Jacob Balzani Lööv (b. 1977) is an Italian photographer and writer based between Milan and Zurich. He is primarily interested in underreported social and environmental issues, and he feels the need to communicate these stories through any suitable media. He views his journalistic work as a form of activism; one in which people are informed in an equal and truthful way. In 2012, he graduated from the London College of Communication’s Photojournalism and Documentary Photography department. Curious about the processes and the links between different systems, in 2003 he graduated with a degree in Environmental Sciences. His love for the mountains then pushed him to work with the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Jungfraujoch (3580 m asl.), which is the highest research station in the Swiss Alps. In 2007, the data he collected on the transport of air pollutants across the planet allowed him to attain a PhD. Deeply attracted to global events, after observing during his numerous journeys just how fast and dramatically the world was changing, he decided to stop his scientific work and fully commit himself to photography. Jacob Balzani Lööv works for several NGOs (non-governmental organizations) worldwide, often in places that are difficult to access. His work appeared on several international media.
The Nation of Visionaries - In the Peruvian Amazon a newborn country is ready to defend its territory
Summary: On the 2nd of May 2017 the autonomous government of the Wampis nation will present itself to the Peruvian National Congress. It is the first indigenous nation in the Amazon and how the Peruvian state will respond to the Wampis' self-declared autonomy may set an historical precedent.
An historical decision was taken last year in Soledad, a small village of Rio Santiago, 1,500 km north-east of the Peruvian capital Lima. Around 200 representatives of the indigenous Wampis people announced the formation of the Autonomous Territorial Government of the Wampis Nation, the first of its kind in the whole Amazon, with its own constitution, parliament and executive organs. “We will still be Peruvian citizens”, -says one of their visionary leaders, Andres Noningo, 62, “but now we have our own government responsible for our own territory; This will enable us to protect ourselves from companies and politicians who only are able to see gold and oil in our rivers and forests.” In Peru there has always been a mutual distrust between indigenous people and the government, as evidenced by the ‘massacre of Bagua’ in 2009: the approval of new laws, facilitating access to the indigenous lands for extractive industries, sparked protests, which ended in the killing of over 30 indigenous people and policemen. State concessions and recurrent hydropower projects are not the only threats to the Wampis territory: a rotten 40 year old oil pipeline of the state company Petroperu is leaking more and more each year, while illegal gold miners are on the verge of transforming this unspoiled land into another Peruvian nightmare like Madre de Dios. Not all the dangers come from the outside. After decades of cultural homogeneization, a lot of the indigenous knowledge is at risk of being forgotten and the Constitution of the Wampis Nation aims at its preservation. It is a culture that reveals the deep attachment of this people to nature. For them, forests and mountains are sacred, hiding waterfalls where aspiring visionary warriors search for guidance during the ritual of Ayahuasca but today young people are confused and disorientated between the model of a consumer society, learned at school and the traditional values taught by their parents. Protecting these forest is not only interest of the Wampis: Amazonian forests are nicknamed ‘the lungs of the planet’ for their capacity to fix carbon dioxide and mitigate climate change. Today visionary warriors have become ‘statesman’, setting a new precedent in the Amazon by forming an autonomous indigenous government. On the 2nd of May 2017 the newborn nation presented itself to the Peruvian National Congress. A series of other indigenous groups is preparing similar initiatives and how the Peruvian state will respond to the Wampis’ self-declared autonomy may set an historic precedent.
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The inaugural European Games opened in the Azerbaijani capital Baku on the 12th June, 2015. A continent-wide sporting extravaganza costing an estimated $10bn featuring 6,000 athletes from over 50 different countries. As is so often said, sport is above politics. But for one national team competing in Baku, that could hardly be further than the truth.
In 1991, as the Soviet Union began to crumble, simmering tensions between Armenia and Azerbaijan over the contested territory of Nagorno-Karabakh erupted into full-scale war. The mountainous lands where Muslim Azeris and Christian Armenians used to live together in relative harmony, had become a source of dispute thanks in large part to divide and rule strategies by the Russian, and then Soviet, empires. When fighting finally subsided in 1994 following a Russian-brokered ceasefire, over 100,000 had been killed and Karabakh became de-facto state administered by Armenia but not officially recognised by any countries in the world. Azerbaijan lost 20% of its territory, including land outside of the Nagorno-Karabakh hotspot, which is internationally recognised as occupied Azeri territory.
