The Heart of the World

Our scientific world-view had no trouble believing in aspirins and electricity because they worked, not because they made sense…. The question that confronts us is whether our view, that there is nothing beyond the biological and chemical machine, works. Up to now it has seemed to produce spectacular results. But the Kogi see these as short-term benefits on the way to a catastrophe. We are, to them, like people who have jumped off a mountain and, falling fast, are proclaiming our ability to fly. They believe they can see further, and that their own old-fashioned ideas will prove to be right. – Alan Eireia, The Heart of the World

About eighteen million people in over six hundred tribes lived for thousands of years in what we now call the United States alone. As of last month, sixty-two tribes and a total of 250,000 people occupy territory in sixteen of the fifty states. Most of them were forcibly relocated to the lands in which they now live. For thousands of years, the worldview of these various indigenous groups worked – because we all live in a collective home, we must all protect and nurture it. Science has confirmed what these native people have known for years, and yet we continue to ignore all the warning signs.

In the 1990s, an indigenous group called the Kogi from Colombia in South America abandoned centuries of caution and descended from their mountain homes with the objective of warning the rest of the world that we are destroying the earth. The Heart of the World book and a film were the result of this message, and the Kogi believed that Little Brother (their name for us) would heed their warnings. After all, they spoke from the heart and warned of famine, incurable diseases, and natural disasters brought on by our unsustainable activities. Life continued uninterrupted and the famine, incurable diseases, and natural disasters predicted by the Kogi occurred. This caused the Kogi to summon Alan Ereira to their home in the Sierra Nevada Santa Marta in 2011 to make a new film about the end of the world.

The film Aluna is the result of their second collaboration with Alan, only this time, they took control of the filming. The result is extraordinary, a poignant message about the interconnectedness of all things. The Kogi have spiritual leaders called Mamas, and it is through Mama Shibulata that we learn about the Kogi. We see Shibulata and the other Mamas and their children venture into the city to obtain documents so they can fly to England. These are people who do not speak Spanish, who have no signatures, no documents, no address, at least according to the Colombian authorities. They obtain their papers and fly to London where they visit an observatory and speak with an astronomer who confirms that the Kogi view of the universe seems to share some similarities with our scientific view of the universe, especially where mysterious “dark energy” is concerned.

The Kogi belief of interconnectedness appears to be literally translated in the film as they pick up their special order of gold thread in England – all four hundred kilometers of it. They return to Colombia and set on a tour of the coastal areas to run this gold thread between special sites that correspond to mountain sites that connect directly to Aluna. The point of the connection is to show Little Brother the incontrovertible evidence of our disregard for the Great Mother. Many of the sites they attempt to access are restricted as they are power plants, security installations, and mines. All around the changing landscape, the Mamas point out evidence of Little Brother’s destruction and at one point translate the Great Mother’s words as “are you going to help me or just take pictures?”  The Kogi worldview of interconnectedness is repeatedly confirmed by respected astronomers, zoologists, and ecologists. In fact, for a people without telescopes and all the scientific apparatuses we have, their understanding of astronomy is uncanny.

What strikes me again and again is that they are not shown cursing Little Brother or wishing ill on us. They only want for Little Brother to listen and understand that everything is connected. Most of their culture seems to be about concentrating on connections, and it is this belief that sends them out into the rest of the world to try to save the Great Mother.

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The weaving of a mochila begins at the bottom with a spiral. Photo by L.J. Bailey.

I learned about the Kogi after meeting a woman who owns a non-exploitative business that sells handcrafted Colombian items with a portion of each purchase donated to indigenous refugees in Colombia. She sold me a mochila (or bucket bag) which was handmade by Kogi women. A group is now touring the United States on a mission to once again warn us about our unsustainable practices. Proceeds from the bags go to purchasing land in the Sierra Nevada in Colombia. The bucket bag I purchased has a design meaning “origin of the world” and is a stunning piece of weaving. I have included pictures below. Each bag begins with a spiral that begins in the bottom of the bag, and the pattern continues as the bag is worked upward.

The film is available on Youtube for free, and it runs about ninety minutes. There are 102 indigenous groups in Colombia representing eighty different languages, some of them considered language isolates, meaning that they do not belong to any known language family. You can learn about one group in this film. It is worth your time.

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The design of this mochila means “origin of the world.” Photo by L.J. Bailey.

 

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