“For some time I have found myself living in Leticia, Amazon, where I have carried out creative workshops with diverse communities and participated in the development of experimental spaces and strategies for learning about indigenous thought and language. Presently, I am working with a research group that includes native artists and thinkers, upon an android game(app)for learning the Tikuna language
…For me, “to draw” is to continue a pending conversation, a strategy to trick thought, a territory where I can exercise my right to appropriate myself and transform something in the world, however small it might be, a path, infinite and ever open towards the unknown…”
Paula Maldonado studied Philosophy at the Universidad Nacional de Colombia and earned a Master’s in Aesthetics and history of the Paris 8 (Saint Denis Université) with the thesis, “Clichés de América, la impresión de los imaginarios del poder” (Clichés of America. Printing of the Imaginaries of Power). She has worked as a teacher, researcher, curator and coordinator of seminars and workshops in different settings. She is particularly interested in the multiple links between art and cosmopolitics, Latin American art, anthropology of images, postcolonial studies, community-based pedagogy, and transdisciplinary and collective creation.
Language Revitalization Collective Projects – Colombian National University Amazonia
Marga Beatriz Aguilar Montejo is a Maya Yucatec writer from Sotuta, Yucatán (Mexico), author of the play U wáayilo’ob xLetra / Las brujas de xLetra, published in the anthology Nuevos cantos de la ceiba. She studied at the Itzamná Municipal Academy of the Mayan Language in Mérida, and the Center of Fine Arts in the Yucatan Peninsula, where she was part of the first class of graduates in Creative Writing in the Mayan language. The Voice of the Campesino is her first book of poems. Aguilar first wrote the collection in 2017 in the Maya Yucatec language, and self-translated the poems to Spanish. I thank the poet for allowing me to translate and publish the first poem of her book here. (Melanie Walsh).
In the prologue of U juum u t’aan kolnáal / La voz del campesino, Martha Aracelly Ucán Piña writes:
“Words have the power to break the boundaries of time and space; a poem can transport us to the entrails of the mountain, to the middle of the milpa, along paths and roads, between the waves of the sea or to the depths of underground waters. This is what happens in U juum u t’aan kolnáal / La voz del campesino, where Marga Aguilar puts together a series of eight poems in Maya; a rhythmic and metaphoric language, rich in epithets, images and synesthetic contexts, that stimulates sensations we cannot stop exploring. In these texts, the original poet of Sotuta is composing an atmosphere through images, flavors, smells and sounds of the countryside, based on the knowledge inherited from her parents and grandparents. Beyond an intention of reminiscence and nostalgia for ancestral knowledge about peasant work, the poet reaches a voice that vivifies the elements. In revitalizing her tradition, she is anxious to learn as well as to reflect about the cyclical sense of the country life.”
U JUUM U T’AAN KOLNÁAL
Iik’ ku yáalkab tu jobnel k’áax,
ku báab ich k’áak’náab,
ku xik’nal tu ka’anlil pu’uko’ob,
ku síit´ tu ba’paach baatsilo’ob ku k’ayko’ob payalchi’ob ti’ u
leti’ u juum u t’aan.
THE VOICE OF THE CAMPESINO
Wind that blows through the entrails of the mountains
that swims in the sea,
that flies above the hills,
that leaps around families who sing prayers to their gods
that, is the sound of his voice.
Ich k’óoben naj tu suutubaj t’aan,
junjump’íitil yóok’ol xamache’
tu tséentubáa yéetel u tuuch chaanbalo’ob,
súut u wíinklal bey waaje’
ka janta’ab tumeen ixi’im wíinik,
tu núupuba’ob juntúulil utia’al u múul tséentuba’ob,
je bix le x-much’koko’ mix bik’in kun kíimik,
u chichmachmubáa ti’ lu’um,
u balmubáa yéetel jay tuunich,
táan u paa’tik yáax nukuch cháako’ob
utia’al u ka’a síijil tu ya’axil le’ob,
tu k’ank’anil nikte’ob, tu chakjole’enil chúuk yéetel tu booxil éek’joch’e’en.
In the kitchen it became word
little by little upon the comal
it fed from the bellybutton of babies,
they gave it life;
it took the form of a tortilla
that was eaten by the man of corn,
they became one-to survive,
like the x-muuch’ kook plant that will never die,
refuged in the earth,
protected by the stone,
waiting for the first rain,
to be reborn in the green of leaves,
in the yellow of flowers,
in the red of ember and in the black of night.
U juum u t’aane’, u k’aay xk’ook’ jejeláas u juumo’ob,
ku tóop’ol ich kaajo’ob mixbik’in u kíimlo’ob,
tu’ux ku tsikbalta’al k’aajlayo’ob ti’ jko’oko’ xikino’ob
ku cháachko’ob tsikbalo’ob ku xik’nalo’ob ka’an.
His voice, song of the nightingale in many tones,
that sprouts in eternal towns,
where stories are told to restless ears
that catch stories flying to the heavens.
Xíimbal t’aan ku k’uchul tak k’áak’náab,
jit’bil t’aano’ob chi’ichnako’ob u puluba’ob báab,
nu’ukulil chu’ukul kay pu’ul ich ja’;
tsajbil bu’ul kay, tsaja’an ich ta’ab,
t’aano’ob ku chu’ukul ich k’áaknáab.
Traveling voice that arrives at the sea,
woven words anxious to swim;
fishnet thrown in the water;
fish fried beans, fried in salt,
those words fished from the sea.
Yooxol ja’ ku payalchi’ chúumuk k’iin,
kali’ikil u xíimbal yéetel u xúul,
tun julbe’entik loobita’an t’aano’ob.
Evaporated water that prays at midday,
while it walks with its sower
resowing wounded words.
Lu’um ku ka’a ts’iik u yaal ku ka’apúut kuxtal,
ku nojochtal u juum u t’aan,
táan u ch’áajal yóok’ol le lu’uma’,
ku ka’apúut kuxtala’.
Fertile land that germinates once more,
voice that grows,
over this land,
that germinates once more.
U juum u t’aane’, loobita’an báalam,
ka’a síijnal báalam,
His voice, jaguar wounded,
jaguar who is reborn,
jaguar taken care of,
U juum u t’aan koolnáal
iik’ ku yalkab tu jobnel k’áax,
ku báab ich k’áak’náab,
ku xik’nal tu ka’anlil pu’uko’ob,
ku síit’ tu ba’paach baatsilo’ob
ku k’ayko’ob payalchi’ob ti’ u yuumtsilo’ob.
The voice of the campesino
is the wind that runs in the entrails of the mountain
that swims in the sea,
that flies above the hills,
that leaps around families that sing prayers to their gods
Melanie Walsh received her B.A. from the University of North Carolina at Asheville in Spanish and Women, Gender, and Sexuality Studies. She translated The Voice of the Campesino as part of her Senior Capstone in Spanish, a project which sparked an interest in pursuing translating and interpreting in the future. She is currently working on producing an album and a creating a zine of her own poetry.