Although Armenians and Azeris meet peacefully around the world, they are practically banned from each other’s countries and the level of mutual hostility is comparable to Israel-Palestine. The European Games in Baku is the biggest sporting event ever hosted in the South Caucasus and for both sides, there is huge pressure for their athletes to better the opposing team. For the Azeris, it means a victory over the ‘occupiers’ to whom they lost the war, for Armenians, the chance to raise their flag and sing their anthem in the enemy capital has incredible symbolic power. So much for the Olympic truce.
Meanwhile, despite a ceasefire in place, villagers living on both sides of the Armenia-Azerbaijan border live in the shadow of sniper positions, and endure regular exchanges of fire. Far away from the capitals of Yerevan and Baku, people here speak respectfully of their brothers on the other side and express their frustration that their governments prolong and provoke endless conflict.
In a little-known region, a forgotten conflict divides peoples that in living memory were neighbours and friends. With no direct dialogue between the warring states and no progress by international institutions, many people ominously warn of a renewed conflict which could devastate the region and catch the world by surprise.
As the athletes face each other in Baku, (ironically both sides excel in fighting sports such as boxing and wrestling), the mantra of sport as an apolitical tool for peace risks being overshadowed by raw geopolitics, and an opportunity for nationalism and chauvinism to be exhibited, in a region which can ill afford more.
By February Maidan became a de facto independent state and it appeared more like a military camp than the home of non-violent protests it has been during the beginning. Protesters had to learn to defend themselves to withstand the increasing violence of the police. They protected their identity with balaclavas and they started to wear armors and shields. Everybody could bring its help to Maidan and if they wanted to be part of security they were assigned to a self-defence unit (Samoobrona Maidanu). There will be more than 40 different units composed by roughly hundred persons each. Dasha, 18, a student of social journalism, was assigned to the 14th: “I was just gathering under the stage and hoping for a better world, then I realized this wasn’t enough”, she says. “I understood I am the only responsible for my own future. I grew into a real soldier. I would have given my life for the 14th, and they would have done the same for me.”
Different people compose the 14th, many are young and several are part of the Young Nationalist Congress, a youth organization for free and independent Ukraine, which was on the square since the beginning, when they came hand over to President Yanukovych signatures for a referendum to enter in Europe. Volodimir, 49, an engineer, decided to come from Lviv especially because of the large presence of young people: “I felt somebody older should stay beside them”. Many of the older people had military experience acquired during their compulsory military in Soviet time. They were sent to places like Angola or Syria and now feel the responsibility to teach what they know to the younger ones. Igor, 48, was one of the few not hiding his face : “Why should I? I still have my American passport.” He used to live for a long time in the US but when he decided to come back and open a small construction business in his own country he lost everything because of corruption.
Following the arrest of many protesters between January and February, the 14th Sotnia was involved, mainly in picketing actions outside police stations. Nobody expected the revolution would have been so long and so hard. When on the 18th of February they marched toward the Parliament, they were badly defeated and many of them were hospitalized. On the 20th when protesters were being shot, they were still recovering from the previous days and they were ordered to remain in their building. There was nothing they could have done without weapons against snipers.
“These last days were really terrifying, it was as if everything happened over only half a day. Everything overlaps,” recalls Olesja, 19. “If I would have been killed in this revolution I don’t think it would have been for nothing. It was much more than overthrowing Yanukovych: We realized how Ukrainians are good, generous and helpful to each other. I think people are ready now, they learn they can change things by themselves, and they would come again and again in the square to protest if needed.”
Just few days before the start of the Football World Cup in Brazil, a little-known tournament had already been completed, and the champion was a nation that stretches across portions of France and Italy that ceased to exist 150 years ago: Contea de Nissa.
