The Kogi of the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta on the coast of Colombia were not as well known 20-plus years ago as they are now. The documentary From the Heart of the World had received critical acclaim and enjoyed extensive showings in the 1990s. By the time I wrote a review in 2008 the film had become difficult to find. The DVD was gifted to me from one of my readers. I’m sharing this review again for those who are not familiar with the Kogi or weren’t able to see the film before. I recently discovered that it’s now freely available on You Tube. Its sequel Aluna is available on Netflix.
From the Heart of the World: The Elder Brother’s Warning
Documentary Film by Alan Ereira
Produced by the BBC
This compelling documentary filmed in 1990 is about the Kogi of Northern Colombia who call themselves Elder Brother, descendants from the pre-Columbian Tairona. It contains a clear message to Younger Brother ⎯ westerners ⎯ about the havoc we’re collectively creating and how we need to take care of the world. The Kogi live high in the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta, a microcosm of the world containing a range of climates from glaciers to jungle — and it’s dying.
Elder Brother warns that the underlying network keeping the Earth in place is being torn apart and they want the whole world to listen.
The Great Mother is the mind inside nature… [With your mining] You are taking the Mother’s heart… She is being stripped to pieces… You’re bringing the world to an end. This looting will destroy it… We are not mad at Younger Brother… but you must learn.
The Kogi believe their role to be caretakers of the world.
If we Mamas didn’t do our work, the rain wouldn’t fall from the sky. The crops wouldn’t grow.
They spend much of their time in ritual and prayer. They live sequestered, virtually unreachable, yet knowledge of the state of the world comes to them. How can we not hear their message?
There’s also an amazing similarity to me between the Kogi of Colombia, the Q’ero of Peru and the Lacandón Maya of the Chiapas rainforest of Mexico that echo similar sacred beliefs, teachings of respect and some common experience. All three left their original homes and isolated themselves about four hundred years ago with the coming of the conquistadors. To me, there’s an uncanny resemblance between the traditional clothing and even some facial characteristics of the Lacandones and the Kogi.
In alignment with one version of the Condor and Eagle prophecy, the Kogi speak about Younger Brother being given knowledge of the machine and sent away across the sea from the Heart of the World (where Elder Brother lives). Of course, Younger Brother later returned and infiltrated the Americas. The jungle at the base of the Sierra Nevadas has been destroyed much as the Lacandón rainforest has been decimated.
Elder Brother is separated by altitude as are the Q’ero who have managed to keep their traditions largely intact. However, the Lacandón jungle didn’t prove dense enough to keep others at bay. Hence, their traditions are suffering near extinction.
I want to direct you to the Tairona Heritage Trust which contains history on the Tairona and Kogi. For folks who have worked with the Q’ero, you’ll be interested in the article on the use of coca in South America, also used by the Kogi in ceremonial function and otherwise.
View From the Heart of the World streaming on You Tube.
Aluna: Produced and directed by Alan Ereira
Some 20 years after The Heart of the World was released Kogi Mamas initiated contact with their friend Alan Ereira living in the UK. They were worried. Younger Brother hadn’t heeded their warning. The state of the Earth was in ever-increasing danger. They asked their friend to help them put together a film. Speaking about Younger Brother …
We are incapable of being changed by being spoken to. They now understand that we learn through our eyes, not our ears.
The film traces the Kogis’ journey to lay 250 miles of golden thread from the mountains to the coast, showing the interconnection of the natural world to the devastating environmental impacts at the hands of Younger Brother. Indeed, in this film they are showing—not telling us. All but a small percentage of the dialogue is in Kogi. There are no subtitles. None is needed for us to understand the clear message.
If you would like more, Alan Ereira generously shares his intimate diary here.
Aluna is available streaming on Netflix.