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They are known as the children of tobacco, coca and sweet cassava, and they managed to avoid the colonial system until the beginning of the 20th century.
The Muruy Muina people, like many other indigenous communities located in the Colombian Amazon, had to resist.
And they are also descendants of that resilience, which Aimema Uai (25 years old, La Chorrera) carries with pride from her small house located in the center of Bogotá.
Sitting on a wooden stool and while taking small sips from a bowl with
, a concoction made from yucca and aguaje, he reveals what the engine of his life is: “So much self-knowledge has been lost, that it's up to young people get it back ”.
His way of returning to the origin is painting.
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He arrived in the Colombian capital with the intention of studying Political Science at the Externado University, although he always had an interest in art and painting. Once here, all plans changed. He ended up enrolling in Archeology and just a couple of semesters after starting, he decided to return home. "I felt that my grandfather and my father were calling me in dreams, I noticed a very strong contradiction within me between my culture and the city," he recalls. In 2018, it replaced the urban university with the
, the nerve and spiritual center of indigenous communities. "That was the true house of knowledge," he adds. There, he was trained in ancestral traditions and made the key elements of Amazonian medicine - mambe (coca), ambil (tobacco), dragon's blood, tree bark - his painting.
I felt that my grandfather and my father were calling me in dreams, I noticed a very strong contradiction within me between my culture and the city
Thus arises Canasto de la Abundancia, a project that began with his partner Leo Fiagama and that connects the jungle with the city.
His own house is a restaurant, an artistic workshop and a
"It is a piece of our land," ditch.
The walls are full of his colorful paintings: rivers, vegetation, germinations of the "mother coca" ... His works are a journey to the knowledge of his people and his childhood.
But they are also a critical look at the genocide that his people suffered.
One of the paintings exhibited in Aimema Uai's workshop.Noor Mahtani
At the beginning of the thirties of the last century, La Chorrera, his town, was on the map of colonizers for being a unique rubber mine.
After their exploitation, came the coca and later the skins, known as "economic boom times."
And, meanwhile, one of the biggest massacres in the Colombian Amazon.
“They wiped out more than 80,000 indigenous people,” he whispers, “they forbid us our traditions, songs, narratives… Everything was taken from us.
They imposed their beliefs on us, because they thought that we were Indians and that we did not have a soul ”.
I wanted the knowledge of my ancestors not to be something from my past, but from my present
And thus, between the imposition of a new culture and the migration of hundreds of young people to the cities, the knowledge and treasure of the region remained confined in the memory of the elderly, who had less and less option of passing their legacy to the cities. new generations. Uai was an exception. When he returned to Bogotá, the coronavirus pandemic exploded. The confinements and forced time arrived. "It was then that I started to paint with all that I learned," he says. Exploring art led him to question everything. What was this seed that serves as a pigment used for? Where does this root come from? Why is the bark of this tree sacred? "I wanted the knowledge of my ancestors not to be something from my past, but from my present," he sums up.
For his cousin, Érick Sánchez, 24, a sociology student at the National University, the pandemic made them react: “It shook us very negatively because many of our elders died, but it also forced us to review everything that was ours and that we were leaving aside. We suddenly found ourselves asking the elderly for remedies and advice ”. Uai adds: “Masks and gels are very important, but they are a superficial remedy. It's time to see how we feel inside. And we have always worked on that spirituality and see what happens with our bases in our territories ”.
The Putumayo property, the largest indigenous reservation in Colombia, has been one of the areas most affected by the Amazon pandemic. The world's lung accumulates almost 7,000 cases, of the almost 80,000 inhabitants, according to the Ministry of Health. "There are clans that no longer have grandparents and are exposed to extinction." In the town of Uai, the third, out of a population of less than 4,000 inhabitants, has just died. "Imagine how much knowledge is lost," he snaps, brush in one hand and bowl full of blue paint in another.
Sitting on a smaller stool, he takes advantage while his partner Fiagama finishes preparing the soup, to finish one of the paintings that he still does not know how much it will sell for.
His works range between 200,000 Colombian pesos (45 euros) and 6 million (1,500 euros).
The workshop comes with the smell of fish marinated with chili pepper and maraca seeds and the sound of songs.
From this corner of the chaotic city, and with his dyes in hand, Uai recognizes himself somewhat closer to home.
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