Heirs of the Boa: traditional dances of the Murui-Muina people (video)

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Today is the International Day of the World’s Indigenous Peoples, an annual celebration to promote and protect the rights of indigenous peoples worldwide.

Herederos de la Boa is a short documentary film that highlights the cultural richness of the Murui-Muina people of the Puerto Sabalo – Los Monos indigenous reserve of the Colombian Amazon.  The film focuses on their healing and harvest dance, the Dance of the Yadico. Such indigenous ceremonies illustrate the importance of traditional cultural practices as a means of knowledge transmission across generations.

In the Dance of the Yadico, both the cassava plant and the anaconda spirit are represented by a huge carved trunk known as the Yadico.  Within the village maloca (communal longhouse), using their feet, the tribal men rhythmically strike the trunk towards the floor, generating a resonating pulse during a dance that lasts all night. Preparations for the dance require 15 days and involve all members of the community.

For the Murui-Muina, beyond reinforcing community ties, there is special reason to celebrate the Yadico: they believe that through the dance, their shaman acquires extraordinary abilities to heal his community members and resolve longstanding disputes.
The documentary makes clear that Amazonian indigenous ceremonies can play a central role transmission of traditional ecological knowledge and thereby local conservation of biodiversity, increasing both sustainable resource use and cultural preservation. This ritual function is little understood by the general public and policymakers.
In the words of one Murui-Muina leader:
We dance to achieve harmony with nature. In this sense, we bring the spiritual world closer to our people. The dance masters are knowledge-keepers who have an understanding of the environment and its changes; when they summon a dance, they are doing so for the health of our people, because these dances cure the illnesses that are present in our territories.
We dance to share our knowledge with our children and youth. These dances serve the purpose of uniting the people and families that are dispersed in our lands, thus strengthening solidarity and harmony in our communities.
Now that is something to celebrate!

–Your friends at the Amazon Conservation Team

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