Fernando Pomalaza studied drawing and painting at the Escuela de Bellas Artes de la UNCP de Huancayo (the School of Fine Arts at UNCP at Huancayo), the Escuela Nacional de Bellas Artes de Lima (the National School of Fine Arts at Lima, Peru), the Art Students League, the New School of Social Research, and the Robert Blackburn Printmaking Workshop in New York, USA. He has lived and worked in New York since 1978 and has participated in International Art Fairs and individual exhibitions in Perú, the United States, Europe, Australia, Japan, Singapore, and China. In his own words:
“I have been making collages since 1981, always experimenting and discovering new possibilities, mixing different materials in a spontaneous way. The colors, textures and artistic values of the pre-columbian cultures and popular art of my beloved Peru have a great influence on my collages. Collage allows me to express my inner world, my experiences and knowledge of the past and the present while envisioning the future.”
The artist introduces this series of collages thus:
“The collages which I share in this opportunity pay homage and recognition to my teachers who, at some juncture, freely offered me their friendship and shared their experience and knowledge without interest in personal gain – FOR THE LOVE OF ART. These works are for those who are no longer among us, but whose spirits live on in my memory and heart: Alejandro González (Apu Rimac, Escuela de Bellas Artes de la UNCP Huancayo, Perú), Carlos Galarza Aguilar (Escuela de Bellas Artes de la UNCP Huancayo, Perú), Hugo Orellana Bonilla (Escuela de Bellas Artes de La UNCP Huancayo, Perú), Miguel Ángel Cuadros (Escuela Nacional Superior de Bellas Artes de Lima), Leo Manso (The New School of Social Research New York), Sidney Simon (The Art Students League of New York), Robert Blackburn (Robert Blackburn Printmaking Workshop New York). FOR THE LOVE OF ART is a series of collages in a small format (mixed media) which uses acrylic as a medium for fusion and preservation, along with materials that have been found and gathered from the city’s streets and walls. The pieces in the series are essays in collage form, an expression of a visual poetic; of a dialogue with the materials, a search for and reaffirmation in art and life- Trying to find sense in the era of cultural whirlwind in which we live.”
The work of Joy Harjo (Mvskoke, Tulsa, Oklahoma) challenges every attempt at introduction. Singer, saxofonist, poet, performer, dramatist, and storyteller are just a few of her roles. Somewhere between jazz and ceremonial flute, the beat of her sensibility radiates hope and gratitude to readers and listeners alike. For example, from Harjo we learn that the opposite of love is not hate, but fear. Several of her books, such as How We Became Human, The Woman Who Fell From the Sky, and She Had Some Horses are now classics in both English and World Indigenous Literature. Harjo has recorded five original albums, including the outstanding Winding Through the Milky Way with which she won the 2009 Native American Music Award (NAMMY) for Best Woman Artist of the Year. The first 8 poems in this selection are from her book, Conflict Resolution from Holy Beings (2015). The remaining 5 poems are from earlier works and have not been previously translated into Spanish. We are grateful to the poet for allowing us to translate her work here. (Andrea Echeverría y Juan G. Sánchez Martínez)
For Calling The Spirit Back From Wandering The Earth In Its Human Feet
Put down that bag of potato chips, that white bread, that bottle of pop.
Turn off that cellphone, computer, and remote control.
Open the door, then close it behind you.
Take a breath offered by friendly winds. They travel the earth gathering essences of plants to clean.
Give back with gratitude.
If you sing it will give your spirit lift to fly to the stars’ ears and back.
Acknowledge this earth who has cared for you since you were a dream planting itself precisely within your parents’ desire.
Let your moccasin feet take you to the encampment of the guardians who have known you before time, who will be there after time. They sit before the fire that has been there without time.
Let the earth stabilize your postcolonial insecure jitters.
Be respectful of the small insects, birds and animal people who accompany you. Ask their forgiveness for the harm we humans have brought down upon them.
Don’t worry. The heart knows the way though there may be high-rises, interstates, checkpoints, armed soldiers, massacres, wars, and those who will despise you because they despise themselves.
The journey might take you a few hours, a day, a year, a few years, a hundred, a thousand or even more.
Watch your mind. Without training it might run away and leave your heart for the immense human feast set by the thieves of time.
Do not hold regrets.
When you find your way to the circle, to the fire kept burning by the keepers of your soul, you will be welcomed.
You must clean yourself with cedar, sage, or other healing plant.
Cut the ties you have to failure and shame.
Let go the pain you are holding in your mind, your shoulders, your heart, all the way to your feet. Let go the pain of your ancestors to make way for those who are heading in our direction.
Ask for forgiveness.
Call upon the help of those who love you. These helpers take many forms: animal, element, bird, angel, saint, stone, or ancestor.
Call yourself back. You will find yourself caught in corners and creases of shame, judgment, and human abuse.
You must call in a way that your spirit will want to return. Speak to it as you would to a beloved child.
Welcome your spirit back from its wandering. It will return in pieces, in tatters. Gather them together. They will be happy to be found after being lost for so long.
Your spirit will need to sleep awhile after it is bathed and given clean clothes.
Now you can have a party. Invite everyone you know who loves and supports you. Keep room for those who have no place else to go.
Make a giveaway, and remember, keep the speeches short.
Then, you must do this: help the next person find their way through the dark.
In a world long before this one, there was enough for everyone, Until somebody got out of line. We heard it was Rabbit, fooling around with clay and the wind. Everybody was tired of his tricks and no one would play with him; He was lonely in this world. So Rabbit thought to make a person. And when he blew into the mouth of that crude figure to see What would happen, The clay man stood up. Rabbit showed the clay man how to steal a chicken. The clay man obeyed. Then Rabbit showed him how to steal corn. The clay man obeyed. Then he showed him how to steal someone else’s wife. The clay man obeyed. Rabbit felt important and powerful. The clay man felt important and powerful. And once that clay man started he could not stop. Once he took that chicken he wanted all the chickens. And once he took that corn he wanted all the corn. And once he took that wife, he wanted all the wives. He was insatiable. Then he had a taste of gold and he wanted all the gold. Then it was land and anything else he saw. His wanting only made him want more. Soon it was countries, and then it was trade. The wanting infected the earth. We lost track of the purpose and reason for life. We began to forget our songs. We forgot our stories. We could no longer see or hear our ancestors, Or talk with each other across the kitchen table. Forests were being mowed down all over the world. And Rabbit had no place to play. Rabbit’s trick had backfired. Rabbit tried to call the clay man back, But when the clay man wouldn’t listen Rabbit realized he’d made a clay man with no ears.
My path is a cross of burning trees, Lit by crows carrying fire in their beaks. I ask the guardians of these lands for permission to enter. I am a visitor to this history. No one remembers to ask anymore, they answer. What do I expect in this New England seaport town, near the birthplace of democracy, Where I am a ghost? Even a casino can’t make an Indian real. Or should I say “native,” or “savage,” or “demon”? And with what trade language? I am trading a backwards look for jeopardy. I agree with the ancient European maps. There are monsters beyond imagination that troll the waters. The Puritan’s determined ships did fall off the edge of the world . . . I am happy to smell the sea, Walk the narrow winding streets of shops and restaurants, and delight in the company of friends, trees, and small winds. I would rather not speak with history but history came to me. It was dark before daybreak when the fire sparked. The men left on a hunt from the Pequot village here where I stand. The women and children left behind were set afire. I do not want to know this, but my gut knows the language of bloodshed. Over six hundred were killed, to establish a home for God’s people, crowed the Puritan leaders in their Sunday sermons. And then history was gone in a betrayal of smoke. There is still burning though we live in a democracy erected over the burial ground. This was given to me to speak. Every poem is an effort at ceremony. I asked for a way in.
