Wednesday, 19 May 2021

JULIAN VISITED THE KOGI ON A TRIP LED BY THE AMAZON CONSERVATION TEAM

Stunning photographs by Julian Lennon offer a glimpse into life with a remote Colombian tribe that believes westerners are 'dangerous' and failing to take care of the world
Julian staged his first photo exhibition in 2010 in Manhattan
During his time in the village, Julian set out to 'capture certain moments that would tell the Kogi's story' 
 
Julian takes a turn in front of the camera, and he is seen being patted by a smiling Kogi tribesman. He said this was taken after a ceremony, which gave him 'strength and spiritual protection', and welcomed him into the Kogi family. 'Only a few were given this privilege,' Julian explains
Julian takes a turn in front of the camera, and he is seen being patted by a smiling Kogi tribesman. He said this was taken after a ceremony, which gave him 'strength and spiritual protection', and welcomed him into the Kogi family. 'Only a few were given this privilege,' Julian explains

 
 
 
 
A stunning series of photographs by Julian Lennon, takes viewers inside the remote Kogi tribe, which has lived isolated from the outside world for more than 1,000 years in the mountains of northern Colombia.

Shared exclusively with MailOnline Travel, the striking black-and-white images show indigenous men, women and children wearing white robes handmade from cotton fibres and relaxing outside their round mud-hut homes.
Julian staged his first photography exhibition in 2010 in Manhattan and is now widely respected in the industry. He hopes that this set of pictures gives people 'a sense that these [tribal] worlds still exist and that the whole world is not, as yet, just one big commercial machine'. 
 
He adds: 'There's a glimmer of hope that people will return to the land, and appreciate what life is truly about.'

The Kogi have been living in the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta mountains on the Caribbean coast of Colombia since around 1000 AD when the Caribs invaded the country. Even during the Spanish conquest in the 16th century, the Kogi maintained their isolation and today, the population is thought to be just 20,000.
 
Julian, who runs The White Feather Foundation (TWFF), a non-profit aimed at protecting and preserving indigenous cultures, received an invitation to join a trip to visit the Kogi in 2014 led by the Amazon Conservation Team (ACT), which also works in the same arena.

He said: 'This was a great opportunity to absorb another distant land and for the ACT and the TWFF to work together to bring about some positive change for the Kogi.'
 
To get to the Kogi, Lennon flew to the city of Santa Marta in Colombia from Los Angeles. He then travelled by 4X4 into the mountains.

Along the way, the road conditions varied from 'very good, to almost impossible', deteriorating into a muddy trench-like track at one point. And the threat of armed robberies constantly hovered over them.

'There were moments when we were told to be careful, at gas stations - if you can even call them that - and restaurants, which were basically huts on the side of the road,' Lennon recalls.

'We were stopped a few times going to the Kogi village at police and military checkpoints, which was approximately three to four hours away from where we originally landed by plane.'

Eventually, Lennon made it to the Kogi region. He stayed at camp on the coast, around a 20 to 30-minute drive away from the village of Tunguexa. The community features more than 60 dwellings and two indigenous ceremonial houses.

Although he only spent a few days in these less-explored areas of Colombia, he said it 'felt like a lifetime', partly because he didn't take a computer, phone or watch with him.
Every morning after breakfast, Lennon and his team made their way to the Kogi village and immersed themselves in daily life, communicating with the help of a translator and one of the more 'well-travelled Kogis', who could speak English and Spanish.

The Kogi language belongs to the Chibchan family and they don't traditionally speak Spanish.

Asked what a typical day was like with the Kogis, Lennon says: 'From my understanding, the tribe would gather several times a day, to discuss not only local issues but the main global issue too, which was beginning to affect them: climate change.'

Over the decades, the Kogi have become increasingly alarmed about the environment, having witnessed deforestation and the melting of glaciers and snowcaps on the mountains around them.

Lennon saw that areas close to the Kogi tribe had been commercialised, but this hadn't reached their location - 'yet'.

During his time in the village, Lennon set out to 'capture certain moments that would tell the Kogi's story'. One shot shows a smiling young boy with long thick black hair. He was apparently set to become the next village 'elder' and leader.
'He, without question, had something very special about him, a certain aura, an old soul,' Lennon muses.

In another shot, Lennon takes a turn in front of the camera, and he is seen being patted by a smiling Kogi tribesman.

He said this was taken after a ceremony, which gave him 'strength and spiritual protection', and welcomed him into the Kogi family.

'Only a few were given this privilege,' Lennon explains.

Other photos see Kogi men playing with poporos - containers made from small hollow gourds filled with lime powder made from crushed shells. A stick is inserted into the gourd and can be turned around in an act of meditation.

Another accessory the men are seen carrying are striped cotton bags, made for them by the women.

As for the mountainous scenery, Lennon simply sums it up as 'beautiful, romantic, and organic' and the food he ate was 'simple but delicious', with a fresh mix of rice, vegetables and fruit.
Asked what lessons the western world could learn from the Kogi people, Lennon replies: 'As with most, if not all indigenous tribes, it's about respecting and protecting Mother Earth, and all who reside with her.'

Off the back of the Kogi expedition, the ACT and TWFF went about buying back some of the waterfront land that originally belonged to the tribe before they were forced to flee to the mountains during the Spanish invasion that 'slaughtered many of their people'.

Lennon says that 'the idea with buying back their ancestral land, was so they can go "home".'  

The artist concludes: 'Colombia has had a hard time, but it does seem that things are slowly, but surely becoming better and safer.

'I have returned since and I would absolutely love to return again one day. There is just so much to discover in the country, and I loved not only the land but the people too.'
 
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