Time-line of why and how the project was developed >>>
Social, Cultural, Environmental and Political Benefits of the Project >>>
THE IMAGE - SEEING, KNOWLEDGE AND POWER. For many years, photography has been used successfully as a way for Indigenous and disenfranchised populations to tell their stories. This type of project allows people to document and discuss their lives, societies and culture as they see them, and acts as a vehicle for discussions about visual and cultural representation. The process of empowerment that develops from such projects enables societies with little money, power, or status, to communicate their ideas and views to a large audience.
“Images make people see reflect on their culture. Images help us to discuss our culture, organize our school, and think about our way of life. When a change is self-instituted by a culture (rather than imposed) that is how culture’s progress and seeing your image allows for that reflection.” Brazilian Asháninka filmmaker and teacher Isaac Pinhanta
The ASHÁNINKA PHOTOGRAPHY PROJECT, puts the camera in the hands of the Asháninka. In the past, Indigenous People have seen outsiders “capture” their identity through photographs, and decide who they are and how they must manage their lands and live, this time they will themselves be photographing their reality and showing how they do live.
PROJECT AIMS: The Asháninka aim is to develop the use of photography over the next few years an educational and advocacy tool to catalog and archive the Asháninka environment, culture and lifestyle; to document projects of combined economic activities with the controlled use of natural resources, so as to preserve their culture and their territory and have a say in the conservation of their lands.
NEED: The forests not only provide the essential components of the Asháninka’s existence, but are integral to their vision of the world and are the keys to maintaining their autonomy and way of life. The Asháninka currently face threats to their land and culture by illegal loggers, colonist incursions, the concession of their land to an oil company who are considering when and how to prospect the area, and a deal between the Peruvian Government and Electrobras of Brazil to build a 2,200MA HEP dam on the Rio Ene.
HISTORY: During Peru’s ‘internal armed conflict’, "precise data does not exist, ... 6,000 Asháninka died, 10,000 were displaced and over 5,000 were held by the Shining Path (a Maoist group) in captured forest communities, and 30-40 known Asháninka communities disappeared entirely..." 1.
As a direct result of the conflict the Peruvian Asháninka’s cultural traditions and society have been weakened. At present they are in the midst of cultural and environmental rehabilitation. Towards this end they are developing projects in their local communities to actively particpate in the conservation of the Asháninka Communal Reserve, which was officially established on January 14, 2003.
VISUAL LEGACY Commission member, Carlos Iván Degregori, The Truth and Reconciliation Commission, Peru.
“ Among the Yagua people of the Amazon Jungle, knowledge (ndatará) is first obtained visually. To know things, one has to see them in dreams or during a trance through which the shaman enters the spirit world to consult the spirits about the enigmas of the case he is handling. In 'learned' societies, it is no longer through these means that knowledge is obtained. .. in recent decades, the rapid development of audiovisual media has obliged us to reconsider the relationship between seeing, knowledge and power...”
PHOTOGRAPHY PROJECT WORKSHOP AIMS FOR PROPOSED SECOND WORKSHOP:
COLLABORATION BETWEEN - TSIMI, ECOTRIBAL, NAROBE
We are currently researching funding for this second workshop for the project, please contact us
The general agenda proposed by the Asháninka for this 2nd workshop is to create an exhibition and archive of photographs and information regarding the most ecologically and culturally important trees and plants in their forest.
The results will be used by the Asháninka for education and advocacy (e.g. within TSIMI’s newly established Centre for Rainforest Education and Interpretation) and presented to:
- 20 Asháninka villages
- local indigenous organizations
- advocacy groups within Latin America
- local and national government
Please contact us for a full proposal.