Once the world was perfect, and we were happy in that world. Then we took it for granted. Discontent began a small rumble in the earthly mind. Then Doubt pushed through with its spiked head. And once Doubt ruptured the web, All manner of demon thoughts Jumped through— We destroyed the world we had been given For inspiration, for life— Each stone of jealousy, each stone Of fear, greed, envy, and hatred, put out the light. No one was without a stone in his or her hand. There we were, Right back where we had started. We were bumping into each other In the dark. And now we had no place to live, since we didn’t know How to live with each other. Then one of the stumbling ones took pity on another And shared a blanket. A spark of kindness made a light. The light made an opening in the darkness. Everyone worked together to make a ladder. A Wind Clan person climbed out first into the next world, And then the other clans, the children of those clans, their children, And their children, all the way through time— To now, into this morning light to you.
I believe in the sun. In the tangle of human failures of fear, greed, and forgetfulness, the sun gives me clarity. When explorers first encountered my people, they called us heathens, sun worshippers. They didn’t understand that the sun is a relative, and illuminates our path on this earth.
After dancing all night in a circle we realize that we are a part of a larger sense of stars and planets dancing with us overhead. When the sun rises at the apex of the ceremony, we are renewed. There is no mistaking this connection, though Walmart might be just down the road. Humans are vulnerable and rely on the kindnesses of the earth and the sun; we exist together in a sacred field of meaning.
Our earth is shifting. We can all see it. I hear from my Inuit and Yupik relatives up north that everything has changed. It’s so hot; there is not enough winter. Animals are confused. Ice is melting. The quantum physicists have it right; they are beginning to think like Indians: everything is connected dynamically at an intimate level. When you remember this, then the current wobble of the earth makes sense. How much more oil can be drained, Without replacement; without reciprocity?
I walked out of a hotel room just off Times Square at dawn to find the sun. It was the fourth morning since the birth of my fourth granddaughter. This was the morning I was to present her to the sun, as a relative, as one of us. It was still dark, overcast as I walked through Times Square. I stood beneath a twenty-first century totem pole of symbols of multinational corporations, made of flash and neon.
The sun rose up over the city but I couldn’t see it amidst the rain. Though I was not at home, bundling up the baby to carry her outside, I carried this newborn girl within the cradleboard of my heart. I held her up and presented her to the sun, so she would be recognized as a relative, So that she won’t forget this connection, this promise, So that we all remember, the sacredness of life.
1. I was on a train stopped sporadically at checkpoints. What tribe are you, what nation, what race, what sex, what unworthy soul?
2. I could not sleep, because I could not wake up. No mirror could give me back what I wanted.
3. I was given a drug to help me sleep. Then another drug to wake up. Then a drug was given to me to make me happy. They all made me sadder.
4. Death will gamble with anyone. There are many fools down here who believe they will win.
5. You know, said my teacher, you can continue to wallow, or You can stand up here with me in the sunlight and watch the battle.
6. I sat across from a girl whose illness wanted to jump over to me. No! I said, but not aloud. I would have been taken for crazy.
7. We will always become those we have ever judged or condemned.
8. This is not mine. It belongs to the soldiers who raped the young women on the Trail of Tears. It belongs to Andrew Jackson. It belongs to the missionaries. It belongs to the thieves of our language. It belongs to the Bureau of Indian Affairs. It no longer belongs to me.
9. I became fascinated by the dance of dragonflies over the river. I found myself first there.
You Can Change the Story, My Spirit Said to Me as I Sat Near the Sea
For Sharon Oard Warner and DG Nanouk Okpik
I am in a village up north, in the lands named “Alaska” now. These places had their own names long before English, Russian, or any other politically imposed trade language.
It is in the times when people dreamed and thought together as one being. That doesn’t mean there weren’t individuals. In those times, people were more individual in personhood than they are now in their common assertion of individuality: one person kept residence on the moon even while living in the village. Another was a man who dressed up and lived as a woman and was known as the best seamstress.
I have traveled to this village with a close friend who is also a distant relative. We are related to nearly everyone by marriage, clan, or blood.
The first night after our arrival, a woman is brutally killed in the village. Murder is not commonplace. The evil of it puts the whole village at risk. It has to be dealt with immediately so that the turbulence will not leave the people open to more evil.
Because my friend and I are the most obvious influence, it is decided that we are to be killed, to satisfy the murder, to ensure the village will continue in a harmonious manner. No one tells us we are going to be killed. We know it; my bones know it. It is unfortunate, but it is how things must be.
The next morning, my friend and I have walked down from the village to help gather, when we hear the killing committee coming for us. I can hear them behind us, with their implements and stones, in their psychic roar of purpose. I know they are going to kill us. I thank the body that has been my clothing on this journey. It has served me well for protection and enjoyment. I hear—I still hear—the crunch of bones as the village mob, sent to do this job, slams us violently. It’s not personal for most of them. A few gain pleasure. I feel my body’s confused and terrible protest, then my spirit leaps out above the scene and I watch briefly before circling toward the sea.
I linger out over the sea, and my soul’s helper who has been with me through the stories of my being says, “You can go back and change the story.”
My first thought was, Why would I want to do that? I am free of the needs of earth existence. I can move like wind and water. But then, because I am human, not bird or whale, I feel compelled. “What do you mean, ‘change the story’?” Then I am back in the clothes of my body outside the village. I am back in the time between the killing in the village and my certain death in retribution.
“Now what am I supposed to do?” I ask my Spirit. I can see no other way to proceed through the story.
My Spirit responds, “You know what to do. Look, and you will see the story.”
And then I am alone with the sea and the sky. I give my thinking to time and let them go play.
It is then I see. I see a man in the village stalk a woman. She is not interested in him, but he won’t let go. He stalks her as he stalks a walrus. He is the village’s best hunter of walrus. He stalks her to her home, and when no one else is there, he trusses her as if she were a walrus, kills her and drags her body out of her house to the sea. I can see the trail of blood behind them. I can see his footprints in blood as he returns to the village alone.
I am in the village with my friend. The people are gathering and talking about the killing. I can feel their nudges toward my friend and I. I stand up with a drum in my hand. I say:
“I have a story I want to tell you.”
And then I begin drumming and dancing to accompany the story. It is pleasing, and the people want to hear more. They want to hear what kind of story I am bringing from my village. I sing, dance, and tell the story of a walrus hunter. He is the best walrus hunter of a village.
I sing about his relationship to the walrus, and how he has fed his people. And how skilled he is as he walks out onto the ice to call out the walrus.
