The lost tribe that is trying to save the world

More than 20 years ago, Alan Ereira made a film about an elusive Colombian people who changed how he saw the universe. A follow-up has an urgent warning for mankind

Tue, Dec 10, 2013, 01:00

Hidden connections
The word “aluna” means “the mind”. The Kogi say that all things have a hidden connection, deriving from their common creation, which the mamas are trained to perceive and support. They speak of “working in aluna”, a process that Ereira describes as “the concentrated thought and memory which forms a bridge between the human spirit and the universe”.

The Kogi believe that aluna, which contains both memory and potential, is also a metaphysical world that governs the physical world’s fertility, and the mamas work to preserve that fertility, in the mind and on a more material level by, for example, performing ritual offerings at specific sites.

Many indigenous peoples worldwide share these two concepts, of an accessible spiritual dimension to the universe and of ritual payment for what is taken from the Earth. Within living memory here in Ireland, Blasket Island fishermen passing a rock that’s still known as An Seanduine (The Old Man) would throw a pinch of tobacco into the ocean, to invoke protection and as thanks for their catch.

Aluna trailer

Ereira, who will be at the Dún Chaoin centre for the premiere, reckons it’s the perfect venue. The people of the Gaeltacht retain a sense of communal memory and respect for oral tradition. For centuries their island and mainland communities lived with an awareness and understanding of their environment that was both practical and spiritual; and the traditions and customs of the past, though not necessarily still practised, are still passed on in a rich heritage of story, proverb and song. To Ereira, that heritage is important.

Although global distribution deals for cinema and television have been signed, the Kogi want worldwide, non-commercial screenings, initiated from within farming and fishing communities, and promoted online.

Ereira says it’s also important that fishermen and farmers, young and old, will be part of the Blasket Centre’s invited audience, and their voices should be listened to as carefully in the ensuing discussion as those of the environmentalists, politicians and policy-makers.

The Kogi are afraid, he repeats, but they’re also hopeful. Aluna contains both memory and potential. Potentially, we could still work together and get things right.

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