* in process... (2015- )
The forest is much more than a cluster of green canopies. It is made of a rich biodiversity, shaped by a complex cosmopolitical arena of living beings…and at the core of it all lays its protagonist: The Shaman. The Shaman sees. He sees beyond sight. He is a spiritual leader who can reach far into the realm of the extra-physical. By harnessing his intimate connection with the forces of nature, the Shaman can heal others. The forest’s best-hidden secrets are under his care. The Shaman is a historian among his people, for he holds the ancestral knowledge passed down from generation to generation by means of tales. Wise is the Shaman, for more tales mean more power. Master of the forest, it is he who holds the key to all realms. The Shaman speaks with the spirits that inhabit the woods; with his forefathers; with the future. But first and foremost, the Shaman is a man. And men fall.
Aladino Mimico is a Shaman; a Native South American living in a world that knows no such labels. Rather, he is a Bora, which is what his ethnic group is called. He lives in Pebas, a remote village in the heart of the Amazon Rainforest. Today, Aladino lives exiled in his own land. Younger Bora leave their villages seeking a more promising, modern life in the city. Two of his own children have taken such path, thus dwindling the numbers of an already small population. Those who stay in Pebas have to face the issues of an ever-globalized world. They watch as their way of life deteriorates, slowly losing faith and interest in their local culture. Illegal mining, timber harvesting, and arson play a role, as well as social issues such as depression, alcoholism, child mortality… and coca: one of the most important plants to the Bora Shamans.
Coca leaves, used by indigenous people for over a millennium, has been tarnished by modern times. While Shamans have upheld the traditions for over a millennium, the leaves are now being used beyond religious rituals, symbols or dogmas: Coca is the main ingredient for cocaine. It has an alluring power over local people to harvest and traffic it and, hand-in-hand with the slow death of their cultural identity, coca has become a sole means of survival, the only way left for them to make a living. Tradition has changed. For a few now live who respect it.
Ííbíí pííve tiná ume is the Bora expression for “the origin of coca”. This very expression tells the most important story of Bora’s culture. The first man to ever walk the Earth was a Bora. Abuelo, The God of All Creation, told the First Man that if he was to live in this world, he had to learn how to use coca. God then instructed and guided him on how to plant, harvest and consume the leaf.
God’s guidance came with a grievous warning: he who consumed the coca leaf would have the power to speak directly to Abuelo, however, a deadly curse would befall he who consumed it without respect. Abuse the plant and be forever trapped in its grasp. The coca will only let go once life has vanished from his body.
Aladino speaks to the forest spirits who guide him on how to heal others. To do so, he consumes great amounts of coca, tobacco, and alcohol. Aladino is a Shaman. But Aladino is also a man. He is both sacred and profane. The leaf that he should rule over has ended up ruling over him. As the ancient fable warns, he who abuses the coca is damned by it.
Under coca’s curse, Aladino had a conversation with Death. His ailments were far too powerful to be washed away by the forest’s healing power. He had to go to a hospital. He needed the white man. Technology. He had to leave the forest to save himself. After dancing with Death and with Western Medicine, Aladino believes he has become the character of his own cautionary tale, a warning to his people. The giant scar he now carries in his belly won’t ever let him forget it. Aladino has survived his ordeal and is now seeking self-discovery. Thus, he sets out on a quest - the most dangerous one he has ever faced. The locals no longer trust in him and his healing powers. The mystical entanglement has put every certainty he has ever known to the test. Isolation. From his peers. From his family. From his people. On borrowed time, alone in a dying world, isolation could spell the end for Aladino. But it could also be the key to reconnect with everything.
The Last Shaman seeks redemption.