And then I tell the story of the killing of a walrus who is like a woman. I talk about the qualities of the woman, whom the man sees as a walrus. By now, the story has its own spirit that wants to live. It dances and sings and breathes. It surprises me with what it knows.
With the last step, the last hit of the drum, the killer stands up, as if to flee the gathering. The people turn together as one and see him. They see that he has killed the woman, and it is his life that must be taken to satisfy the murder.
When I return to present earth time, I can still hear the singing. I get up from my bed and dance and sing the story. It is still in my tongue, my body, as if it has lived there all along, though I am in a city with many streams of peoples from far and wide across the earth.
We make a jumble of stories. We do not dream together.
I have missed the guardian spirit of Sangre de Cristos, those mountains against which I destroyed myself every morning I was sick with loving and fighting in those small years. In that season I looked up to a blue conception of faith a notion of the sacred in the elegant border of cedar trees becoming mountain and sky.
This is how we were born into the world: Sky fell in love with earth, wore turquoise, cantered in on a black horse. Earth dressed herself fragrantly, with regard for aesthetics of holy romance. Their love decorated the mountains with sunrise, weaved valleys delicate with the edging of sunset.
This morning I look toward the east and I am lonely for those mountains Though I’ve said good-bye to the girl with her urgent prayers for redemption.
I used to believe in a vision that would save the people carry us all to the top of the mountain during the flood of human destruction.
I know nothing anymore as I place my feet into the next world except this: the nothingness is vast and stunning, brims with details of steaming, dark coffee ashes of campfires the bells on yaks or sheep sirens careening through a deluge of humans or the dead carried through fire, through the mist of baking sweet bread and breathing.
This is how we will leave this world: on horses of sunrise and sunset from the shadow of the mountains who witnessed every battle every small struggle.
This land is a poem
This land is a poem of ochre and burnt sand I could never write, unless paper were the sacrament of sky, and ink the broken line of wild horses staggering the horizon several miles away. Even then, does anything written ever matter to the earth, wind, and sky?
Anything that matters
Anything that matters is here. Anything that will continue to matter in the next several thousand years will continue to be here. Approaching in the distance is the child you were some years ago. See her laughing as she chases a white butterfly.
Don’t bother the earth spirit
Don’t bother the earth spirit who lives here. She is working on a story. It is the oldest story in the world and it is delicate, changing. If she sees you watching she will invite you in for coffee, give you warm bread, and you will be obligated to stay and listen. But this is no ordinary story. You will have to endure earthquakes, light- ning, the deaths of all you love, the most blinding beauty. It’s a story so compelling you may never want to leave; this is how she traps you. See the stone finger over there? That is the only one who ever escaped.
a woman can’t survive by her own breath alone she must know the voices of mountains she must recognize the foreverness of blue sky she must flow with the elusive bodies of night winds who will take her into herself
look at me i am not a separate woman i am a continuance of blue sky i am the throat of the mountains a night wind who burns with every breath she takes
Andrea Echeverría is an Assistant Professor at Wake Forest University. She has published a book on the work of two Peruvian poets titled El despertar de los awquis: migración y utopía en la poesía de Boris Espezúa y Gloria Mendoza (Paracaídas Editores & UNMSM, 2016), and several articles on Mapuche poetry, ritual and memory. She is currently working on a book project on contemporary Mapuche poetry and visual arts.
Juan G. Sánchez Martínez
Juan G. Sánchez Martínez is originally from the Andes (Bakatá, Colombia). He dedicates both his creative and scholarly writing to indigenous cultural expression and ancestral ways of being. His book, Altamar, was awarded the 2016 National Prize for Literature in the area of Poetry, Universidad de Antioquia, Colombia.
Altamar is a tribute to the grandfathers and grandmothers, activists and writers who have protected, with their own lives, the pure water of their territories. Since 2016, he works as an Assistant Professor at the University of North Carolina Asheville, in the Departments of Languages and Literatures and Indigenous Studies.
Jeisson Castillo (MA. in Visual Arts, Javeriana University, Bogotá) is a young painter, photographer, and audiovisual producer whose work focuses on the peasant and indigenous communities of Colombia. As part of various projects commissioned by the government and non-governmental organizations, he has traveled extensively in rural areas, including the entire Amazon basin of Colombia, where he has immersed himself in the traditional knowledge and ancestral wisdom of many indigenous peoples who are at risk of physical and cultural extinction.
His visual production has been exhibited in Colombia, Cuba, Ecuador, Egypt, Germany, France, Brazil, Norway, and the United States. Currently, he combines illustration, painting, performance, video, and anthropological research in his artistic practice. In endowing his images with spirit, his most recent work explores in particular the use of sacred plants and non-human entities.
In his own words: “My work is an exercise in searching, traveling, and learning. First, you always must go over the territory, recognizing and remembering with the help of elders and medicine men and women; it is at this moment when I receive instructions, tasks, sometimes assignments that I must approach conceptually, and sometimes concrete images that I must recreate as actions or rituals. Then comes the production of my work, which is always an immersion. My art is experiential, therefore everything that happens in everyday life influences the pieces in process.
Formally, in my painting, I try to blend materials- from my western heritage, the minerals: oil, turpentine, canvas- from my indigenous and African heritage, the sacred plants: tobacco, yagé, borrachero… as well as quartz, soil, and incense. Through experimentation I have found that these materials allow me to link paintings to the spirit of the people, non-human entities, plants, and territories that I portray.”
Yana Lucila Lema studied Social Communication with a specialization in Television at the Central University of Ecuador. She also studied Creative Writing and received a Masters of Social Sciences with a concentration in Indigenous Issues at FLACSO. She obtained a degree in Audiovisual Journalism at the Jose Marti International Institute of Journalism in Cuba. She has collaborated with indigenous organizations such as the Confederacy of Ecuadorian Indigenous Nationalities (CONAIE), the Confederacy of Indigenous Nationalities from the Ecuadorian Amazon (CONFENIAE), and the Confederacy of Peoples of Kichwa nationality (ECUARUNARI).
In her work with CONAIE she created several videos about strengthening cultural identity among indigenous peoples. One of these videos, which focused on traditional medicine, was the winner of the First Nations of Abya Yala Film Festival. She was presenter for the Kichwa language newscast KICHWAPI for six and a half years on the national channel RTS. As a writer, she participated in the International Meeting of Indigenous Communicators and Writers in Indigenous Languages (UNAM-Mexico), the Conference of the Association for Writers in Indigenous Languages of Mexico, and the International Poetry Festivals of Medellin and Bogota (Colombia). Her poetry was included in the book Las palabras pueden: Los escritores y la infancia (UNICEF), the poetry anthology of indigenous nations of Ecuador Ñaupa pachamanta purik rimaykuna / Antiguas palabras andantes (Casa de la Ecuatoriana 2016), and in the special edition of the Diálogo Magazine“Los cinco puntos cardinales en la literatura indígena contemporánea/ The five cardinal points in contemporary indigenous literature” (DePaul University 2016). Currently, she works as a professor in the University of the Arts in Guayaquil.
