Indigenous web round-up

Every month we share indigenous news, stories and media from around the world in our round-up. With a focus on arts, culture & promoting the strength of indigenous knowledge. We also introduce new members who have joined our global collaboration network.

This week, we’re happy to feature:

Fostering programs that can help stabilize the health of indigenous populations, Amazonia Foundation.

The Others, media company from Shanghai displaying the beauty of Chinese tribal culture to raise awareness within industrialized societies.

Inspiring documentary Down to Earth, both a wake up call and a resurgence of hope for our world and generations to come. Want to host a screening of Down to Earth? Please fill out the form on their website.

5% of the worlds’ population holds 70% of all cultures

Last month, our networkmember Pan South African Language Board (PanSAlb) hosted a conference on the future of South African Indigenous Language to address the decline of Khoi, Nama and San languages. These languages have a very rich oral history passed on from generation to generation, but have remained undocumented and underdeveloped. Part of the strategy and point of discussion is the use of San, Khoi and Nama languages in media and schools to create awareness and bigger outreach. According to PanSAlb, part of the problem is the decline of multilingualism, for instance the use of english as the only official language in courts around South Africa, whereas the country is by default culturally very diverse.

In their press-statement PanSAlb further addresses the decline of indigenous languages and multilingualism in the world in general.  Research shows that 370 million estimated indigenous peoples in the world live across 90 countries. These people are said to be making up five percent of the world’s population. Research further shows that these people speak an overwhelming majority of the world’s estimated 7000 languages, where they also represent 5000 different cultures. Which leads us to believe there’s only very few people per culture and language left to pass-on their heritage, this process being made increasingly difficult because a lot of this heritage and knowledge isn’t documented in books or on computers. It is therefor very important for organizations like PanSAlb to help spread awareness about endangered languages among all levels of society.

Apart from creating awareness, there is a lot of work and thought put into efficient ways of preserving indigenous cultures around the globe, stakeholders are looking at technical advancement as a tool to document indigenous knowledge. We’re talking about digital storytelling (apps) and virtual reality, like this visual adaptation of an Aboriginal Dreamtime Story:

To stay updated on new initiatives, please keep a look out here and and our social media (facebook & twitter).

The first great seafarers

Polynesia (made up of approximately 1.000 islands in the Pacific Ocean) is said to be the last part of the world to be inhabited by humans 3000 years ago. Contrary to earlier belief, researchers have found last year that the DNA of current inhabitants of for example the Solomon Islands and Tahiti bare strong resemblance to those of a culture from South East Asia, a culture that was called Lapita (now Taiwan). Earlier research already established descendants from the Lapita culture are found on islands in the Indian Ocean and even as far as Madagascar, making them the first great seafarers to have crossed the globes’ oceans between 5000 and 3000 years ago, and therefor the first to have built ships that were capable of long distance travel.

Interesting enough, a lot of the cultures on these islands still have a lot in common today, this common heritage is called Austronesian. Our networkmember Small Island, Big Song unites them through music and film, creating songs with musicians from the Indian and Pacific ocean. One of the musicians featured on their label is Chilean/Easter Islander Yoyo Tuki, who captered a very unique moment of connection in Australia a couple of weeks ago: a native Bornean, Solomon Islander and Taroko (indigenous Taiwanese) and himself (Rapa Nui) sat together and counted to 10 in their mother tongue, which turns out to be identical for the 4 of them. You can watch the video here:

Apparently 5000 years ago a group of seafarers left the shores of Taiwan in search for new land. Following the oceanic currents, they reached much of the pacific and Indian Ocean. All te way to Tahiti, Rapa Nui and even Madagascar. In a rare and unique opportunity, a Rapa Nui, a Solomon Islander, a Native Taroko (Taiwanese indigenous) and a Native Bornean sit together to exchange and share language. How amazing is to find out that we all share STILL some connections through language and culture. In the video a Native Taiwanese Taroko woman shows us how they count, with some of the words being almost exactly the same in all four different native languages. Eg: Taroko: Toru (3), Rapa Nui: Toru – Taroko: Lima (5), Rapa Nui: Rima – Taroko: Pitu (7), Rapa Nui: Hitu. Finding family and pieces of this intriguing puzzle along the way. Austronesian connexion and heritageAparentemente 5000 anios atras un grupo de navegantes dejo las costas de Taiwan en busca de nuevas tierras. Siguiendo las corrientes oceanicas llegaron a gran parte del Oceano Pacifico e Indico. Incluyendo Tahiti, Rapa Nui he incluso Madagascar! En una rara y unica oportunidad, un Rapa Nui, un nativo de las Islas solomon, un indigena Taroko de Taiwan y otro de Borneo se sientan a compatir y comparar la lengua. Increible encontrar que AUN pese a la distancia y anios, encontramos similitudes en el lenguage. En el video una mujer Taroko nos muestra como se cuenta en la lengua nativa. Algunas de las palabras son casi las mismas en las 4 diferentes lenguas!Ej: Taroko: Toru (3), Rapa Nui: Toru – Taroko: Lima (5), Rapa Nui: Rima – Taroko: Pitu (7), Rapa Nui: Hitu. Encontrando familia y piezas de este intrigante puzzle en el camino. La conexion y herencia Austronesica es evidente.

