la escuela para desarrollar los ejercicios. También agradezco a Ben Angulo y Adriana Carrillo por las informaciones que me permitieron emprender el viaje.

Los niños trabajaron con mucho entusiasmo y gran creatividad. La implementación de materiales naturales, sacados directamente del entorno fue una de las estrategias para desarrollar los ejercicios. El resto fue imaginación de los niños que, motivados por el juego y la posibilidad de realizar algo creativo participaron siempre con gran expectativa.

Y para no extenderme en muchas palabras, aquí está el resumen visual de lo realizado.

                                            TALLER DE MÁSCARAS, EL JAGUAR

Primeros pasos, dibujo y ubicación de los ojos y la nariz.

Recogiendo material para complementar el trabajo.

Las orejas del Jaguar. 

En acción en el salón de clase

Algunos niños querían ver el trabajo de sus compañeros.

Los retoques finales: las manchas del Jaguar.

El Jaguar de Jainover llamado "el Gato". 

Los niños con sus máscaras. 

Julieta, el nombre que Estefany le puso a su Jaguar.

Con los niños al terminar la actividad. 

Thursday, August 4, 2016

The Journal of Naná our Brazilian volunteer

Three months ago I bought a book on construction, as almost always related to bio-construction, permaculture and vernacular architecture, wanting to update my collection and knowledge. This time it was the book "Architecture of the Amazon Indians," by Johan van Lengen. One thing that always happens to those who read a very good book, very interesting and written well, is that while you are reading, you feel an absurd need to have that experience, to live it. The same happens when someone tells us something, or sees a movie or hears a song. Anyway, while reading this book endless scenes of construction and reconstruction were in my imagination, but not worth being described. While each page portion and fragment was read, the more the horizons of my mind were reached. Johan says "The Inuit of the snow, as well as several indigenous peoples in the jungle were able to adjust and create environments where they could live. However, to learn about the purpose and details of the construction of these people, you must be in touch with them ". As soon as I picked up the message that the universe announced, I started my search for this experience.

At first I sought contact with FUNAI (a government agency), but as is typical and well known of Brazilian government culture, everything is abundantly bureaucratic. Looking for other means to the same end I tried to find programs already established with the kind of experience that I sought. After having done much research done and having found many captivating designs, I identified one called Amazon Pueblo. It is a small project that is constantly improving and developing, founded by Benjamin Angulo. The project seeks volunteers who want to help the Colombian indigenous community of La Libertad in any way that they want. It is a Yagua tribe, originally from Peru. In this project you work autonomously with the village in a way that feels safe, with their schedules and their techniques, provided they are made with love and attention.

I initiated the first contact with Ben in the second week of May. I reported my journey to search and find a volunteer program to my sister and brother-like nephew, Joao. They were very supportive. This time Joao became interested and joined me on the pilgrimage. From that moment, we shared the anxiety, the plans and the promise of an exciting experience. With July ended the semi-annual tests taking all our time with studies and work. My sister Vanessa and my brother helped with the preparation. This year the month of June was not easy for me and a lot has happened uncontrollably beyond what was expected in college. I certainly could not have managed without this help.

The ticket was purchased for the July 2 to Tabatinga, a city in the state of the Brazilian Amazon. We crossed the Brazilian border in a taxi without any kind of checkpoint. We only realized that we were in Colombia because the "arrocha" music that plays in the Brazilian city was suddenly replaced by the contagious rhythm of reggaeton music played constantly in the city of Leticia, Colombia. We organized everything at the hostel. We visited the city that was in the holiday of St. Peter. The city was celebrating throughout that weekend. There were many of street parties with marching bands, dances of Spanish settlers clothing, flags, cheap beer, no trash on the ground and bagged drinking water. The last moments in the city were in the vicinity of the harbor, where we ate, bought groceries, and some things suggested by Ben. Here we took the fast boat that brought us to the community, a one-hour drive, but also stopping in other indigenous villages in Colombia and in Peru.

From that moment we had no more contact with family and friends. Even if I have purchased a local cell phone chip, there was no signal and the phone was only present as camera.

When we arrived in the village we were welcomed and guided to Gustavo (our host who helped us in everything) by Thomas, Gustavo's younger brother. Gustavo expressed his joy to see us with a smile that could not be beat. After settling in our house, many curious little eyes were watching us from the cracks in the walls of wooden slats. The house of the volunteers, while very simple, still stood out among the others. After being empty for 5 months it was opened with our coming. Gustavo advised us about some things related to home and then began our orientation. He really could not hide his eagerness and smile.

The first week of work was the most intense. We did the construction of the compost bin, we taught adults to write their names and that of their children and grandchildren, we helped the teachers during lessons and in later in the week we taught some yoga movements to the children.
At first Gustavo needed to introduce us to others, for all the villagers were very shy. Gradually, while things were happening, we were autonomous and that gave us the freedom of no longer needing Gustavo for most things.

