(Partially supported by the Rehearsing Change program)
Dureno is a community in the northern Ecuadorian Amazon that may very well be the most negatively affected by the oil industry over the last 40+ years. The people are of the Cofán nation; however, Cofán is a word that was imposed by colonizers. The people of Dureno prefer to be referred to as the A'i people. With seemingly endless interventions from the outside, the community has struggled to maintain its cultural identity. According to elders, one of their greatest challenges is inspiring their own youth, many of whom no longer show interest in ancestral wisdom or traditions. With current pressures for even greater oil extraction in their territories, many wonder if the A'i can survive the next 50 years.
After many brief visits and workshops, Pachaysana was asked to engage in a more complete project, which is just getting underway. The community wants to find ways to inspire their youth to take greater interest in their traditional identity. A dialogue with both elders and youth revealed that we must find means to link the traditional with the modern. So we turned to our friends at Nina Shunku, a Quito-based arts and education collective focused on linking the ancestral to the contemporary, and we are now engaged in a project that uses modern expressions, such as graffiti, hip-hop and circus, to explore traditional values, stories and identities. This project began in early 2016 and has evolved over time. Unexpected circumstances, most notably extensive construction going on in Dureno, have limited Pachaysana's opportunity to work with the community, and we have adapted by inviting youth leaders to participate in our projects elsewhere. For example, Shen Aguinda (18 years old) won a Pachaysana scholarship to study with Rehearsing Change from September 2016 to May 2017.
In line with our new collaboration with the Union de Afectados por Texaco, we have merged "Reimagining A'i" into a larger project called "Estamos Aquí."