Geplaatst door Yoyo Tuki op woensdag 12 juli 2017

If you want to read more details relating this topic, please go to the Daily Mail.

The nutritious & native values of the Açai berry

Undoubtedly, many of you have been introduced to the Amazonian fruit Açai, a dark berry that grows high up in the Açai palm, famous for it’s highly nutritious values if it’s juices are extracted straight after harvest. What you probably don’t know is that this berry was named after the daughter of a well-known native chief in Brazil, who discovered the berry at a time of great famine. Legend has it that the chief of the local tribe had all new-borns murdered simply because there wasn’t enough food to go round, right before his own daughter Iaça gave birth to her first child. Being a man of his word, even Iaça couldn’t escape his decree.

Iaça cried for months, grieving the loss of her beautiful daughter. One night, as she walked in mourning under a full moon, Iaça heard the cry of a child. She hurried towards the sound and came upon a tall, slender palm tree. At the top of the tree, Iaça could see clusters of dark fruit and at the bottom of the tree, she saw her daughter waiting for her with open arms. Iaça ran toward the vision, but as she reached out to embrace her child, she was overcome with joy and died happily beneath the tree.

The next day, the Chief found his daughter under the tree. She had a smile across her face and she was looking up to the sky. He followed her gaze up the tree and saw the dark, purple fruit. The Chief immediately ordered these fruits to be harvested by his people, who soon discovered that a juice could be extracted from the berries that would satisfy the hunger of the whole tribe. The Chief’s decree was lifted, and out of gratitude to Iaça, from that day on, the fruit of the palm tree that saved the tribe was known as Açaí (“Açaí” is “Iaça” spelled backwards).

Why am I telling you all this? Not only is this a beautiful native story that we should pass on, it is also exemplary for the importance of the berry for many tribes in the Amazone since its discovery. Stretching over 6 million achres of rainforest, the açai palm is an important source of nutrition for these tribal communities. Even more so, with the increasing popularity of superfruits in Europe and the United States, it offers a steady income to a lot of these communities and a reason for the government to keep these 6 million achres of rainforest intact. And the good news is, methods of harvest have not been changed since Iaca found the first palm many centuries ago, making it a fully organic product and thus good for the local ecosystems.

Curious what the hand harvesting process looks like? Please enjoy this little video, made by Organicburst (fairtrade superfoods supporting indigenous communities, organic farmers and biodiversity):

Photofeature – The secrets of Ayou

“During a mission with an NGO in Ayou, a small rural village in Benin, I realized my total inadequacy. It was at this moment that I began to doubt the world as I saw it—the dirt roads which wound, serpentine, through the forest and surrounded the little hamlets. In these spaces, in small courtyards, the indispensable tools of Life were carefully dispersed so that they could be found as needed. Invisible from the outside, there were mysterious little altar-houses, often covered with frescoes. Within, the memories of bygone rituals had left their trace: dried tea leaves, broken ceramics, woven baskets, ropes, wax, traces of fires, pebbles, bones, scraps.

Sometimes, I was accompanied by a voice—one that rolled her shining eyes and said into my ear, “Voodoo, Voodoo.” By revealing to me the secret, these spaces became for me the link between two worlds: the Earth and the Cosmos.

The week I had to spend in the village would not teach me anything. I simply went to meet people, my eyes tinted with these mysteries. At each step, I tried not to commit a misstep that would ruffle the force, bringing the wrath of the deities on the community.

My humanistic portraits are loaded with magic, intensity and doubt. Here, I have no answer to the certainties of my doubts any more than I have at home. Through this project, I did not try to show or explain a cult, but instead to follow a path through my encounters, perhaps crossing (unknowingly) the lines of force between the invisible and terrestrial worlds. In the end, I found that I was expressing how both my subjects—and myself—were balanced in a delicate space in between…”

—David Wagnières (

* This feature was taken from and published by Lensculture as one of the winners for their 2017 Portrait Awards