The afternoon was more relaxing. I was always with the children. No matter where and what I was doing ... they were always there. We had a lot of fun. I have more photo of children than anything else on my phone. In a little hill that was behind the school, which we named the "little hill of beautiful sight," I taught some yoga moves. Just because it always ended in happiness. There I also connected to my network and could read or sense the amount of mosquitoes that had bitten me. It was relaxing.

During the night we almost never had dinner. Me and Joao, while we grew up together, we have never had much time only with each other. We learned about our differences, and we did not care much about our defects. We valued more our qualities. Joao told me some cool and funny things about his life and the likes that we share.

We went to bed early. At around 8 pm I was already in my fifth dream. Before bed, I always analyzed the mosquitoes trying to get to their evening meal of my blood. The mosquito net certainly saved me from an allergic reaction. When I awoke, religiously and involuntarily at 6:30 am, several of those mosquitoes were dead at the top of the net. I do not know why, but it just happened in my bed. Every morning I always had many dead mosquitoes. The breakfast was uniform all mornings: an orange cookie, two milk biscuits, and packets of powdered milk with chocolate.

On Sunday we went for a trip with Gustavo to Puerto Nariño. This is a village that is extremely and incredibly clean and green. Even though its population is indigenous, the streets are paved, and it has a relevant trade of restaurants and various classes of hotels and hostels, with some strategic points so that they have mobile cellphone signals. In the village we could enjoy the view from an observation deck 40 meters high. It was possible to see the Amazon River, the Rio Tarapoto, the village and the forest. Beautiful! After the visit to the city that was a 40-minute walk, we went to a lake following the antifluxo Rio Tarapoto. In this lake you can see, swim and be enchanted by porpoises. This trip cost us 7 hours of boat ride in the hot sun. Quiet. Only not.

On Monday we did a hike of about five hours in the forest. We learned about some medicinal plants used in Indian culture, trees, fruits and seeds used in crafts and body painting, the making of a net to harvest fruits and fish with the sheet of palm, many monkeys, birds, and some curiosities of the sights and the sounds of the jungle.

On that same day came another volunteer, Julio. He is a Colombian from Bogota, a very nice person who teaches art classes in a bilingual school. He was there to teach arts and photography. The kids loved it. He brought very complete teaching material and even I had could use it. At the end of the course that lasted a week, he also gave me a certificate of completion. O dear!

Already our second week was mainly marked by the maintenance we made to the village raft and a follow-up of children who are sponsored by some friends and colleagues of the project. This week, I also tried to understand more about the methods of construction of houses and the longhouse. One of our neighbors was building a house for their mother. In one of the evenings another neighbor was making cassava flour in a huge cauldron. She taught me and showed me their family secrets for the production of a food that is consumed by the entire village.

The third trip began with a ride on a cebrada (a local name for small rivers) to fish. We fished for some local species, but I do not remember the name. One of the fish that Joao caught possessed external spines for defense attacks. I and the fisherman who was teaching us the art of fishing was stung by them. But the difference is that fish Joao caught stung my right leg. At the time, it hurt so damn much! The damn pain of hell! But after half an hour, the pain went to a state of numbness. The fisherman was also stung, but he told us fortunately, it did not enter the skin enough to be something serious. Unfortunately, that day we were without power, which by the way was very common, and I could not charge my cell phone to take pictures.

On Wednesday Bried, the fourth volunteer, arrived. She is Irish, with a little more than half a century of life, a mother, a grandmother and a traveler. She is still there in the village and will stay for a month, teaching all who want to learn English. Bried is a very interesting woman. One of the first things I did when I got home was to tell my mother about her. She has been traveling alone since the beginning of the year and has gone through several countries. On her laptop she showed us her records that did not seem to be real because they were so awesome.

On Thursday, after our work in the morning, we visited Monkey Island, which as the name suggests, possess many monkeys and has a very intriguing history.

Almost every afternoon I was in the river, with children and friends I made to swim, have fun, to be refreshed and to admire the sunset. I feel that those were the best moments of the entire pilgrimage. After those moments when we sat on the raft, watching the sunset, I could feel numbed by all that sunlight that dissipated drops of Amazon water from my skin and blinded me. I took focus as I contemplated the flamboyance of La Libertad.

We left La Libertad on Saturday. But I do not feel that I have gone. You cannot just go to a place that you now feel part of. I do not know how to describe this feeling I'm having right now. I think this is the first time I have ever felt like this. It would be more like a state of grace, charm, of complete fullness. I have the feeling that my visit has made a big difference in the lives of the villagers, but they have no idea what it all meant to me. Many concepts within me were restored, rebuilt, rethought and cured. I still want to say in another publication about this new light that my eyes can now see. Thank you to the whole universe that gave me everything.