Draw Me A Picture: Shipibo Youth Tell Their Stories

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Several years ago when I traveled to the jungles to do my first plant medicine diet, I intended to be in silence and isolation. Instead, I found myself as the only gringo in a sleepy indigenous community that was not used to having foreign visitors. At first, the children would stand from a distance and shyly stare at me with curiosity. But once I took out the markers, paper, and pens, my shaman’s maloka floor became the unexpected place for daily impromptu art sessions.

 

Photo: Scott Montgomery

For the entire three week diet, during which time I slept on a hammock inside of my 100-year-old shaman’s termite infested and teetering maloka, I was constantly visited by village children. It’s been through seemingly insignificant experiences of sharing through art, that I’ve found some of the greatest insights of living in Peru.

Rishin Nika, my shaman

But instead of delving into any details at this time, it would be best to leave the story telling to some of the children, through their art.

A few of local children who joined me in the afternoons for our art afternoons:

Juan’s daugher in-law Adriana and her daughters, Enith (on her left) and Jamelia (on her right), along with relatives Freddy and Ani while they sit with me in the maloka and draw pictures.

In the drawing on the left, done by Fredy, is the face of a Shipibo curandero over-top the sacred ayahuasca leaf. In the drawing on the right, done by Eni, is Juan’s maloka where I was living, and where he does his ceremonies. Through the open door in the middle of the maloka, is a figure (meant to be me), sleeping in my hammock — just as I had been doing when they came into the maloka and woke me up so that we could do some art.
Adriana’s drawing on the left: on the top of the drawing is the ayahuasca leaf, an important symbol in Shipibo art. At the bottom is a traditional Shipibo ceramic vase, known as a tinaja. Ani’s drawing on the right: in the center is another tinja. On the bottom is a traditional tapistry, and a traditional shirt. The colorful wavy patterns are also charactaristic of Shipibo art.
Another drawing done by Freddy of a shaman in the middle of a ceremony, healing a woman while he smokes mapacho (a type of tobacco smoked in the amazon) in a pipe. At their feet is a bottle of ayahuasca, a bottle of floral water (of many uses in healing ceremonies), and a vomit bucket for the infamous “purge” brought on by ayahuasca.
When I suggested that Enith draw her dream house in paradise, this is what she drew. Having grown up in the jungle, she has never really seen mountains with her own eyes.
I love Eni’s drawing of her community because it’s so full of life, details — a butterfly, different species of bird, a farm with yuca plants and banana trees, traditional huts, a boat along the river Ukalyli, a fish, and of course a radient sun.

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Scott Montgomery is a multi-medium storyteller and holistic creative, a travel guide and transformational coach, whose core mission is to help others to live authentically with purpose and intention in order to make an impact in the world. After earning his masters degree in creative writing at Arizona State University in 2013, he made the move to Peru in order to write about indigenous communities of the jungles and the Andes, and to explore what this might have to do with his own life path. These years of traveling and living across the country have helped him to embrace a more purposeful lifestyle that's guided by the values of collaboration, creativity, and transformation. To find out more about what Scott's up to and how you can get involved, visit his personal website www.voyagewithscott.com