The CONIFA World Cup is an alternative international football tournament featuring 12 teams representing internationally unrecognized nations and peoples. Competitors include teams from places like Abkhazia, Darfur, Kurdistan, and elsewhere. The tournament was held in the Swedish city of Ostersund, which is located on land that is part of the the historic region of Sapmi, or Lapland, the ancestral lands of the indigenous Sami people of Scandinavia. For CONIFA founder Pers-Anders Lund, the tournament is about giving representation to the world's ubiquitous underrepresented nations.
“There is no prize in cash, players that normally just represent local clubs are now competing for their whole region, for their blood and flesh, they are bringing home pride and dignity for their people," explained Lund. "There are 80 millions Tamils and 40 millions Kurds who don't have a national team to support in Brazil.”
Every year since 2004, over 300 young men and women aged between 17 and 28 years old from the Young Nationalist Congress (MNK), an organization promotes Ukrainian nationalism, fight in extreme conditions for 60 hours in the middle of a western Ukrainian forest, between the villages of Gurba and Antonivtsi. The game takes place where the Ukrainian Revolutionary Army (UPA) fought the Red Army in 1944.
The rules derive from Zarnitsa (Summer Lightning), a game commonly played during Soviet times by the Young Pioneers (a Soviet organization similar to Scouts). Two teams have to defeat each other by capturing the other team's flag. Despite the intensity of the fight, injuries are minor. Punches and weapons are forbidden. A referee makes sure that no rules are broken and collects the colored ribbons, which are velcroed on the players’ arms and symbolize their “life”.
According to its website (http://gurby.org.ua), the game aims at training and preparing the youth in case of military intervention by Ukraine’s Eastern neighbors.
This year’s event was tainted by the Ukrainian revolution. Many of the players have been protesting in Maidan Square for months.
Ousted President Viktor Yanukovych was known for his extravagant lifestyle. The Ukrainian government has seized some of the former presidentâ€™s properties alleged to have been acquired through corruption. Among the items found was a dog breeding operation. In his 137 hectares property in Mezhyhirya, Ukraineâ€™s former leader had built a compound, which included breeding and surgery rooms, a beauty salon, a gym, and rooms for the staff who had to be present 24/7. This photo essay offers an unprecedented tour of Viktor Yanukovychâ€™s extravagant kennel, where some dog trainers still live and take care of the animals.
Nikolai Garus, 34, and Petrov Verena, 43, used to work as dog trainers in Yanukovychâ€™s Kennel. They decided to stay as volunteers on the kennel to take care of the dogs after Yanukovych left. "These dogs are our life", Nikolai says. "They grew up with us and we are the only ones who know how to take care of them. They were crying all day after Yanukovych left. We had to keep the dogs inside the kennel because they were not used to the hundreds of thousand people who came to visit the property after it has been open to the public. But they quickly got used to the new situation", he adds.
Nikolai and Petrov insist they come from the cities of Chernihiv and Khmelnytski, north and west of Kiev. "There were so many people saying that people working in Mezhyhirya were all from Crimea or Donetsk, but that is not true", Petrov says. "Yanukovych was just choosing the most qualified people in the country."
According to the trainers, the former president preferred to breed massive dogs. The smallest one is Antei, an English Mastiff. The other sixteen are gigantic Shepherds from the Caucasus or Central Asia. Ken a beautiful red-coated Tibetan Mastiff belongs to one of rarests and expensive breeds in the world. In 2011, a similar dog was sold for more than 1 million euros. Yanukovych, who used to keep only a small Chihuaua in his gigantic wooden mansion, was visiting the dogs only once or twice a week: "He was always very busy but the dogs knew when he was coming because we they felt we were preparing for the occasion", says Petrov, while proudly showing a room full of trophies from international canine competitions attended by both dogs and trainers. Yanukovych and his guests used to sit in this to watch the rare breed dogs exercising in a large field beside the Dnieper River. â€śYanukovych also used puppies as giftsâ€ť, Nikolai recalls, as he shows showing the certificates of two English Mastiffs who were offered to the Chinese President.
