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Photography - Issue #7

Living Forest

Words and photography by Misha Vallejo Prut

The Kichwa people of Sarayaku, in the Ecuadorian Amazon rainforest, have always held a physical and spiritual connection with the jungle and its supreme beings, in order to maintain equilibrium within their world. The supreme beings cannot be seen by the naked eye (or camera lens, for that matter), but instead are accessed by the Indigenous yachackuna (wise men) through a spiritual connection.

The Kichwa believe in the Kawsak Sacha (living forest), which states that the jungle is a living, conscious and rights-bearing entity in which all of its elements - including the plants, animals, humans, rivers, wind and stars - have a spirit and are interconnected. If one aspect of this is damaged, it will trigger a chain reaction affecting all other parts of the jungle.

The Amazon Biome is 6.7m sq km and home to 2.7m Indigenous people, split into 350 ethnic groups with 3,000 ancestral territories. Accounting for just 4% of the global population, Indigenous peoples protect more than 80% of the world’s biodiversity. The Kichwa people believe that we are all part of the big and complex organism we call Earth. Everything that affects the Kichwa affects all of us. Everything is connected. So protecting their home is fundamental not only to their own survival, but to that of humanity, and they take from the jungle only what they need to survive and nothing more. In the times we live in, implementing this philosophy to our everyday life could mean the difference between extinction or survival.

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