Day 1 – Wed 26 May
Up 3.45, leave 4.15. Turns out seats not reserved as cheapo ticket. Flight long and eventless. Peter Rawitscher, the anthroplogist who works with the Kogi, collects me. Beautiful room in Guillermo Rodriguez’s fabulous Villa Ludovica in Santa Marta. Guillermo was for a while the Trust’s helper in Santa Marta. Alex Asseili, an enthusiastic backer, is here, sleepy. He picked up a bug in Venezuela.
Day 2 -Thurs 27 May
Set out in OGT car, Chucho driving, at 11. There’s me, Peter, the wonderful anthropologist Sayo Ferro, the local producer Carlos, Alex and an OGT guy, Jose Mario. Held up on road by teachers’ demonstration. Break for lunch at roadside restaurant. Those who order chicken are presented with a bowl of chicken bits to share and a plastic glove each. I order meat, get a plancha (wooden board) and cutlery.
Arrive at 4, disembark at puesto de salud/toilet block/school area, totally brick, walk down steep path to very odd town. Huge thatched building on concrete slab with no walls, like Amazonian molucca, approx 80ft x 20ft. Kitchen inside, plus plastic chairs. Meeting in progress. Most houses rectangular, arranged down a main street. Some round houses and 2 nuhues.
Have to go to loma (meeting rock) for confesio with Mama Shiboulata. Each of us stand with a piece of cotton and think of how we came here and why. Then hand it in.
Meet Jorge Dib, a local guy committed to the Kogi, and 2 of his acolytes, Alan (was a suit salesman in Bogota) and his cousin Isaac (pyschology student at Miami). Jorge is with his friend Mama Luis, and the Mama’s son. We are all accommodated in a square thatched house walled with vertical posts slightly spaced apart like bars. Peter says it is a prison.
Jorge talks of work creating new springs, “seeding water” – says it takes 6 weeks – and making offerings with beads to restore nature, bring back animals. Mentions jaguar and tapir. Says this is achieved by pagamentos alone, no other work required. They are about to restore the archaeological site of Pueblito this way. They have been gathering materials and are about to re-bury Tairona pottery. Says he has been made responsible for care of an ezuama, a place that connects various sistes.
An OGT Kogi official, Jacinto, greets me, says we will talk in the morning, must consider work tonight. Santos, the head of OGT, says Mamas will talk in morning.
Day 3 -Fri 28 May
Summoned to another loma, with 2 rows of 6 stone seats facing each other, Mama Shiboulata is speaking in Kogi, sounds like he is explaining what we thought in our confesios. There are about 10 mamas, no jatukwas. I am asked to speak – Peter is not here, nor is our Kogi translator, Jacinto. so Alan does Spanish translation for a Kogi official called Manuel who translates for the Mamas. Carlos films using both cameras. I am asked to explain where the new film is at and say I now need to define what will be filmed, so need to have up to 3 mamas to work with. Jacinto suggests I film Jorge’s pottery reburial. I am free to film whatever I like, and will be supervised by Arregoces. Meeting ends oddly, with Isaac ploking himself in a mama seat and filming the mama opposite. Offence taken, Jacinto leaves. Jacinto is going to Washington to participate in a 2-week spiritual retreat.
Lunch talking to Arregoces. He is reluctant to say that he doesn’t believe in transcendant abilities of Mamas, and insists that cotton for confesio carries memory of thought of holder (must be special cotton grown high in Sierra), but is obviously very dubious. Sees mamas’ work as essentially community-based. Says film needed not only to defend sacred sites but to show new generation of Kogi what Mamas do, as they lose respect for traditional authority with rise of new authorities. Sees himself, in effect, as both the problem and its solution. Specifically rejects idea that work can easily be done seeding water – research must be done on whether the beads being returned actually belong where they are put, and whether the water produced will be good or bad water. Afterwards, Sayo tells me, Jorge Dib, who overheard, challenges this and says he has seen water produced in 6 weeks. Arregoces says that is not Mama work but magic, and can be bad. Jorge and his acolytes leave town. Peter and Sayo say they have really taken to Alex, who is discreet and well behaved.
Meeting in big house to discuss film. Led by Santos and Arregoces. Nothing much emerges. I repeat my demand for up to 3 mamas and specific locations. I am told all will be addressed at another meeting later.
