On board a VW van named Primavera, I travelled and photographed through Colombia and Ecuador with my father. Roots is the resulting series of my returning to South America in an approach to the actual human person of my father and the mother-force of the land and people explored in the journey.
My father’s spiritual and therapeutic search into pre-columbian shamanic practices mirrored my calling to honor and learn from the indigenous and land-working people, and create visual material shareable to my context. Under the circumstances of ecological short-sightedness expressed through the exploitation of resources in the regions, as well as the socio-historical ongoing trauma of race dominance and cultural eradication, the call to inquire on the world-views and every day attitudes of the peoples of the regions was relevant and spiritually inescapable for me. As an affluent cosmopolitan, with an agenda which included using photographic machinery to make portrayals of people and their environments, I had to make a pivot in the commonalities between my subjects and myself.
My Colombian upbringing, of Western-indigenous-afro syncretism resulting from generations of crisis and harmony between powers, religions, cultures, and languages, puts me in orbit with the dramas and characters of the regions. I summoned such commonalities through immersive participation in the every day activities of my hosts and entering with them into the shared experience of story-telling, humor, play,
work, and song.
Navigating the terrains and challenges of the road trip, entering into the emotional choreography of daughter-father relationships, and approaching subjects with ethical standing and artistic integrity are all vines of the one weaving plant resulting in Roots.
We are going 30 kilometers per hour (uphill).
It is a journey of patience and time.
Here I will share some of the stories written by my father.
They are the children of the sidewalk, near Altaquer. For 30 years Doña Gladys has taken care of them. Several generations have passed and today, yesterday's boys take their children to the same house where they were taken in a long time ago. Her eyes witnessed the violence, she welcomed orphans, children stripped of their parents, in this absurd whirlpool of blood that was our country. Her gaze has the sparkle of hope for the future children that arrives each morning. More "Doña Gladys" is needed in this country.
AMAZONAS, RICH POVERTY
The Amazon's wealth is its indigenous communities, the green in nature, its waters, its biodiversity. Their poverty is the oil that is extracted from their entrails, the dollars that create needs that the natives do not have. The abandonment of the state is total, the politicians on duty are only interested in their own benefit. With civilization comes money that is not needed, a religion that enslaves, a destruction in contamination that harms everyone. From here a cry, for leaving the Amazon still and rich as it was.
THE ART OF ARTISANAL FISHING
At night, at dawn, under the hot sun, men and women challenge the waves in small boats in search of luck, in search of a fortune that is every day, little more than an illusion. They are artisanal fishermen, brave and gentle, strong humans, tanned by the sun, with rough hands and tattered skin. "Sometimes there is fish, sometimes not" between smiles "La India" María tells us of storms, empty nets, and long nights.
That day, after five hours on the high seas, when the dark night was already covering a horizon that was disappearing behind a dark curtain, they arrived at the beach with their boat: four small fish, a pair of crab and a prawn. In a plastic bag, most were handed to Camila. We said goodbye in a deep hug to Maria, I thanked her for taking care of my daughter and for having filled her head and soul with the strength of a brave fisherwoman.
The lights of the lanterns go out, the gloom surrounds us, the sound of the sea accompanies us ... again, we do not cease to be amazed by such generosity, by such humble and good people.
YAGE, A JOURNEY SEARCHING FOR
THE SPIRITS OF THE JUNGLE
La Maloca is a round spacious place with a wooden floor. In the center is a fire that will burn all night, around some benches to sit on. An altar with a strange mixture of indigenous elements and Christian images that are mixed in a mosaic that gives a mystical and pagan atmosphere to the environment. Decorated with pictures drawn in the midst of trances, jaguars, snakes, colorful hummingbirds, human faces, and many bright tones, out of the soul of those who have traveled these paths. Some mats fit against the walls of the maloca, blankets, sleeping bags and each one chooses the place to discover his own visions.
The moment of taking the sacred drink comes, the Shaman sings, prays to the drink, we feel ourselves in the middle of a jungle ritual, we are in it.
By the fire, we imagine our intentions, we offer them.
Early dawn comes, we are invited to a "clean". Shirtless, inside myself,
I hear the songs, the smoke that surrounds me, the Shaman "absorb" my demons. When he internalizes my ills, he approaches the window and expels them out of the Maloca, I believe that this really happens and after repeating this several times and spraying myself with some drinks and blown on me, I really feel good, free, light.
When he finishes, he approaches and in a fatherly way, he lifts me from the chair, we look into each other's eyes and without expressing it with my voice, I thank him, he nods. It's Cami's turn, we're done, we're exhausted.
Guided by the reckless curiosity of the children, they join our camp. We extend the tents, we collect firewood that has been brought by the waters, which are waiting to be used or returned in the next crescent of the river.
"Find Master, Elber." With these words, we set out to find this interpreter of the bagpipe throughout the Caribbean region. In his humble house in Colomboy he gathers all kinds of people to interpret his instruments.
"We are traveling through Colombia looking for rhythms"- Camila says.
We make an appointment for the next day, that allowed us to witness a rehearsal at home, we were able to film it and had the opportunity to enjoy its teachings.
A drum that is a wooden cylinder with two leather covers, one on each side, a drum call "llamador", and the other one "tambor alegre", a maraca and finally, the bagpipes enter the scene filling with joyous rhythms the space we share in the midst of the heat of these land.
The hour's pass, the teachers show off their individual skills and between drums, hides, and whistles, we fill our souls with a tradition, which we now understand, it makes us closer, more beloved and why not, it fills us with great pride.
The route continues....
6,500 km traveled in 70 days, a beautiful country, humble people, absolutely wonderful where we camped, a rich nature, a daughter, a dad. We had the fortune to travel most of Colombia, to take with us some impressions that will remain in our minds for sure.
We have completed a trip to territories mostly marked by the footprint of war, which some want to perpetuate, but the same that its inhabitants want to forget.
Colombia is a country of extremes, from its nature to its people. We learned about music, food, dances, customs, accents. We drank and ate in incredible places, we bathed in rivers. We saw frailejones and arid deserts. We were in caves, riverbeds, endless savannas rafting in the Guaviare, we saw cave paintings, fossils, we visited cowboys in the work of cattle ... make a summary, it would be difficult, mentioning just a few characters would be unfair.
On behalf of the two of us, for the people we were lucky enough to come across, just thank you. From Colombia as land, only admiration.
To those who accompanied us with their words, and comments our gratitude.
The next trip? ... hopefully, life will flow, but it is worth looking for another destination, it is our deep love, to value, understand, and enjoy our ROOTS.
RAIO DO SOL
Raio Do Sol is a song written by João Afojubá. This musical arrangement was composed and recorded during the second tour of Roots by Sylvain Bouysset and myself. He traveled with us and witness the teaching and inspiration we received from the masters we met on the road.
Gracias Sylvano. Siempre todo el amor.