HOW THE PROJECT STARTED:
In 1998 Angela Cumberbirch, a New York based photographer, visited the Asháninka to document the effects of the "internal armed conflict" on the Asháninka societies in the Ene River Valley, and the projects of support that the Rainforest Foundation, UK were supporting with ACPC, a local organization. Most Asháninka in this area had only recently come into contact with the people and culture outside the forest, primarily through, and as an after effect of the "armed conflict in Peru", which expanded into the remote areas of the rainforest and trapped the Asháninka between the Sendero Luminoso and the Peruvian Government. She returned numerous times to visit with the Asháninka to work on a photographic documentary project. Each time, she returned with prints of Asháninka family portraits that they had asked her to take, small booklets of the photos she had taken in their communities, and sometimes a Polaroid camera for the Asháninka who wanted to take their own photos.
In 2001, the Asháninka expressed an interest in formally learning photography - they wanted to document their culture, their environment and how they live in it from their viewpoint, for their benefit. The initial idea was to produce a book of the Asháninka photographs and Angela's photographs ( two different visions) with stories about how the increased access (people, goods, ideas etc.) to their communities: positive/negative, poignant/humorous had impacted them - and her experiences within their communities - in effect a conversation between two cultures and world visions. But, at that time the Asháninka were focused on returning to their lands and resettling after the displacement and fractures caused by the "internal armed conflict", as well as trying to obtain legal recognition: Communal Reserve Status of the land where they lived. Angela continued to visit, and started to research ways that photography had been/is used within Indigenous communities for long term benefit and effect, and talk with the Asháninka, and various local Indigenous based partners about the ways in which they wanted to use this medium.
In 2002 she heard from a friend, Stephanie Pommez who was documenting the "Baby Catchers of the Amazon", in Brazil, of a media project in a thriving Asháninka community on the Rio Amonio in Brazil. The Asháninka in the Ene expressed interest in meeting with them, so, she contacted the community to find out if they spoke the same language as the Asháninka in Peru and if they would be interested in a cultural exchange.
Both parties were extremely interested in meeting one other, they were not aware the other existed and were enthralled by the idea of meeting members of their People who lived more than a thousand miles away but had the same culture, language, rituals and memories. So Angela created and developed a cultural exchange program , implemented by ACPC in 2003,which was funded by Ringing Rocks, for a few Asháninka from the Rio Ene in Peru, to visit with the Asháninka of the Rio Amonio in Brazil. In part this served as an as an introduction for the Asháninka of the Ene to see, and discuss what photography/media is, from the viewpoint of other Indigenous People who had been using it within their communities for years. The exchange was also a means for the Asháninka to discuss the positives/negatives of introducing photography into their society, and come up with ideas of how best to integrate it to benefit their aims. It also gave them first hand information to share with their own communities, to decide - did they all really want this, and how could it help them? They decided yes.
In 2005 Angela traveled to Brazil to meet with the project founder of Videos Nas Aldeias, Vincent Carelli and some of the Indigenous filmmakers to talk to them about their experiences of introducing and using media in Indigenous communities, the wider effects, and the logistics and preparations needed for doing such a project in remote zones.
By, 2006 the Asháninka Photography project was ready to be implemented. With Creative Visions Foundation as fiscal sponsor for the project, First People's World Wide, through Tides Foundation granted funds towards the implementation of the first photography workshop for the project. With the help of Kodak who donated 300 rolls of film, Microsoft who donated Photo captioning software, and Brunton who helped towards the purchase of the solar panels needed for the project (there is no electricity in this area), a very successful workshop took place in May and June of 2008.
Many thanks to: Vincent Carelli and the Indigenous Filmmakers at Videos Nas Aldeias in Brazil for their invaluable advice. The Asháninka of the Rio Amonio in Brazil for their advice, information and hospitality during the cultural exchange, supported by Ringing Rocks , with the Asháninka from the Rio Ene in Peru.
Many thanks to everyone who helped throughout the ten years of getting this project up and running.
For more information about the impact of the "Internal Armed Conflict" on the Asháninka communities of the Ene, Perene and Tambo Rivers please visit this site:
The Truth and Reconciliation Commission, Peru 28th August 2003,
TOMO V: 2.8. Los Pueblos indígenas y el caso de los Asháninka P. 241