Indigenous Web Round-up

Each week we share indigenous news, stories and media from around the world in our weekly 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 introduce:

Our own Sinchi Ambassador, photographer and Aboriginal cultural advisor Wayne Quilliam.

Youth- led non-profit organization ICEA Foundation, seeking to create equality and mutual respect amongst all young Australians.

Greenoxx: environmental organization from Uruguay saving over 100.000 hectares of the Amazonian rainforest and it’s inhabitants.

Sumak Kawsay

Indigenous battles to defend nature have taken to the streets, leading to powerful mobilizations like Standing Rock. History has proven that this kind of indigenous activism can actually change local legislation, as it has in Ecuador, Bolivia and New Zealand. All 3 examples have come from the same idea: mother earth has her own rights. The 2008 constitution of Ecuador was the first national constitution to establish these rights, based on the so called indigenous Kichwa notion of ‘Sumac Kawsay’, which expresses the idea of harmonious, balanced living among people and nature (also referred to as ‘buen viver’):

“We women and men, the sovereign people of Ecuador recognizing our age-old roots, wrought by women and men from various peoples, Celebrating nature, the Pacha Mama (Mother Earth), of which we are a part and which is vital to our existence…. Hereby decide to build a new form of public coexistence, in diversity and in harmony with nature, to achieve the good way of living, the sumac kawsay.”

Key-point for the so-called Sumac Kawsay way of living is to eradicate the importance of property and money, as to indigenous believes and knowledge the capitalist logic does not contribute to a balanced lifestyle. Check out this half hour short documentary on the 2008 Constitution of Ecuador according Sumak Kawsay ways, in which many of the indigenous people explain their very basic principles (documentary is in Spanish with English subtitles):

Other examples and further reading on how indigenous activism can expand legal horizons can be found right here.

Photo journal – Brian Otieno 




This photo- documentary attempts to go beyond the chaotic appearance and to demonstrate the daily lives in Kibera from socio-economic, cultural, political and environmental perspective. By doing so, Otieno offers the viewer a rare glimpse into some of the issues, diversity, dynamics, and inequality of urban life, being an observer who portrays Kibera from a unique point of view. Our gratitude goes out to member of the Sinchi collaboration network Native Agency for the introduction.

*Kibera is the largest slum in Africa.

Greenlands’ mask dance

Following up on last weeks’ mask- feature, we continue onwards to a very unique piece of Greenlandic heritage: indigenous Inuit mask dance called Uaajeerneq. This dance-form is ancient and has a very strong educational aspect, it’s most important lesson being: fear, and how to overcome fear. It is said that experiencing this dance can be very intense, as the Uaajeerneq dancer will often appear out of nowhere and its gestures and expressions are very exaggerated; fearlessly referring to death and sexuality but always with a lot of humour. Watch the below trailer to hear an older Inuit lady talk about the kind of humour both men and women put into their dance as they seem to switch gender-roles:

The mask used to be made out of wood, but since the 70’s of last century most dancers use black, red and white facepaint, put a stick in their mouth and tie their nose up with a string to deform the face and make it look more frightening. The colours of the mask have symbolic content: red stands for love and temperament, black stands for magic and what you face when living in the harsh Artic and white stands for bones, ancestors and purity.

 Musical feature: Hawaii’s only indigenous string instrument

You might think that the ukelele is a native Hawaiian instrument, but it was actually introduced by the Portuguese. The ukeke, on the other hand, is a very small bow- shaped instrument made out of wood with three strings attached to and around either end, making it the only indigenous string instrument from Hawaii. The strings were strummed with one hand while the other hand holds it against the mouth, using this as a resonance chamber. The ukeke was traditionally played to accompany singing and chanting and is also referred to as ‘the love talk’, as the sound coming out of this instrument is so subtle the listener has to come very close. The player is actually speaking words to his lover, which are muffled by the playing of the instrument but are generally something in the lines of: ‘Quiver above, quiver below. Quiver my beloved, sweet Hawaii, fern of Makana’ Hence the name ukeke being Hawaiian for ‘to quiver’.

Interesting enough, the instrument had become extinct, until artisan Mahi La Pierre started studying old and indigenous Hawaiian music and started making his own version of the ukeke. The biggest challenge for him was to find the proper wood for the body and fibers for the strings, as many of the plants previously used have become endangered species. But he succeeded, you can hear him talk about this on Hawaiian public radio by following this link.