Shibulata and Francisca. Courtesy of Jean-Paul Mertinez.
Aluna: The Enlightened Ones
September 20th, 2013
Film-maker Alan Ereira explains why he was called back by the Colombian Kogi people to send out a new warning of the hidden damage we are still inflicting on our planet......
When the Kogi said they wanted me to help them make a film, they had a very clear idea of what they were after. They needed to break through the fact that we see them as exotic and mysterious. They needed to be taken more seriously than that
The Kogi, for those who don't yet know about them, are the one surviving high culture of pre-Colombian America. By surviving, I mean pretty much as they were in the 17th century. Some 20,000 Kogi live high in the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta, Colombia, on the world's highest coastal mountain.
There are no roads into their territory, and to get there is a fairly tough walk lasting about three days, in territory which is occasionally occupied by FARC guerrillas. You need to be invited and guided. They live in traditional self-sufficient towns of circular thatched mud-walled single-room dwellings, making their own traditional clothes, speaking their own language which only they can translate. No electricity, of course. No piped water. No T-shirts or baseball caps. The towns are for meetings. They live on their farms; husband in one house, wife in another.
They treasure their inherited knowledge, passed through generations of Mamas (Enlightened Ones - Mama signifies the sun) who are educated from infancy in the dark. It is based on a profound knowledge of the birds, animals, plants and land of this rich environment, and they understand the world itself to be alive and conscious. "Aluna", which became the title of the film, conveys thought and consciousness, the stuff from which, they say, the world is made.
They are deeply frightened that we are destroying the capacity of the earth to support life. When I first encountered them in the late 1980's they were trying to find a way to warn us. I introduced them to the idea of television, by which they could be seen and heard at a distance, and so they made a film with me for BBC television. But in 2009 they summoned me back to ask why, having been warned, we have not changed our behaviour. They decided they need to try harder, more urgently, and in a more compelling way.
The problem, they decided, was that we did not take them seriously because they do not have the same kind of education as us, so think in a different way. And there is a problem of translation. We see them as unscientific, and translate their ideas into mystical and religious language. They needed, they suggested, to do two things: to be seen to engage with our scientists, and to present their information in as clear and un-mystical language as possible.
The result is a series of quite remarkable encounters, the first of which is with one of the world's leading astronomers for a discussion of the structure of the cosmos and the significance of what we call "Dark Matter" and "Dark Energy", and they call "The Darkness". The fundamental thesis which they set out to demonstrate is that places on earth are invisibly linked so that damage to one is damage to others. The linkage is through lines of Darkness, "Black Lines" which they set out to illustrate with 400 km of gold thread!
The places they connect are what we call "sacred sites", but the word and concept "sacred" does not exist in their language. It is a conventional translation which they used to find useful because although it means nothing to them, it conveys a lot to us. "Sacred " means "Don't Touch!". The trouble is, it also means "not really important compared to development and the production of wealth". It has no rationale beyond some kind of belief. So the Kogi needed to abandon the word "sacred" and show exactly why these places must not be touched.
"Aluna" represents their struggle to teach us to see the world in a rational and coherent way, as they do. They don't think we do that. And when they ask me "What do your experts think will happen if you continue plundering the world?" I do feel - humiliated.
The final message of Aluna is that the perceptible link that binds the world together is water, and we must learn to take care of it. Not just conserve it, but be understanding and sympathetic to its flow, on and under the earth, through the seas and the atmosphere. The Kogi speak as though they know the history of individual raindrops. We have a lot to learn, and not much time left.
Read a review of the film here.
Aluna will premiere at Raindance Film Festival on Saturday the 28th September 2013 at London's Apollo Cinema, Piccadilly. The movie is at last in the process of completing a deal with a major international distributor who is fully behind it. This way they expect a very significant audience and increased global awareness for the issues raised in the film.
Alan Ereira is a historian and award-winning documentary producer. He left the BBC 10 years ago to work independently. Ereira founded the Tairona Heritage Trust, www.taironatrust.org.
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