"Maintaining the kennel, as the whole property, is extremely expensive", says 51 year-old Igor Priyemskiy, who is part of a self-defense unit in Maidan Square and currently helping with the financial management of the property. "We found documents that shows it cost 3.5 million Euro a month and now we are struggling to find the 30 000 Euro needed to pay a reduced salary to the 80 persons who still work on the property. Not to mention the electricity and gas bills!" he says. Several proposals have been made for the future use of the property. One of them was to convert it to a rehabilitation center for children. But the government says it take care of it at the moment because of the current political crisis.
Following the river Dnepr, 500 km east of Kiev, sits the city of Dnepropetrovsk, with its million inhabitants. Famous for a forbidden city during the Soviet time where rockets and nuclear weapons were built, now, remaining heavily industrial, it is known as one of the strongholds of Ukrainian President Yanukovich in Eastern Ukraine.
Regardless of this fact, hundreds of protesters meet every day in Europe Square to show their support to the occupation of Maidan Nezalezhnosti (Independence Square), the main square in the capital, which has been occupied since end of November to protest the turn of Yanukovich on the signature of an association agreement in Vilnius, an important step toward European integration. Pictured in the following photo essay are unique shots of the people of this eastern city, both those who support the protest movement in Kiev and those who are against it.
Following the river Dnepr, 500 km east of Kiev, sits the city of Dnepropetrovsk with its million inhabitants. Famous for being, during Soviet time a forbidden city, where rockets and nuclear weapons were built, now, remaining heavily industrial, is one of the strongholds of Ukrainian president Yanukovich in Eastern Ukraine.
Regardless of this fact, hundreds of protesters meet every day in Europe square to show their support to the occupation of Maidan Nezalezhnosti (Independence Square), the main square in the capital, which has been occupied since end of November to protest the turn of Yanukovich on the signature of an association agreement in Vilnius, an important step toward European integration. What was initially a demand to reconsider the agreement, became a firm request to Yanukovich to resign. Maxim Goshovski, 25, just came back from Kiev, where he brought support, together with 50 other fellow citizens who live in a tent on Maidan, during the violent riots of Hrushevskoho Street.
The protests in Dnepropetrosk were more peaceful, reminding the ones in Kiev during the month of december. Actions included picketing of some of Yanukovich properties, such as the supermarket chain Epi-Centre. During the weekend, the number of protesters grew to several hundred people, with women and children marching towards the City Hall and handing flowers to the riot policemen who surrounded it. To quantify their absolute number is difficult because, as Vitaly Fylovyat, 24, says, the people in Dnepropetrovsk do not like to share their opinion in general, and now there is definitely fear to express them. Stepan Klimov, 37, normally a IT manager and acting as a blogger for the protest, was brought into a tent and beaten. “ They were "Titushkas" (government hired thugs), they saw on which side I was and they wanted to give me a lesson,” he said.
In the Regional Library every week, Anton Rusanov, 28, gathered several NGOs to guide a discussion about the current situation to try to prevent a further radicalization of the conflict. “We are not pro-government but we would like to have a stable one, our way of influencing politics is through dialogue, not through riots and disorders,” he said. The reciprocal mistrust on both sides is growing and they both accuse the media to be biased. Anton showed the listeners a video of the main moment of violence in Dnepropetrovsk, the day when a group of anti-government “Ultras” tried to break into the City Hall, in which a person is wildly beaten by a group of masked men. “As you can see anti-government supporters show only the last part of the video, without the beginning in which a large number of anti-government radicals are slowly gathering together with peaceful anti-Maidan protesters and nobody, even policemen, did anything.”
Egor Slavianov, 25, a trainer expert in Mixed Martial Arts, raised his hand and said that the chairman was right, he was personally there with his group of friends, which he calls the People Militia (Narodonoe Opolcenie): “Our group is for maintaining peace and security in our city, we are not pro-government or with the right sector, we are neutral but we don’t want to have violence in the streets and we try to prevent it, that’s why we tried to stop armed people from mixing with the peaceful protesters. We later helped defending the city hall. People often called us Titushki but we are not. There are Titushki and the government uses them as provocators, but we don’t like them too.”
