Animating Amazonian Realities
Over the course of two days in late February, a workshop on how to animate objects, collage and drawings using stop-motion took place here at Casa Arkana. The idea was to create a series of images to reconstruct thoughts, relationships and images that reflect the way of life and the preoccupations of young people living in the community of Bena Jema.
The subject of the workshop concerned gender relations within Amazonian cultures, approaching questions such as: what are the positions of men and women in indigenous Amazonian societies? How do relationships between men and women develop? How are rights and responsibilities developed between men and women, especially regarding access to and control over territory and natural resources? Are these relations based on equality, complementarity, inequality or subordination? We didn’t attempt to come up with answers and solutions to all of these questions; instead, we were more interested in opening up spaces for reflection, creativity and expression which would enable us to create short stories which could be animated using stop-motion.
The creation of moving images is a tool of struggle, through which indigenous youth can reflect their everyday lives, sharing both the contrasts and similarities of indigenous peoples’ struggles not only with one another but also with other parts of the world. Communicating and empathising with those in other parts of our planet is just one aspect of that work which enables us to side with and stand in solidarity with one another before inequalities and destruction.
It seems ironic that not only are these communities pressured by the destruction and dispossession of their territories, but there is also an extermination of their languages, customs and very lives at work. All of the advertising which one comes across in the city of Pucallpa paid for by big brands reflects ‘progress’ with an overwhelmingly white, western aesthetic, which does not recognise the reality of the inhabitants of the Amazon rainforest. At the airport, in advertising aimed at tourists, in the news, one finds a discourse of protection and pride towards indigenous peoples, but one need only venture slightly deeper into the communities which surround Pucallpa to understand that this is merely a facade.
The animations were created over the course of two days: the first day started with a basic workshop on the articulation of movement through theatre exercises, led by India Banks. The participants created scripts out of their stories, working out which scenes and characters they needed to create using clippings, cuttings, paintings, drawings and materials such as leaves, seeds and flowers from the garden. During the second day, we focused on taking photographs, constructing their animations frame by frame. Afterwards, the animations were pieced together using the gif format with the help of electronic tools such as smartphone apps, free online software and Photoshop. Producing the animations drew together both analogue and digital tools in a way which opened up a range of wider possibilities for the participants to create their own stories.
The skill and talent for artistic creation displayed by the young people of Bena Jema is brilliant; in just two days, they were able to develop five short animations which reflect the principal economic activities in which their families engage as well as one which focuses upon the problem of gender-violence through the lens of sexual harassment on the street.
By Denise Hernández Villalva
Translated by Tom Younger
We are grateful for the support of the Sixteenth Wagon (SWAG) collective from Barrio Loco at Boomtown Fair, Joss and Nick Porter, and AIO whose assistance enabled us to put on this workshop on animation with young women and men from the community of Bena Jema.
Fisherman caring for his chacra (farm)
The practice of caring for the farm, cultivating regional plants, in this case cassava and plantain, goes hand in hand with the activity of fishing. This gif, made by young people from Bena Jema, allows us to see the economic activities which represent the sustenance of the families of this region.
One of the women’s principal activities within indigenous communities is the production of handicrafts, paintings, weavings and jewellery fashioned using seeds. This type of activity assumes that the mother and other women within the family are tasked with caring for and providing for the family.
In the streets of Peru, sexual harassment in public is very common; this is viewed as something ‘normal’ and women have to live with this type of violence which is carried out with impunity on a daily basis.
This short story reflects love and care for territory, protecting it from animals which steal livestock. The lesson is never stop caring for your land.
Friendship between different species is possible; in this animation, we see how a particular friendship based on helping one another leads to getting food.