Tamyawan Shamukupani is the first collection of Quichua poetry by Yana Lucy Lema. Her poetry is very intimate, sensual and connected to her Otavalo heritage and the cosmos in general. She does that with few strokes, as if she was talking to someone, usually a loved one. Hers is a new voice in Quichua poetry, going beyond the usual rhetoric. The translations were done relying primarily in the original Quichua version, and might be slightly different than the authors translation into Spanish. We have also segmented the stanzas to allow the nonlinear symbolic flow between the lines. If the translator is familiar with the native language this is the right way to approach a text, so the nuances are not lost in the intermediate language. Thanks to Robert Roth, director of And Then Magazine, for Reading and suggesting some fine tuning for this wonderful body of work. (by Fredy A. Roncalla)
Tamyawan Shamukupani /Living with the rain
chay lusiru kimirimukunmi kintikunapash ña pawanakunmi
pakchata yallik ñuka shunkupash wakakunmi
chay kanpa shimiwan allpata mutyachishami
wayrapash ñukanchikwan pukllachun sakishunlla
nachu urkukunapash kuyarinmi
nishpami ñuka mamaka- nin
Morning star comes by and the hummingbirds fly around
At the hands of the elder women and the young ones that follow them
shine golden mullu* shells like small suns
the silver beads will dance until sunrise
bringing happiness to our hearts so they flower again
*Mullu is the quichua mane for the spondylous shell. This shell is used in many rituals in the Andes and had an exchange value close to money in pre-Hispanic times. This shell is widely used in the manufacture of beads in the coastal region of Ecuador and Peru. This poem refers to the importance of handcrafting in quichua communities.
Fredy A. Roncalla was born in Chalhuanca, Apurimac, Peru in 1953. He has studied linguistics and literature, in addition to a long journey in Andean Studies, with a special focus on aesthetic elements. He is also a handcraft artist who works with recycled materials. He has published poetry and essays in diverse online and printed publications.
He is the author of Canto de pájaro o invocación a la palabra (Buffon Press, 1984); Escritos Mitimaes: hacia una poética andina postmoderna (Barro Editorial Press, 1998); Hawansuyo Ukun words (Hawansuyo/Pakarina Ediciones, 2015); and Revelación en la senda del manzanar: Homenaje a Juan Ramírez Ruiz (Hawansuyo/ Pakarina, 2016). He is currently working on Llapan llaqtan: narrativa y poesía trilingüe/ Llapan llaqtan: trilingual poetry. His trans-Andean projects can be found in the virtual ayllu: Hawansuyo Peruvian Bookstore, Churoncalla.com, y Hawansuyo.com
Chonon Bensho is an indigenous artist, of the Shipibo-Konibo people of Peru. She descends from the Onanya traditional medicinal wisdomkeepers and from the women that have preserved the artesanal and artistic traditions of their ancestors. She was raised, from childhood, in a traditional environment in her native tongue and was cured with the medicinal plants used by the people who strive to become masters of the kené designs. These designs express the philosophical and spiritual vision of the indigenous nations and attend to the search for beauty and balance. Kené art takes into account the profound relationship between human beings, ancestral territory, and the spiritual worlds.
Kené designs symbolize the identity of the Shipibo people. There are different kinds of kené. When the designs have been embroidered on cloth, as in this work, they are called kewé. In the center of this picture a Maya kené design, (one which is circular or goes forth turning), has been embroidered. The form is similar to the medicinal chants, the rao bewá (or ¨maya bainkin¨ as they are sometimes referred to in the poetic formula of chants) which, according to the Onanya healers, always advance turning around. The medicine circles round, and the healer is an instrument through which the curative force of the plants and the spiritual world materializes and is made effective. The circular design of the Maya kené also echoes the movement of the Amazon rivers with their prolonged meanderings.
The Maya kené in this picture is designed with a wide border, known as kano, a word that can be translated (with a certain poetic freedom) as ‘connection’: a principal path that ties together that which is diverse. In the ancestral architecture of the Shipibo people, the main frame, which centers and supports the house, is designated by the word ‘kano.’ In the case of this piece, the maya kené is what sustains the composition from the center. In the Indigenous conception, the center is the fountain of life and the root which permits equilibrium. Human beings could not live in a harmonious way that avoids excess if they did not know their own physical (yora), emotional (shina) and spiritual (kaya) center- if they ignored their place in the world. Equilibrium, according to the ancestral conceptions of the indigenous people, is born from the complement of opposite forces for this reason. Symmetry is achieved in this work through a kind of harmonious tension between complementary opposites (between man and woman, between the lake and the high land in which human beings live, between the horizontal movement of the fish and the vertical growth of the trees, between the sun and the moon).
At the same time, an ascending slant rises throughout the design. It goes from the world of water (jene nate) and passes through our world (non nete), until it reaches the superior world (nai nete)- the world of the heavens. The sky, too, is where the dialogue between the moon and the sun takes place. Between them, it has been decided that three equilateral triangles be placed, suggesting a vertical visual route. This ascending shift corresponds to the ancient teachings which say that humans only become full and realized beings when they are able to be a bridge between heaven and earth, as occurs with the Onanya healers who promote the link of the visible with the invisible, between that which can be perceived by the senses, and that which is beyond the senses. It is evident, as well, that the three triangles resemble the Christian symbolism of the Trinity The Trinity is meant to bring us closer to the unspoken presence of God and of the Great Spirit: that invisible and transcendent center that animates visible existence. For Chonon, there is no contradiction in liberally combining designs inspired by ancient Shipibos and Christian symbology. Unlike modern academic thought which pursues exclusive cataloguing, Indigenous thought is inclusive, and able to incorporate distinct elements without feeling threatened or contradictory. This view stems from an Indigenous Christianity, one which respects life and the plants and the invisible Chaikabonibo beings, who are like our angels and teach us all wisdom.
The principal design is surrounded by minor designs, beshe kené. These designs are placed on the edge or foot of the main design. This edge or foot is known in Shipibo by the name tae. Beshe kené are not mere adornments. In addition to their decorative function, they convey an ancestral aesthetic pattern that comprehends the truth that all of existence has a vibration and a spiritual knowledge that is expressed in the kené as the symbol of the spirituality of beings.
Although the word ‘koros’ seems to be a neologism, or a recently coined phrase in the Shipibo language that stems from the Castilian word cross; this kené symbol in the form of a cross greatly precedes the arrival of Westerners to the Amazon territory. Koros seems to be nearer to the symbol of the chakana (staggered cross), which has been present in distinct Indigenous cultures spanning from Patagonia to north of the Andes and further since an undetermined time. The most common of kené koros were associated with the festival of Ani Xeatil, a traditional celebration that occurred, in most cases, when an adolescent was getting ready to marry and be circumcised. Relatives from afar were received with an abundance of food and drink. The Shibibo cross was placed in the center of the esplanade in which the main celebration occurred. Animals from the countryside, which had been trapped alive, were tied for those attending the celebration to shoot with bows and arrows during the event. Later these animals were eaten in a communal form, reinforcing the ties that united the relatives.