This kind of support is particularly encouraged by the government and the Mayor of Dnepropetrovsk, Ivan Kulichenko, through a City Hall decree, that formalized these sportsmen militias. There are now 82 different formations who have rights to ask for documents, bring people to the police stations and use any kind of weapons except guns.
The situation fell uncertain and in Eastern Ukraine, the richest part of the country, where most of the large industries are located, many factory workers support Yanukovich. One of these supporters are Eughenyi Valdimirovich, 60, a recently retired employee of a large mechanical factory, who explained, “It makes more sense to us to have an economical relationship with Russia, we sell to them and we also get their energy to run our factories.” There is a large fear that these obsolete factories would have to close down, if entering in Europe, because they wouldn’t comply with European ISO standards. “I really don’t like what is happening in Kiev”, Eughenyi continues, “the protesters wants to be in Europe without using any European method at all and we need stability, not chaos”.
Pavlov Vasily, 42, a university technician, is definitely for a strong government: “If I will not vote for Yanukovich again, it will be for the way he handled this protests. In Europe they would have never allowed people to occupy the main square of the country, it would have been quickly repressed. Yanukovich is a self-made man, our American dream, and yes, he has his own interest and he acts like an oligarch. But isn’t it the Italian ex-president Berlusconi an oligarch too? But people still vote for him and in a democracy you should respect this. I don’t like to live in an unstable situation like and if safety come at the price of freedom then I really wouldn’t mind if Ukraine would be like Belarus.”
"Here Kabul 2, copy."
In the frigid night, a man in uniform speaks into the radio beside a military tent. But this is not Afghanistan. It is the centre of Kiev where, since November 21, protesters have been occupying Maidan Square. Almost a thousand of these demonstrators are Ukrainian miltary veterans who, as part of the Soviet Army, took part in different conflicts the USSR was engaged in around the globe before its dissolution, particularly in Afghanistan. This is also known as Soviet Union’s "Vietnam," where the USSR fought one of its bloodiest conflicts to date, between 1979 and 1789. This massive unrest in Ukraine that started initially as a demand to President Viktor Yanukovych to reconsider his decision of no longer committing to integration with the European Union has now turned into more of a demand for his resignation.
Andrei, who once served in Kabul for 19 months, still does not understand the reasons behind Yanukovych's decision to attack and injure unarmed students on November 30. “If they would not have attacked, the protest would have dissolved. Before I came to watch, then I came to remain to defend my own people against a President which behaves as a dictactor. We want a democratic country where people have real rights, like Europe."
Andrei, along with tens of thousands of others began living in Maidan Square in tents, occupying buildings and buses, warming themselves with firewood and listening to the never-ending music and speeches which run day and night on the main stage of Maidan Square. According to the commander on the ground of the Afghanistan’s Veterans, Oleg, 49, this all happened without any prior organization or connection with politics. “Veteran individuals just met on the square, they recognised each other, they organized themselves and they chose me as their coordinator. We are currently around 1,000 and we all have the same vision, in which a government should not use force against its own people. And so we put ourselves, experienced soldiers, who know the price of life, blood and death, in the middle.”
After a surprise attack on the night of December 11 and into the early morning of the 12 after Yanukovych's promise to European Union representative Catherine Ashton that he would not use force to disperse the protesters, the occupiers have become more organized, building strong barricades with snow and organizing shifts to defend the people. The system works in a sort of anarchy with the different defence groups, of which Afghanistan’s Veterans are the largest, having a dialogue on the ground as situations happen.
Every night, when the fear of attacks is highest, veterans patrol the area within and around Maidan Square. Since the major risk at the moment is that the government will use agent provocateurs to promote disorder or to give a wrong idea of what is happening in Maidan Square, veterans also control suspect people, and whenever found, bring them to the police.
Roberto Gonzales Ana Maria, 58. Comunidad de Guayabal (Rio Santiago). Technico infermiero and member of the Consejo de Savios de la Nation Wampis.
Lola Tuwiran Juhuo, 42. Comunidad de Galilea (rio Santiago). Former coordinator of Wampis Women (Fechorsa). Consejo de Savios de la Nation Wampis.
