Welcome to the Mystery — and the Memory

Over the past few months, we have been working closely with our elders Jose Huaman Turpo and Alejandrina Calancha Monge as they embark on the creation of their fourth documentary film. As they share with us updates on their work, we are reminded once again how fragile memory and culture really are.

Members of the K’ana community preparing for the upcoming ceremony

Every time Jose and Alejandrina turn on the camera, they know it could be the last chance they get to preserve a ritual, to share the voice of a community elder, or to witness a ceremony unfold.

Jose behind the camera while filming “Voices that Heal”

Jose and Alejandrina are grounded in a holistic vision where, as director and producer, they are there to share the ways of life, the voice, the experience, and stories of indigenous communities as they are told from the communities’ own perspectives.

Alejandrina editing the film “Inkarri”

By holistic we mean that they work collaboratively with each native community, ensuring that it’s their voices that tell their stories and that they follow and respect their ritualistic and agricultural calendars. Nothing in the film is re-enacted. Rather, all of the scenes and recordings will happen as these one-of-a-kind moments occur. This is why the documentaries are in languages like Quechua, Huachipaeri and Machiguenga, and the leaders and main storytellers also take part in the post-production, giving feedback and approving the final version of the film.

No film is made with the intention to solely go into a community, film, leave, and then edit. Instead, it’s about fostering a relationship that’s built on mutual respect, support, and reciprocity that is maintained for years.

Jose with members of his crew and the Q’ero community while filming “Inkarri”

For Jose and Alejandrina, this process has reinforced time and again the importance of preserving the wisdom and ways of life that are at risk of being lost. Some of their friends who were members of the Q’ero communities and part of the film “Inkarri” have passed away.

Pablo Chura of the Q’ero Nation

This means that certain customs, beliefs, and ways of life can no longer be recovered. Some of their friends in the Huachipaeri community are the last speakers of their languages.

Manuela Ramos of the Machiguenga Nation

Long after these Huachipaeri elders have left this world, though, their descendents will still be able to listen to their native language. That’s why each film is about far more than just filming. It’s about preserving the history and knowledge of indigenous communities for generations to come.

Youth of the Huachipaeri and Machiguenga communities

At the Ayni Institute we are proud to collaborate with Jose and Alejandrina to help share the stories of indigenous communities of Latin America. Together we are working on a series of nine films called the “The Mysteries of the Andes” series.

The fourth film is currently underway, documenting the symbolism of musical instruments and the relationships between music, instruments, and ceremony, across the Andes. This time, we are zooming out beyond individual communities to weave the cultural threads that exists through the Andean peaks, the Amazonian Rainforest, and the Atacama desert. Our elders will take us through six countries — Argentina, Bolivia, Colombia, Chile, Ecuador and Peru — as we try to document and share the symbolic nature of the musical instruments and the relationships that exist between music, healing, instruments, and ceremony.

A youth fro the K’ana nation playing an instrument called pinkuyllo, probably the oldest Andean instrument

In this film, music and ceremony will be interwoven with the customs that have kept these communities’ histories alive for millennia, showing how the communities embody their interconnectedness with the land and living beings surrounding them. These films are ultimately an archiving of memory, since so many rituals, languages and customs are disappearing every year.

We hope that you can support this unique and critical film project by supporting future fundraising events. Next week, on Tuesday, April 23rd at 6PM we’re going to do a film screening of “Voices That Heal”, the 3rd film in the series about healing practices of Amazonian native communities. There’s a $5 donation and all proceeds go towards the future documentary on music and healing.

If you can’t make it to the event below or aren’t local to Boston, sign up to support with your ideas and talents!

Boston film screening on April 23rd @ 6PM