633: Alan Ereira, part 1: Meeting the Kogi of Colombia’s Sierra Nevada mountains
I learned of Alan soon after learning of the Kogi (see below). He lived with and made films of them, among many other documentaries and films. He also works to help preserve their culture and spread their message to help us stop wrecking our environment and selves through the Tairona Heritage Trust, which you can support.
His films about them—From the Heart of the World – The Elder Brother’s Warning (1990) and Aluna – An Ecological Warning by the Kogi People (2012)—tell stories and show a culture I consider tremendously valuable. As I live more sustainably, I learn more about cultures that live without polluting and are happy and healthy, contrary to what our culture predicts. They look at us and see we could use help seeing how much we hurt others, ourselves, and our future.
In our conversation, Alan shares his experiences with them, working with them to record their messages, and stories behind the stories that made part of their (and his) message more meaningful.
About the Kogi:
The Kogi descended from Tairona culture, an advanced civilization that flourished before the Spanish conquest. The Carib invasion around 1000 CE forced them to move into the highlands. They moved farther up when the Spanish entered in the fifteenth century. Missionaries tried to influence their culture, building chapels and churches to convert them. The Kogi have remained in their home in the mountains, avoiding the effects of colonization, living traditionally.
The Kogi have no written language yet they practise a philosophy and form of thought that has been pretty effectively destroyed everywhere else by the advance of the modern world. They consider themselves to be the guardians of the Earth and are worried by our attempts to destroy it. They refer to us as Younger brother. Their communities are governed by Mamas, who are always male and their female equivalents, Sagas. They are much more than just leaders. Kogi culture centres on a belief that the material world is the physical trace of a thought-world sustained in “Aluna”. Aluna is not just a spirit world but the thinking and acting life force. The role of the Mamas is to mediate between the physical world and “Aluna” to ensure that dangerous and destructive forces are held in check. Maintaining their culture and way of life is essential if life on Earth is to continue for all of us. The Kogi are trying to preserve a world of ideas that was once shared by all humanity but which is now all but lost.