The symbology of the the cross as center, as the meeting point, allows us to understand the symbol as a place of resolution of conflict and complementarity. Meetings among difference could be at times friendly and festive. At others, conflict arose, such as during the feast of Ani Xeatl when two men decided to fight. The men did not try to destroy one another. The conflict was resolved when one of the men wounded the other so that all past offenses were forgotten, and peace and cordiality was reinstated between them. It was all about recuperating balance, a harmonious and healthy coexistence, so that internal conflicts did not completely destroy the ties of family relation, and being together would be possible and happy.
From a horizontal and geographical reading, the center of the cross seems to mark the point of convergence for the town, for the family members, non kaybobo, who came from every corner of the region, from the four sacred directions and cardinal points, to visit the place where the Ani Xeatl was held. Conversely, from a vertical reading, the cross seems to point to the complement of right and left, of high and low. Like the majority of kené designs, the kené koros seems to symbolize the ancient teaching regarding the need for us to complement one another and live in equilibrium: our two eyes complement one another, our two hands complement one another, man and woman complement one another, our world complements the world of the spirits.
In the specific case of this work, a cross is proposed as a symbol of the complementarity that should exist between human beings and the rest of the living beings in the territory. For this reason, the background of the kené symbolizes the fish and inhabitants of the world of water, jene nete. On the left side of the cross is painted a ronsoco, one of the animals from the countryside that belongs to the four-footed beings that walk in the countryside and whose meat has been part of the regular diet of the Amazonian people. In the top of the cross a man appears navigating in his canoe, which allows him to enter into contact with the different worlds of our ancestral territory. The whole of this koros design is a symbol of the inseparable ties which connect all living beings and between those that should always exist in a state of balance. The ancient teaching is contrary to the practice of the modern world which does not respect the life of the rest of beings and thinks that they can extract anything they desire from the land. The codex say that capitalist modernity breaks with the healthy equilibrium with the land which the elders knew how to maintain.
The fruit of the huito plant(Genipa Americana) is called nane in the Shipibo language. It is an important plant for Indigenous ethnobotany. The boiled juice of this fruit produces a dark blue dye when it comes into contact with the skin and the atmosphere. Women and men used to make designs on their faces with this dye to attend celebrations. These designs provided an account of cultural identity and belonging for the Shipibo people; in other words, huito was a foundational fruit in the symbolic construction of identity. In the past, some people covered their entire body with huito to avoid sunburn, and currently it is still used by men and women to dye their hair. The artwork above explains the importance of huito for the Shipibo-Konibo people by placing it in the center of the image. An embroidered work has been carried out in which the traditional kené (geometric designs) coincide with figurative elements of modern art, thus achieving a harmonious and balanced encounter between the ancestral and the modern.
Our grandparents told us that at the beginning of time, when the world was new, the old Shipibo dressed poorly. Their clothes had nothing special, no beauty, no joy. This was true until one day when a woman found a mermaid at the shore of a lake. That mermaid was a beautiful young woman who had her whole body covered with kené designs. The woman returned to her house and drew the designs she had contemplated onthe mermaid’s body on the ground. Since that time, the Shipibo have embroidered those designs on their clothes, painted them on fabrics and ceramics, carved them in the wooden beams of their houses and in the oars of their canoes. For our grandparents, the kené design was not a human invention, but a gift from the invisible beings from the water world (jene nete); they who live at the bottom of lakes and rivers in our ancestral territory. In the artwork above, the mermaid that gave birth to the kené has been painted to teach that water is not only a life source for human beings, for plants that bring healing and wisdom, for fish and fishing birds (like the different herons that are part of the image). Water is also for the invisible beings who are the legitimate owners of that world. Human beings cannot live well without clean water and we cannot devour water resources as if we were the only owners, because the true owners of the waterworld are extraordinary beings, of great thought and knowledge, to whom we owe the kené, those unequivocal symbols of our cultural identity which we inherited from our ancestors and our spiritual strength. The human being who comes to see these beings from the water world and establishes a relationship with them, receives his strength and knowledge and becomes a doctor and wise Onanya.
Kené Rao Numa
The different medicinal plants, known since ancestral times by the ethnobotany of the Shipibo-Konibo people, are called rao in the Shipibo language. The plants that could be classified under the name of kené rao are those used to learn how to make kené designs and become skilled artists. In the painting above, three different types of kené rao have been represented. 1) in the lower part of the image appears the kené-waste plant, a plant similar to fully grown grass, whose root is scraped with water to produce a liquid to be used as eye drops. 2) Likewise, in the middle part of the image, with the shape of a rope (nishi) with leaves, the plant ipon bekené has been painted. The chlorophyll from this vine is extracted and used as eye drops as well. 3) The third plant represented in the painting, similar to a croton plant, is called kené samban. It is used to brew steam baths for the hands. In these last two types of kené rao, the leaves have beautiful designs similar to the kené, which is an indication of the medicinal wisdom they keep. People who diet upon these plants, when using them, dream of old women and men who show them beautiful kené designs.
According to the spiritual knowledge and vegetable metaphysics of the Shipibo-Konibo people, the different Rao plants have Spiritual Keepers who manage them, known in Shipibo as Rao ibo. Although these extraordinary beings are not usually visible to human beings in an ordinary state of consciousness, they manifest themselves in the dreams of the person who fasts and in the visions produced by the intake of ayawaska which allows human beings to learn from them and receive their strength and wisdom. In this case, the owner of the rao plants has been painted as an old but young woman, of a beauty that seems timeless. Although in the daily Shipibo language woman is known as ainbo, this painting is titled Numa, meaning dove, because this is the metaphorical form by which the poetic songs of the ancient Shipibo call women. The keeper of the kené has white skin because she lives in the humid areas of the forest and the sun never directly hits her body. She has a beautiful Mayti crown, seed necklaces and a pectoral, a cotton blouse and a chitonti panpanilla. She also has a temporary tattoo with kené designs on her cheeks, painted with the dye of the huito fruit. She is between two trees. The white toé tree, with its beautiful bell-shape flowers, is a medicine of great wisdom, and has been painted to indicate the relationship of the kené with the medicinal and visionary world. The huito tree, whose fruit produces a black dye in contact with the atmosphere, has been used in Amazonian art since ancestral times.
Samatai jonin nama
For the Shipibo-Konibo people, as for other indigenous peoples from the Americas, the soul (kaya) is liberated during dreams from the limits of the physical body (yora), and can access other spiritual worlds where it talks with extraordinary beings and obtains all sorts of knowledge. Although all humans dream, the Onanya healers are those who dream with more frequency, intensity and clarity. Those dreams are not normal; they are revelations from the spirit worlds. Because of their initiation rites, the Onanya can travel in these worlds with greater skill and obtain in them irreplaceable wisdom. During their initiation, the Onanya learn to move in the spirit world where they get their wisdom and power; these learning processes are called “dieta” in the regional Spanish, and “sama” in the Shipibo language. In this piece, a sleeping dietador or initiate has been painted, dressed in a traditional cushma tunic (tari) with beautiful I kené designs. The tunic is not just any garment. Interpreted poetically, it symbolizes the spiritual knowledge and protection of the dietador. The dietador sleeps surrounded by various medicinal plants and trees, which are part of the ‘dieta’ and through which he gains his medicinal powers and songs. In the dream he appears together with yana puma, known in Shipibo as wiso ino, who is a spiritual guardian that will defend him from any attacks of bad intention or brujeria.