Segundo Sinley Tukup Wigui, 47, Comunidad de Ankuash sul Rio Morona, Presidente de Asociacion Nativa Ankuash?
Alejandro Wajai,52, Comunidad de Panguana (Rio Santiago).
Tercerp Gonzales Ana Maria, 46. Irunin de la comunidad de Guayabal (Rio Santiago).
Elena, 45, and Rebolio Garcia, 52, respectively Womens Leader and former President of the Indigenous Federation of Rio Morona (OSHDEM). Saphaja community (Rio Morona).
Viviana Zamarein Wajuiat, 35. Lederesa de Boca Chinganasa. Consejo de savios?
The site of illegal mining of Pastacillo is invaded by protesters. Miners, previously alerted, hided the machines and suspended their activity for few days.
The chief of the police receives his warrior face painting, as a sign he is an ally in the fight against illegal gold mining.
Children sleep during the farewell party of the assembly of the Wampis Nation. As expected, illegal gold miners returned to the Pastacillo site and a new action of the Wampis government has to be expected. The Autonomous Wampis Government notified the National Congress of Peru about its intention to self-rule its ancestral territory.
Shuar girls chat with the phone on the Ecuadorian side of Rio Santiago. The presence of a road has accelerated the loss of identity: many indigenous people forgot their languages, houses have doors and lockers, cattle farming and logging are more widespread. The project to build a road through the Wampis territory was part of a reconciliation project after the last war between Ecuador and Peru in 1995, but has been heavily resisted by the Wampis, and is, for now, abandoned.
A graffiti in Santa Maria de Nieva remembering the convention 169 of the International Labour Organisation. It reads: âThe indigenous people have the right to choose their model of developmentâ. Established in 1989, ILO-convention 169 is the first international law that recognizes and protects indigenous peoplesâ land ownership rights, and sets a series of binding minimum standards regarding consultation and consent. Ratified by most of South America, including Peru, it is a forerunner of the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.
Following the first act of ruling of the Wampis government, 150 warriors head towards the illegal gold mining site of Pastacillo on Rio Santiago. The Peruvian government is currently engaging a much publicised fight against illegal miners, searching and destroying their equipment, but it seems to be ineffective. The Wampis government demands the power to patrol its territory to guarantee a quicker official intervention by Peruvian state agencies.
Teenagers drinking and vomiting ayauascha. Incited by their families they will have to drink 20 or more litres of liquid to increase the chances of acquiring a vision. The vision often is conveyed as a secret message by an ancestral spirit taking the form of an animal like a boa, a jaguar or an hummingbird. Not everyone obtains it immediately and the whole process might have to be repeated several times. These visions are seen as predictions of the future and will lead the warriors for the rest of their life. Knowing their future, warriors will have no fear in battles or confronting daily life.
Children of a primary school during a class about traditional fishing. Barbasco (Lonchocarpus urucu), a smashed root, is mixed with water to poison the fishes, which are then finished with machetes and harpoons. This was the main way of fishing in the past, when nets were not known, but is still widely used today. In recent years, as proposed by Wampis people, classes are complemented with teachings about their traditions.
Shuar youth from the Ecudorian side of Rio Santiago rehearse for a traditional dance during an Ecuador-Peru binational meeting. The Shuar belong to the same ethnic group as the Wampis, sharing language and culture. Three times in the last century (in 1941, 1981, 1995) both sides have been forced to fight in the armies of their governments, in the Peru-Ecuador border wars.
Children during a primary class in Soledad. School classes, taught in Spanish and in Wampis language, are a strong force of cultural homogenisation, teaching values of a consumeristic society. By contrast Wampis people grow up with an intimate connection with nature and a deep faith that the natural world will provide for all their needs. Education is guaranteed and encouraged by the Peruvian government but higher education is expensive and is possible only in far away cities.
