MATSIGENKA AND THE ART OF STORYTELLING
The singing and storytelling of the Matsigenka represent their people and their art. It is a fundamental part of their cosmovision and way of understanding life. Our first Xapiri Ground workshop, led by team members Davis Torres, Melanie Dizon, and Jack Wheeler, centered around the theme of drawing and how that modality could link the children and the elders with the storytelling tradition as it relates to their Matsigenka culture.
On the first day, we began with a 30-minute drawing activity where we could get to observe the creative output of the children which ranged from ages 7-14, they were 22 in total. Each were given colored chalks to draw with on the school’s open air pavement. It was endearing to witness their excitement and creativity. Drawings of fish, animals, or flowers emerged from the floor in a ray of pastel colors. We then realized that art was the perfect gateway for us all to connect.
After the chalk drawings, we gathered the children to sit around and listen to the story of one of the elders Terri who relayed a story about a special tree called Toaroki. The children were then asked to draw a personage from the story. Here we handed out some drawing tools of colored pencils, erasers, and paper. Everyone drew, even the teachers and Terri himself who we found sprawled on the floor in deep concentration.
PAINTING THE STORY
For the second workshop, the children were to explore paint and brush as the medium to convey further some characters from the stories. But this time under the storytelling of Gregorio. Although none of the kids had ever worked with brushes or paint before, their unfamiliarity was quickly overshadowed by their enthusiasm and inquiry.
One of the girls was drawing the sky with a moon and stars and asked, “what is the color of space”? Notably amongst most of the children were illustrations of A-frame houses and apple trees, which were influenced by the rotation of non-regional teachers. It made us question as a team how vulnerable children are to cultural referencing and how that can affect their perception of their own surroundings.
Our third and fourth workshops took place with the elders Silverio and Napoleon, this time we split up the primary students from the secondary, continuing with the drawing practice. This proved to be more manageable than the previous methods and gave room for us to observe better the different comprehension levels of the children.
At the closing we chose a few of the best drawings and awarded the artists with a drawing sets so that they continue to develop their skills. The class ended with a song about the condor, from one of the secondary students Damaris.
These creative workshops are an ongoing part of our many visits to the community. We hope that you continue to follow our progress with this long-standing project of art and storytelling, focused on connecting the youth with the oral traditions of their elders and living culture through creative workshops and relationship building.
This project is made possible through our partnership with SePerú; a non-profit organization dedicated to equal benefits and co-management of Peruvian Indigenous communities and their natural ecosystem.
Support this project so that we may continue to share and learn about the ancestral knowledge of the Matsigenka people.
*cover photo: Davis Torres