Rao nete is a Shipibo expression that means medicine world. This medicine world is a spiritual dimension with which the Onanya healer enters into contact in order to heal. It is a subtle and luminous world of a high spiritual vibration, from which the healing force of medicinal songs and the healer’s whistle emanates. The Keepers of the Spiritual World are known as Chaikonibo; they are our ancestors who live far from the city, in purity, conserving the ancient wisdom. They are compassionate beings who offer health to those who ask with humility. This painting shows the trinity of the connection between the patient’s soul, the Onanya healer’s soul, and the spiritual owner of the medicine world.
Inin nete means aromatic world, and is one of the fundamental aspects of the traditional medicine of the Shipibo-Konibo people. The inin nete represents a perfumed force that arises from the spiritual medicine world, and is the foundation for healing the patients. The Spiritual Keepers of the medicine are always aromatic beings that emanate a smell like flowers and perfumed plants. To reach this spirit world, the Onanya healer must bath with the leaves of the noirao plant, which are aromatic leaves that change the smell of the human being, purifying him and making him smell like plants. The aromatic world purifies all of the patient’s impurities and bad energies. When the Onanya reaches this world of high vibration and indescribable beauty, he learns the feminine aspects of the medicine and marries the perfumed beings of the spirit world. In this way, the healer is transformed into a being like the Spirit Keepers of the plants, and becomes part of their spiritual community.
Learn more about Chonon Bensho and her community in the following videos
Achu Kantule (Osvaldo De León) was born in 1964 in Ustupu, the Gunadule Nation (Panamá). He began to paint, as a self-taught artist, in the ‘80s. In 1996 he won the National Prize for Painting from the Cultural Institute of Panamá. In 2001, he graduated from the University of Panamá with honors (Sigma Landa), obtaining A Bachelor’s Degree in Plastic and Visual Arts. He has had over 24 individual exhibits throughout the Americas and Europe, and has participated in various joint exhibits. In 2004, he received a prestigious scholarship from the National Museum of the American Indian (Smithsonian Institution).
Recently, we met at II Congreso SoLEI, at the University of Magdalena (Santa Marta, Colombia), where Achu was invited as a special guest. Here he explained to us, the assistants, some of the principles of traditional Gunadule art: duality (“Even in celebrations we drink two shots, to honor both man and woman” he said, while laughing), repetition, abstraction, and multidimensionality (“because we believe that the world consists of eight dimensions”). We learned that there is a realm of the arts in Gunadule cosmology, in which the Gods dreamed the designs and textiles of the molas and then came to teach the women of the community.
According to Achu (meaning ‘little tiger cat’ in Gunadule), the multidimensionality of the molas and their paintings correspond to the four languages that the community uses: 1) the language for daily use, 2) the language sung by spiritual leaders, 3) the ritual language of the initiated, which is to say, the curative songs that are written in pictograms, and 4) the spiritual language, that is only thought, not spoken. In effect, these paintings that Achu has shared with Siwar Mayu engage with multidimensionality: different levels of language are traversed by different depths of meaning: “My work has to serve a purpose, which may be to heal. Art is therapy”. His first critics, however, wanted Achu to paint portraits, “but realism, like religion, is something that was imposed,” he pointed out.
Duality, repetition, abstraction, multidimensionality can be found in the work of Achu, and to better understand this, he explains it through the molas, “historical documents.” The molas are like an “ambulant book”, because the women carry the history of their community in their clothing.
While sharing an image of a mola with three rows of yellow forks, in front of blue, orange and fuschia backgrounds, which ultimately turn into strange objects, Achu explained that traditional Gunadule art preceded western optical art and pop art styles. A mola in which four telephones are ringing (vintage rotary dial phones) served to demonstrate how overlap creates textures, and like a woven fabric, they can create the sense of movement, vibration and ringing!
Achu also explained that the animals that inhabit the Gunadule molas and his own paintings are echoed in the cosmology of his community: the crocodile transports sick spirits because it is an amphibious being, and there are certain sharks that are allies of people fighting those same spirits. The jaguar is also very important in this iconography, because it “represents power and strength”. There are sacred mountains, kalus, where only innocent children and psychics, the Neles sages, can go. “For each animal, the snake, the jaguar, the eagle, there is a sacred place” in the land, said Achu, while indicating a book that can be found in the Museum of World Culture in Gothenburg.
Achu is a storyteller and always takes any opportunity to remind the audience or his friends, of the strategies used by his great-grandfather, Nele Kantule, to win the Guna Revolution. The story goes as follows: the revolution began in Panamá in 1925. Through the construction of the canal, the Panamanian Government opted for a policy of “civilization of the savage tribes”. They sent policemen obligating the community to abstain from practicing their medicine. “The mola was prohibited, which is why I call the mola, the art of resistance, because from there the Guna people arose. My great-grandfather was the leader, Nele Kantule,” narrated Achu.
The history of the revolution in Achu’s account tells that before attacking the police who were sent by the Panamanian Government, the great Nele Kantule, decided to send eight suitcases filled with Guna artifacts (books, writings, molas, and sculptures) with two young emissaries, one to Europe, and the other to the United States. Achu continues: “he said, “when we finish with our enemies, the world will say we are savages, but we are not savages because we have our literature, we have our art, we have everything””. As the sage Sequoyah implementing the Cherokee syllabary, the sage Nele Kantule assured that the world found out about the ancient, cultural richness of the Guna Yala.
At the end of his talk, Achu gifted us with another story, about Iguanigdipipi, a young man who became a Nele by the age of 25- teacher, musician, and one of the first contemporary Gunadule artists. His map of the ancestral territory, with notes that explain the reasons behind the revolution, was painted in Canada in 1924 (where Achu now lives part of the time). Achu worked on this map during his investigation at the Smithsonian in 2004. His grandfather was the official translator of Iguanigdipipi. Achu told of a scene, in that very map, in which a missionary arrives and speaks with a bird from Guna cosmology, siku the interpreter. “We call people that speak various languages sikui,” he explained. Yes, the art that Achu has shared with this river of hummingbirds (Siwar Mayu) is inhabited by sikui. Siwar Mayu is a multilingual river!
At the end of his talk, while presenting a Pre-Columbian vessel, Achu pointed out: “Scholars want to separate us, don’t they? The say Pre-Columbian time is different than the present. But we still have the same connection. I do not know what the purpose of separating is.” Achu’s work is the proof of a continual resistance, from the mola to installations and conceptual art. The 300 islands of Guna Yala are being affected by the accelerated rising sea level, in addition to plastics and the contamination which tourism leaves behind. The work of Achu Kantule is a multidimensional response to a current urgency, not only of his community but of this “pale blue dot.”
