“Beyond El Dorado: power and gold in ancient Colombia”

November 7, 2013

Tairona Namsiko

The British Museum exhibition, “Beyond El Dorado: power and gold in ancient Colombia” advertises itself with a picture of an astonishing Tairona gold piece.

It is described as an “anthropomorphic pectoral”.

When making my original film, I asked the Cacique Mama, Mama Valencia, which object from the Gold Museum the Kogi would most like to have.  One like this was chosen, and Cano, who is selling replicas at the exhibition shop, made one for the Kogi.

When I presented Mama Valencia with the gold figure which Cano had made, he sat silently holding it for a long time. It had tiny golden leaves suspended from the points of the shapes around its head. He stared at it intently, shaking it gently so that the leaves quivered in the sun. He knew exactly what it was.

It is Namsiko. It belongs to Sintana.

He explained that the figure represents one of the world-creating sons of the Mother, and that the spirals above the head are eight of the nine worlds in aluna. The figure itself, or elements of its dress, signifies the ninth world. The birds on its head are condors.

Namsiko is a chief. The birds, the snakes, the jaguars, they’re all like the vassals of Namsiko. He was chief of all the animals and all the birds. He was their chief. First came the earth, then came Namsiko, and then he was in charge of everything. When they first started to make gold, Namsiko was there, making the pots to house the gold.

This is what was lost. This is one of our secret objects that they took. It looks just like one of the secret objects we had before. It looks like it but is not the same.

The Elder Brothers had these objects but the Younger Brother came and he set dogs on us and as we ran in terror we dropped them and the dogs got hold of them. It is like the objects they took but it is not the same.

The Elder Brother had seven of these but they took them all. They set dogs on us and we were terrified and as we ran we didn’t think and since they followed us we left our bags behind. Where did they get this?

Now this is making me sad. It hurts me because it reminds me of what we have lost. Down below they have robbed so much. That is how it is that in Bogota there are so many gold pieces in the Museum. It was Serankua who made this gold.

We had special things, objects, and when we fled like that in terror they took our things and started to use them to rob tombs. And then they even started to come up here and rob tombs. On the paths there were sentinels of gold and they dug them out and took them.

Down below by the sea there were the Mothers of yucca and sugar cane, of bananas, of trees, all the trees, and all the birds. Younger Brother started to dig them out. Younger Brother learned how to rob tombs and they started to dig all the Mothers out. That gold down below – it was like seeds in a field. Serankua planted it there but the Younger Brother started to steal it.

All our gold pieces and stone beads should live in pots, but now they are scattered. Imagine if you were thrown out of your home and had to sleep outside, it’s just like that. Serankua said that all things should have their houses. We see them as pots but Serankua made them as houses; the Great Mother created all things in their pots. She created the Younger Brother too in a pot, but the Younger Brother does not think about that any more, he only destroys. The Mother made everything, she made the Mothers of all things, and now they have been taken and destroyed. The Mothers of the trees, of the birds, of the animals, of the people, everything has been destroyed. The Mother of the birds was a little bird in gold kept in a jar, the Mother of the jaguar was a little jaguar. And all of them lived in their pots, all of them have been taken.

So I bring offerings to the Mothers, but what do I do? I leave them by the empty holes where they used to live. Perhaps they can still receive them, perhaps they can’t. But what else can I do? What else can be done? And I want to know what the Younger Brother thinks of this. Does he think it is good, what he has done?’

Alan Ereira

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