A bridge for the Kogi People – Guardians of the Earth
CORNELIA PARKER | GAVIN TURK | LAURE PROUVOST | JOHN SMITH | FRANCESCA GABIANNI | DAVID FRYER | STACEY MCCORMICK | JEFF MCMILLAN | GERALDINE SWAYNE | PAUL CARTER | VICKY WRIGHT | STEPHEN HARWOOD | MARIA ELVIRA DIEPPA | JEROEN CREMERS | SHANE BRATFORD | ALICJA DOBRUCKA | TOM HUNTER | HEATHER & DAN ACKROYD | DEREK MAINELLA | DANNY AUGUSTINE | JAKE CLARK | SIMON LIDDIMENT | CHARLOTTE HOPKINS HALL | JIMMY CORREA | PASCAL ROUSSON | ADAM DIX | NICK CURTIS | CEDRIC CHRISTIE | REBECCA SCOTT | DJ ROBERTS | ALEXANDRE BIANCHINI and many others to be confirmed – SPRING 2023.
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 regenaration; 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 inhabitants and help them in constrcuting/funding a JÁKA (Bridge) to cross Rio Ancho, the river located on their land. The JÁKA will secure transportation of animals and heavy loading and connect 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 for almost 30 years, and considered as part of the Kogui family, we were able to spend a few days last November within the Kogis’ community.
This incredible experience has inspired us to organise an art auction to fund the construction of a vital footbridge for the Kogis to fulfill their duties efficiently and safely.
We hope to continue to collaborate with the art community and the Kogis to ensure a better future for our planet.
THE RIO ANCHO in the Kogis’ territory, SIERRA NEVADA, COLOMBIA
ABOUT THE KOGIS
The Kogis are the last surviving civilisation from the days of the Inca and Aztec. Direct descendents of the Tayrona culture, who inhabited the Sierra Nevada prior to the Spanish Conquest. Following the conquest, its population of around one million inhabitants began to decrease to the point that it almost disappeared.
At present, four indigenous communities that preserve their ancient traditions amount to about 30,000 people. They are the Kogis, 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 Kogi have been living in the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta mountains on the Caribbean coast of Colombia since around 1000 AD when the Caribs invaded the country.
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 Kogis 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 Kogis 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 natives, 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 Kogi refer to themselves as elder brothers and express concern that non-indigenous outsiders, the younger brothers, are plundering and dismembering the Earth. Their message to the world is timely and poignant: that our ways of exploiting and destroying nature is bringing rapid ecological collapse that will harm the entire world and which they can see evidenced in form of prolonged droughts and disappearing glaciers in their own mountains.
Water means everything to the Kogi, a true living being, the blood that circulates in the veins. Imprisoning water in dams seems inconceivable, it’s like making a withers. The relationship of the Kogi with the sea is totally different: they compare it to the amniotic fluid of the mother earth and consider that it is not made for swimming. When they walk to the sea, they turn around on themselves as a greeting.
For the Kogis, everything is balance and harmony. If we upset this balance on the planet, ecological disasters follow, such as earthquakes, droughts, floods, hurricanes, etc… They fear, and they are not wrong, that we little brothers will destroy everything on the planet. Our elder brothers believe that it is their responsibility to watch over the balance of the planet. When ecological disasters strike the world, spiritual authorities carry out large “Pagamento” (offerings) marches, with the aim of restoring balance and returning to the planet what was taken from it.
THE NEED FOR A BRIDGE
Jimmy and Alejo with his two children are sharing their concerns about the crossing of the river.
the KogiS believe they exist to care for the world – a world they fear we are destroying
“We are now living outside of the laws of nature where nature is now turning against man and becoming the enemy. Climate change is the consequence of the fact that man is operating outside the laws of life and laws of nature, law of the balance of the world. And doing so will destroy the balance.” –Kogi
The Kogis 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’s 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
ALUNA – An ecological warning by the Kogis people.
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 the Jimmy Correa who took us immediately under his wing, introducing us to their incredible community. We stayed with the Kogi’s 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 Kogis our gratitude for their hospitality but more-so, we wish to show our gratitude for their contribution to our planet.
Twenty-years ago, the construction of a suspended bridge above the Rio Ancho began taking place. This bridge is vital for the transportation of food, animals, products etc across different villages. Due to the 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.
We decided that it was now a perfect time to bring together the artistic community to get the necessary funding to give life to 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.
Fondation Aliika’ajaya – Comunidad Wayuu Makuu