the jàka project
In partnership with the association LA SEMILLA
A bridge (JÁKA)
The Kogi people inhabit the Sierra Nevada of Santa Martha, in the north of Colombia. They share their land with three others tribes: Arahuaco, Wiwa, and Kankuamo, who live separately but remain connected. For them, the Sierra Nevada represents the heart of the world. It is surrounded by an invisible ‘black-line’ that encompasses the sacred sites of their ancestors and demarcates their territory.
The Sierra Indians call themselves ‘the older brothers’. They believe that they have a mystical wisdom and understanding with the responsibility to maintain the balance of the universe. We, as the “little brothers”, have failed to keep the world in harmony.
Balance is achieved by regeneration. Making offerings to the sacred sites and in doing so, giving back to the Earth what is taken from it. We want to make an offering to the Kogi and help them in constructing/funding a JÁKA (Bridge) to cross Rio Ancho, the river located on their land. The JÁKA will secure transportation of animals and heavier loads and connect them with 11 other villages.
Protect the guardians of the earth
Thanks to the Colombian artist, Jimmy Correa, who has maintained a friendship and collaborative relationship with the Kogi for almost 30 years and is considered to be part of the Kogi family, we were able to spend a few days last November staying with the tribe in their community.
We hope to continue to collaborate with the art community and the Kogi to ensure a better future for our planet.
THE RIO ANCHO in the Kogis’ territory, SIERRA NEVADA, COLOMBIA
ABOUT THE KOGI
At present, four indigenous communities that preserve their ancient traditions amount to about 30,000 people. They are the Kogi, Arhuacos, Wiwas, and Kankuamos. The Kogi community occupies the northern area of the Sierra, among the valleys of the Don Diego, Palomino, San Miguel, and Ancho rivers.
The Sierra Nevada
The Sierra Nevada is an isolated triangular pyramid rising over 18,000 feet from the sea, the highest coastal mountain on earth. It is on a separate tectonic plate from the Andes, and its unique structure means that it is virtually a miniature version of the planet, with all the world’s climates represented.
The mountain is quite literally a micro-cosmos, a mirror of the planet on which every ecological zone is represented and in which most of the plants and animals of the planet can find homes.
With 1000 year old traditions, the Kogi are a culturally intact pre-Colombian society. Although they don’t have the wheel, or even writing, they are unbelievably culturally advanced. They show an astuteness and understanding of human nature that is baffling. But, their knowledge is even deeper in matters of the environment and the ecosystem they inhabit.
The Kogi practice subsistence agriculture based on a polyculture that testifies to a great knowledge of the Earth. Semi-nomadic, they regularly migrate from one territory to another according to the seasons and harvests, never exploiting the land intensively.
On the upper lands, the Kogi cultivate potatoes, onions, cabbage, lettuce, blueberries, tamarilloes (a kind of tomato), pumpkins, garlic, wheat and even rice.
On warmer lands, they grow corn, beans, yuccas, arracachas, malangas (tubers), coca leaves, cotton, pineapples, papayas, guavas, maracujas (passion fruit), sweet pomegranates, oranges and lemons.
The work of the Earth is a daily preoccupation, otherwise the jungle takes over and ends up swallowing up everything. For the Kogi, agriculture is a “thermometer” that allows them to gauge the state of their relationship with Mother Earth, interpreting good harvests as a sign of harmony and bad ones as a symptom of imbalance.
THE NEED FOR A BRIDGE
“Their world is no different from ours, they just inhabit it, while we are still in exile.”
Eric Julien, Le chemin des neuf mondes.
The Kogi feel it is their duty to nurture and care for our planet; maintaining its natural order. In consequence of deforestation and mining it is becoming progressively difficult to ensure a healthy future for our planet.
In 1990 the Kogi collaborated with Alan Ereira for a BBC1 film, Aluna in which they warn us of our imminent need to change course. Following this film a campaign has now been launched – Black Line Initiative
We are French & Swiss artists based in London. We had the opportunity to travel around Central/South America last year, engaging in various creative jobs, landing ourselves in Puerto Colombia for a residency at Nomad Future Land in the studio of Maria Elvira Dieppa. Maria introduced us to artist Jimmy Correa who introduced us to the Kogi’s incredible community. We stayed with the Kogi for a few days learning about their history and discovering their beautiful and sustainable way of life.
This project started as a means to show the Kogi our gratitude for their hospitality and to raise awareness about the inportant role they play in protecting our planet.
Twenty-years ago, the construction of a suspended footbridge above the Rio Ancho began. This bridge was to be a safe and vital means for the Kogi to transport food, animals, products etc and would provide access to eleven other villages. Due to conflict between the paramilitary and the guerilla (FARC), the project abruptly came to a halt.
In 2016, a peace treaty was agreed between the Colombian government and the FARC, which allowed the project to be reconsidered.
Due to a shortage of funds to carry out this project, the artistic community have come together to raise money to expediate this vital construction.
Material remaining from the unfinished bridge
Maintaining their culture and way of life is essential if life on earth is to continue for all of us.
Kogui Kagundua Suspension Bridge
Using locally sourced, sustainable materials, our bridge should stand the test of time and should blends with the natural environment to ensure safe passage across the Rio Ancho for animals and the transportation of essential goods.