Jorge ZukankÃ¡, 47, collects ayahuasca vine (Banisteriopsis caapi) for a ritual. Together with tobacco and toÃ© (also known as datura, Brugmansia suaveolens), ayahuasca is used as an hallucinogenic substance to obtain visions and generate a contact with God (Arutam). These plants are also commonly used as a medicine for their purgative and antiparasitic properties.
Teenagers resting in a tambo, a construction quickly made with leaves in the forest. They have to spend three days in the forest, fasting, before being introduced to ayahuasca. If during the ceremony they will achieve a vision, they will become visionary warriors.
Visions are essential to the culture of Wampis people, as explained by Andres Noningo, 62: âOur ancestor noticed that the animals speak and even the earth moves and they asked where do these animals come from? What is the origin of the air we breathe, who looks after the trees? What is the origin of life? To seek wisdom our visionaries would spend up to three months in the forest. They taught us that every animal and tree are people just like us and have their guardians which protect them. This is why our ancestors were able to teach us where the animals live, where they reproduce, which lands are fertile and which are unproductive, where we should make a farm and how to hunt with respect, using our anent, sacred songs that ensure we treat all living beings withÂ dignity.â
Kefren Grana, 45, a former teacher, is the Minister of education of the Wampis Nation.Today young people are confused and disorientated between the model of a consumer society learned at school and the traditional values taught by their parents. Kefren promotes the use of hallucinogenic plants fundamental to re-establish a connection with nature: âAyahuasca, tobacco and toe are our university.
An old man building a trap for ground birds, a construction that can take up to two days and is accompanied by traditional songs. If in the past hunting was performed with blowguns (pukuna), nowadays only few people remember how to prepare the poison, necessary to hunt larger animals, and the weapon of choice became the rifle.
Wreis Peres, 55, President (Pamuk) of the Autonomous Government of the Nation Wampis, asking new members to take the oath. The congress consists of 96 representatives from all the villages, the Constitution has 40 pages with detailed provisions on rights and duties of the government and the management of the territory and culture.
Members of different communities of the Wampis Nation mapping the traditional use of territory along the meandering Morona river. While the communities have parts of their land rights recognized by Peruvian legislation, this does not cover the entire extension of ancestral use (including foraging, hunting and vision seeking). The jurisprudence of the Inter-American Court of Human Rights protects the right of indigenous peoples to own and manage their territories, as defined by ancestral use.
People searching for mobile connection in Soledad. After more than 50 community meetings and 15 general assemblies, in this remote village, on the 29th of November 2015, came to life the Autonomous Indigenous Government of the Wampis Nation. It was announced to the world through the first e-mail ever sent from Soledad. Communication, mostly relying on radio stations and a network of governmental public satellite phones is playing an increasingly important role in the area.
Female leaders and Members of Parliament on their way to the Assembly of the Wampis Nation. The motivation for the new government grew out of environmental threats and the pending risks of extractive projects. Wampis were inspired to create the new government by the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.
Arrival of the delegations in San Juan de Morona for the Assembly of the Nation Wampis. The travel, by foot and boat, from different parts of the territory lasted up to 4 days.
A canoe navigates upstream the MaraÃ±on river towards the perilous Pongo of Manseriche, a scale for the level of the water helps evaluating the danger. Pongo is the Quechua name for rapids, while Manseriche means âthe frightening gorgeâ. The place has been made famous by Werner Herzog during the first attempt to film his Fitzcarraldo, in the upper MaraÃ±on, before being turned away by a pioneering indigenous organisation, the Consejo Awaruna-Wampis, in 1979. The project of a series of 20 dams has always been looming on the populations of the upper MaraÃ±on. While the minor ones are already in advanced stage of planning the realisation of the biggest one on the Manseriche would flood the whole Rio Santiago.
Crosses at the Pumping Station 6, on the North Peruvian Pipeline, remember the kidnapped policemen killed during the events of 2009 in Bagua. When, under the Peruvian President Alan Garcia, a set of laws facilitating access to the indigenous lands for the extractive industries, Wampis and Awahun people marched to the nearest city, Bagua, occupying on the way the Station 6 and blocking the main road, which connects the region to the coast. In the clashes that followed, when the police tried to free the road, 34 people, 24 policemen and 10 civilians lost their life. Indigenous organisations claim that, because of the many desaparecidos, the number of civilian can be up to ten times higher. Trials for responsibilities in the massacre are still undergoing.