As observers of this work we look at the different layers of one same tapestry. Acrylic on canvas. From a canoe we submerge ourselves in geometric shapes that undulate in the water (spirals, crosses, rhombuses) which take us to a new depth, one of confronting crocodiles and sharks, Neles that transform, and grandmothers dressed in their molas protected by turtles who rescue life from the abyss. Behind warm colors and the visual vibration which the multiple layers create, the work of Achu deals also with a cosmic battle in which the grandson of Nele Kantule continues the revolution, for life, water and the ancestors of Guna Yala.
Rita Joe is a Mi’kmaq writer born in We’koqma’q, Cape Breton, Nova Scotia, Canada, in 1932. Joe was orphaned very young and raised by various extended family members and foster families until she was taken to residential school in Shubenacadie, Nova Scotia. From there, she worked in the caring professions in Halifax and Boston. Joe married, had eight children and raised two others. She started writing poetry in the sixties and published her first book, Poems of Rita Joe, in 1978. For her later years, she lived in Eskisoqnik on Cape Breton Island, where she was an educator, songwriter, artist, poet and elder. Along with various honorary doctorates, Joe also received the Order of Canada (1989) and a National Aboriginal Achievement Award (1997). She passed away in 2007.
Joe wrote in both Mi’kmaq and English using a very simple language. Her poems are deeply personal, reflecting on her private life, Indigenous identity, Mi’kmaq beliefs, traditions, and racism in Canadian society. Four of the poems translated here are from her first book and appear in We Are the Dreamers: Recent and Early Poetry (Breton Books, 1999). All were published bilingually, except the preface. (by Sophie M. Lavoie, translator)
I am the Indian
And the burden
Lies yet with me.
The invisible line of the burden is the central idea which keeps banging against my head and cannot drop unless I am satisfied. The satisfaction does not seem to materialize with each problem I try to conquer. The minor self-war has turned into a mountain, I cannot reach the top. The top being my own satisfied conclusion.
That I think is what keeps me going, the day to day problem solving, even looking for it. Like tearing my own poetry apart, meandering into different directions, pecking there or just looking, the many trails too many to take on. But when another day comes there is that spirit rising again to take on any cause just to see if it can be slowed, dumped or won over. The tired body now broken, the spirit hanging on just so it can be pushed to the limit, if not for me but others, the endless trail into another century, then maybe, just maybe…
Wen net ki’l?
Pipanimit nuji-kina’muet ta’n jipalk.
Netakei, aq i’-naqawey;
Ktikik nuji-kina’masultite’wk kimelmultijik.
Na epas’si, taqawajitutm,
Aye! no monuments,
No scrolls or canvas-drawn pictures
Relate the wonders of our yesterday.
How frustrated the searchings
of the educators.
Let them find
Titles of seas,
Wipe them not from memory.
These are our monuments.
Waterfalls on a mountain,
Fast flowing rivers.
These are our sketches
Committed to our memory.
Scholars, you will find our art
In names and scenery,
Betrothed to the Indian
since time began.
Kiknu na ula maqmikew
Ta’n asoqmisk wju’sn kmtnji’jl
Aq wastewik maqmikew
Aq tekik wju’sn.
Kesatm na telite’tm L’nueymk,
Paqlite’tm, mu kelninukw koqoey;
Aq ankamkik kloqoej
Nemitaq ekel na tepknuset tekik wsiskw
Elapekismatl wta’piml samqwan-iktuk.
Today, this morning I prayed
I ask to write a little longer
I ask if I may be able to think
I ask for a small strength
I still want to show, teach.
You will find when I am gone
I thought about all of you
Continue the work, you young people
You can do it.
Sophie M. Lavoie is Associate Professor and Chair of the Department of Culture and Media Studies at the University of New Brunswick in Fredericton, Canada, where she teaches language, literature, film and culture classes. She has published various academic articles in scholarly on Central-American women’s literature, among other topics, in French, English and Spanish. With Hugh Hazelton, she was cotranslator into English of The Vertical Labyrinth by Argentinean poet Nela Rio, she translated the book of poetry We Are the dreamers by Mi’kmaq poet Rita Joe into French, and she has a forthcoming translation of the autobiography of the two spirit cri and ojibwe elder, Ma-Nee Chacaby, also into French.
Ruperta Bautista Vázquez is a community educator, writer, anthropologist, translator, and Tsotsil Maya actress, from San Cristóbal de las Casas, Chiapas, México. She holds degrees in Creative Writing from the Sociedad General de Escritores de México (SOGEM), Indigenous Rights and Cultures from CIESAS-Sureste, Anthropology from Universidad Autónoma de Chiapas, and a Masters Degree in Education and Cultural Diversity. To date she has published Xojobal Jalob te’ (Telar Luminario) Pluralia Ediciones y CONACULTA, México D.F, 2013; Xchamel Ch’ul Balamil (Eclipse en la madre tierra) 2008, Primera edición. 2014, 2da edición; Ch’iel k’opojelal (Vivencias) 2003; and had her work anthologized in Palabra conjurada, cinco Voces cinco Cantos (Coautora) 1999. Her work has been translated into English, French, Italian, Catalán, and Portuguese.
Poems from Telar Luminario/Weaving Light (2013)
This brief selection of poems comes from the latest published work of the Tsotil Maya poet Ruperta Bautista Vázquez, Xojobal Jalob Te’/Telar luminario (2013), ‘Weaving Light.’ It should be noted that it continues the trajectory established in her previous works, in which humanity must struggle day-in and day-out to survive in a world slowly succumbing to violence and despair. Situated within the context of Maya prophetic texts, Xojobal Jalob Te’ intervenes within both the world of her world and our own. As suggested its name, the book is meant to be a “seeing instrument” in much the same way as the K’iche’ Maya Popol wuj. This particular series of six poems, “Lightning,” “Sustenance,” “Ellipsis,” “Sowing Hope,” “Heirs to the Rain,” and “Ancient Offering,” emphasizes the relationships that people, and above all Maya communities, have with nature. In particular, they seek to revitalize traditional practices that have historically sustained human communities, and that remind us that our relationship with nature is reciprocal, that what we give eventually returns to us in some way. We hope that you enjoy these poems, and that shine a light in the contemporary world (Paul Worley).
Four Poems in Latin American Literature Today. Translated by Paul M. Worley
Five Poems in the Latin American Literary Review. Translated by Paul M. Worley
About the translator
Paul M. Worley is Associate Professor of Global Literature at Western Carolina University. He is the author of Telling and Being Told: Storytelling and Cultural Control in Contemporary Yucatec Maya Literatures (2013; oral performances recorded as part of this book project are available at tsikbalichmaya.org), and with Rita M Palacios is co-author of the forthcoming Unwriting Maya Literature: Ts’íib as Recorded Knowledge (2019). He is a Fulbright Scholar, and 2018 winner of the Sturgis Leavitt Award from the Southeastern Council on Latin American Studies. In addition to his academic work, he has translated selected works by Indigenous authors such as Hubert Malina, Adriana López, and Ruperta Bautista, serves as editor-at-large for México for the journal of world literature in English translation, Asymptote, and as poetry editor for the North Dakota Quarterly.
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