That comes after dark. Now at last the chairs are in a circle, the meeting in Kogi, led by Santos. For the first time it feels real.
I am told the film will be at sites outside the reserve, both functioning and non-functioning. What do I think? I say good, but of course we must show the whole life of the Sierra for people to understand. Now I have to say exactly how much work the Mamas have to do and when. I say 3 days planning, then 6 weeks filming. Right – it will be Mama Pedro Juan from up high, another from lower, another from lower still.
When? I say let’s start light now. Can’t start for 10 days, says Santos, come back then. Doesn’t work for me. OK, he says, 1 month. I say I’ll look at my diary. We’re on a roll.
Day 4 – Saturday 29th May
Journey down. Carlos has used my computer to download from cameras – he leaves early and I find my computer gone. Eventually I discover he mistakenly packed it in Jose Mario’s bag, and he has left.
We travel with a stack of Kogis in the back of the vehicle. Back around 1 – lunch at PanAmerican. About 3.30 at Villa Ludovica. Alex crashes out – not well. For dinner I go at night with Guillermo for pizza.
Day 5 – Sunday 30th May
Election. I pay Guillermo 200,000 to take Alex & me to parque tairona. Total relax. Great lunch. Swim. I have to be careful as yesterday my shoulders burned through my t-shirt,
Evening dinner for Alex, Peter and myself at Sayo’s flat.
An Arhouaco is there fresh from involvement in a Hollywood movie called “The Chosen One”. A casting was held at Nabusimake, Kogis Wiwas and Ahuacos came. They were given a script – he had 5 lines – in English and Ika. They were taken through the audition, and had the story explained, by a Colombian beauty queen. They were told that although the director is a comedy movie maker this was not a comedy but a serious film inspired by my own documentary. Four of them were taken – one a mamo, another a comedy arhouaco.
The story is that they swim to the US to find the protagonist, a failed car salesman, and tell him he is the Chosen One to spread the Sierra message.
They have many adventures, he becomes convinced and ends up trying to save NY from the skyscrapers on behalf of the eagles. The Arhuacos did not consult or make payments, there was no community contract. When he saw me giggle he became pensive about whether this might not after all be a comedy. He has to go back to Hollywood on June 27 for the final filming. No filming in the Sierra – that is represented in Costa Rica. Meanwhile he has been imprisoned by his community for a drunken machete fight. A true Hollywood hell-raiser.
Day 6 – Monday 31 May
Carlos supposed to have organised meetings with local big-wigs but they don’t happen. Alex becomes very sick and has to be taken to Casa Indigena doctor for intravenous intervention. A stomach bug or possibly Dengue.
Carlos tells me there have been 54 killings in Santa Marta in 5 months. Pop. 300,000. That’s an annual rate of 45 per 100,000.
He tells me that in his home town of Barranquilla, pop. 1 million, rainstorms sweep away cars and drown people in the streets. He says one junction in particular is dramatic enough for Red Bull to want to film it.
Jorge Dib evening, seeing his videos. He sees my film as propaganda for his project of recovering material for sacred sites. When I ask for $15,000 for development he gets on the phone to start to raise it.
Carlos explains that if a Colombian producer invests at least 40% of a movie budget he gets 125% tax rebate.
Day 7 – Tues 1 June
Waiting for Santois to come down from Pueblo Viejo, to catch him before he goes to Nabusimake tomorrow. Hang around his house in Santa Marta, go to gold museum, then see Ramon at Casa Indigena. The issue of land registration of the land we bought comes up – they need the 3m. pesos. The Trust has already approved it .
Email comes through from Jorge Dib. He has potential co-producers. Needs development document plus script. Then Carlos calls to confirm, saying he has been studying tax finance laws all day. We will meet tomorrow at 8.30
Then to Santos’ house. Mamas Pedro Juan and Jacinto with others are in the street. I am greeted by Pedro Juan with adoration – he hugs me, strokes me, smiles continuously. Jacinto also affectionate but less drunk. Pedro Juan requests confesio with invisible cotton. Then gives me seguranza cords on wrists.
Jacinto now has house near Santos’s, paid for by Americans. He’s very proud of it.