âAfter the âMassacre of Baguaâ, the relation between the Peruvian Government and the indigenous organisations reached a low pointâ, -explains Andres Noningo, 62, member of the Council of the Elders of the Wampis Nation. âWhen the Peruvian government speaks about development,â -he continues, âthey mean the exploitation of our resources: gold, oil, wood. This threatens our livelihoods. Thatâs why we formed our autonomous government, to ensure a good life also for future generationsâ. The claimed âintegral territoryâ of the Wampis includes the underground â dwelling of Nunkui (mother earth) - and Nayaim (the sky), home of the ancestor spirits.
On a payday Michael Wampankito Ungum,25, walks the 13 km, which separate Mayuriaga, his community, from the oil spill. Michael is an MP in the Wampis government and works, as many others from its community, to clean the spill for the state oil company Petroperu. This branch of the obsolete North Peruvian Pipeline connects the Tigre region, 200km deeper into the Amazon, to the coast and it has largely overdue its lifetime, making oil spills more and more frequent.
People at work in the Mayuriaga oil spill. The disaster affected 30 km of quebrada before polluting the largest Rio Morona and affected all the downstream population. The work, still ongoing. will involve almost 500 people for one year. Every piece of soil and vegetation which has been in contact with the crude oil has to be destroyed.
A woman prepares masato in Mayuriaga. Petroperu is now distributing bottled water (right) and food to all the downstream communities. The Mayuriaga community is in the process of asking a compensation for the contamination of a part of territory fundamental for its survival.
Rogelio Padilla, 43, shows where his family chackra, used to be. âWe cultivated this land since the time of my grandfatherâ, -he says, âbut when illegal miners arrived they behaved as if the land was belonging to themâ. When a forest that could sustain generations is destroyed it impossible to quantify losses for he community.
A busy day in the town of La Poza on Rio Santiago. Situated few hours of navigation away from Santa Maria della Nieva, the only road access to Rio Santiago, the town is booming as a frontier place. Here indigenous people can exchange their money with products sold by settlers and miners can sell their gold.
A club in La Poza. The town has a thriving nightlife whereminers can easily spend their wage in beers. HIV and prostitution are reported as emerging problems.
A man pauses to drink masato, a beverage made of chewed and fermented yucca, during work in a chakra. Chakras are ancestral plots of land belonging to the community but temporarily used by individual families. During the day a family usually spend its time cultivating its chackra. Common harvests include banana and yucca, which constitute the core of the Wampis diet. Little cacao plantations are becoming common, allowing to monetise part of the production. Although money is not essential for survival, is useful to buy petrol for transport, clothes, solar panels and, increasingly, for the higher education of children.
A woman walks in the destroyed land along the quebrada Pastacillo.
Illegal gold miners use a draga to extract gold from sediments on the MaraÃ±on river. Aside the direct impact on the landscape, gold mining commonly involve the use of mercury, which contaminates waters as a waste and enters in the food chain. Gold mining is very attractive in the region of Rio Santiago where an estimated 20-120 grams could be harvested by similar machines in a day (between 600 and 3000 $), a large quantity of money in an economically marginalised region.
A family fishes in the upper âquebradaâ Ayampis, one of the many tributaries of Rio Santiago. Quebradas are key to the daily life of Wampis communities as a source of clean water and fishes. Food security is not a problem in the region, an healthy territory can sustain the entire population making their territory priceless. Wampis like to say that the forest is their âsupermarketâ. Amazonian forests are nicknamed âthe lungs of the planetâ for their capacity of fixing carbon dioxide and mitigate climate change. Research from Stanford University estimates that those forests store nearly 17bn tonnes of above-ground carbon, more than three times the USâ annual emissions.
Children play football under torrential rain in Soledad. Wampis families are very individualistic and were used to live dispersed in the forest. Only with the arrival of missionaries and schools in the 1960s they moved and formed communities around the school-buildings.