Due to various influences from modern civilization, the culture of the forest nations has been suppressed or is almost extinct, with disastrous consequences not only for the natives but also for the forest in the Amazon region. AMAZONICA promotes the revitalization of the respective cultures in order to strengthen the tribal identity and to improve living conditions in the tribal lands.
Our activities in detail
Takes place in the local elementary schools by experienced natives who are still familiar with the traditions. As this concept has proved to be successful, we are expanding this cooperation into new villages and groups (in addition to education regarding agriculture and freshwater supply).
Arts and crafts
Depending on the cultural background of the indigenous peoples, the arts and crafts practiced by women and men differ widely.
Pottery is almost always a woman’s affair, while carving is left to the men. Making ornaments, weaving and braiding is shared by both genders. The crafts are not only decorative but are also useful in everyday life in the village and they also can be sold. The members of AMAZONICA and the visitors of the academy are good customers, among others.
Dancing, songs, musical instruments
These traditions are performed in different ways, depending on the tribe. While the Achuar do not have any festivities except for the successful return of their warriors, the neighboring Shuar never miss an opportunity to celebrate. Whether it is the ripened fruit of the Chonta palm or a successfully treated snake bite – everything results in a traditional celebration.
Dancing and singing often occur without musical accompaniment. The women accompany their dances with their own singing. Homemade instruments are played by the men – mostly flutes and drums. Stringed instruments resembling violins are probably replications of instruments brought by the missionaries.
The men are the primary, and fantastic, storytellers. They pass on legends about gods, humans and animals from their original, animist beliefs. These stories are told in chapter sections as in the Arabian Nights and are often much more violent. It is important for the legends to be passed on, either orally or in a written manner, as they perfectly illustrate the close bond between mankind and nature. A real forest native is always linked to nature and the powers of the rainforest.
Traditional rites and social practises
As in other cultures worldwide, tribal rites have developed from local conditions and experiences. They are influenced by other factors such as natural medicine, the comparatively isolated location in the forest, the urge to prevent incest, and others. Knowing and cultivating particular spiritual rites and traditional social practices is of fundamental importance to the life in the forest. Certainly, some traditions need to be adjusted to a more modern life in the communities and have received some modification.
Maintaining traditional language
An individual language is an integral part of each living culture. For indigenous peoples who are just about to integrate into another civilization, it is increasingly important to be able to express all the newly acquired knowledge, including technical terms, in their mother language. The Achuar language, for instance, has only been passed on verbally so far, even though it contains very complex grammar and vocabulary. AMAZONICA’s project manager, Uyunkar Domingo Peas Nampichkai, finished his studies in pedagogy at the University of Cuenca with a thesis about his mother tongue, Achuar. The thesis is the first written documentation on Achuar language. Domingo Peas and Mascha Kauka are continuing this work.
Integration of all age groups
Indigenous families used to live in harmony in their extended families, no matter how old their members were. By destroying the traditional way of life and starting state operated, public schooling, the gap between “culture” and “modern life” is growing. AMAZONICA tries to close the gap by rejuvenating the traditions, which leads to a growing appreciation for the older generation. Our motto is: “The traditional knowledge of the illiterate grandparents is just as valuable as their grandchildren’s high school diplomas.”