The purpose of this project is to safeguard the ancestral cultural integrity of the Arhuaco, an indigenous group living in the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta, Colombia. In 2009 the Colombian government has included the Arhuaco in their list of indigenous groups that are endangered both physically as well as culturally. 

With the aim of trying to stop the threat of cultural loss, a number of objectives have been defined:

  • Improvement of the indigenous social and cultural structures for a better community cohesion, more autonomy and direct representation before the national and international community.
  • Implementation of the traditional form of the creation of new generations of Mamos, of cultural authorities and of keepers of traditional knowledge. This is important for the preservation of the cultural identity and to safeguard the sacred knowledge that has fallen into disuse.
  • Reviving the own skills which in the past have stimulated the culture and can now offer alternatives for sustainable development for the environment and the biodiversity.

This is thus a project for the construction of the society as understood by the own affected community. An important aspect is to achieve independance and auto-determination through the putting in place of the own governance. The central objective is to achieve more empowerment within the community and develop the necessary tools to;

  1. Be in a better position to directly interact with the Colombian State as well as the International organizations.
  2. Be stronger as a group so the cultural and political structures can be maintained and the territory can be protected and the ancestral knowledge preserved.

How can we do this?

The first concrete step to start executing this project is to help build the Kankurwa. A Kankurwa is perhaps the most important institution within the Arhuaco culture. It is a space where the leaders and traditional authorities of the Arhuaco culture are created. It is there, where the Mamos (male authorities) and Ati's (female authorities) teach the new generations of Mamo's and Ati's. They will be the new bearers of knowledge for the Arhuaco people.

The education of the Mamo's and Ati's takes about 15 years and follow a strict disciplinary way of life, diet (based on native crops) and relationship with the environment.

The Kankurwa is like a temple and will be the place of residence of the pupils, their family and teachers.