Wednesday, 10 February 2016

Nativity - Part I: The Jungle Book

When this image appeared on Facebook last year as a person "I might know", I wanted to know about him immediately. Apart from his striking beauty and being clad in little more than clay leaf-print, I had to find out if the image was part of a photo shoot or if it was an actual snapshot of real life. As someone fascinated by indigenous people, ever since watching "The Emerald Forest" with my grandparents when I was a boy, I have had a voracious appetite to discover anything about native people and their environment - from missionaries to linguists who were sent to notate a new language, to highly anecdotal accounts of childhoods spent growing up with these eccentric and curious parents. Interested in textiles too, ceremonial displays with clothing embellished from local exotic birds can't help but capture the imagination and shame even the most bedazzling runway show.

My latest project, Nativity, explores what the term "native" means to a contemporary world. Naturally I turned to Mogly, the name of the wildly handsome man above, whose photo I discovered was a rainforest 'selfie' and not destined for any glossy magazine. I am now equally puzzled and delighted to count him amongst my Facebook friends as we message almost daily - I am captivated to learn about every aspect of his life, which understandably is worlds apart from the average UK life. Despite his feeling about modern technology, it is the internet that has allowed this incredible connection from my armchair.

Mogly escaped to the Columbian rainforest over 7 years ago, for a surprising reason he explains below and, now 24, he remains there with his partner and their 2 children. It is a pleasure and a true honour to connect with this beautiful tender-hearted person who is also a rare example of someone has never lost touch with his essential wild nature. I am deeply moved by some of his answers and humbled to be able to share a small part of his fascinating yet simple world.

The interview was conducted in Spanish so you'll find his original answers below the English as well as some photographs of the spectacular place he calls home.

Tell us where you live
I live on a mountain with a very special name, El Serro del Tigre
Vivo en una montana de un nombre muy especial, el Serro del Tigre

Describe how you came to live there.
[I followed] my instinct to wish to live a normal life
Mi instinto de querer vivir normal

Tell us what you do in your average day
Work and till the earth!
Trabajar y sembrar la tierra!

What are the benefits to living where and how you do?
I learnt a lot from using medicinal and edible plants that I find in the jungle, and I make infusions or use them raw. They are very effective.

What are the disadvantages, if any, of how and where you live?
At first it was quite difficult because the seeds and plants that feed me weren't ready and I had to walk 9km to get food.
Al inicio fue un tanto dificil porque las semillas y plantas que me alimentarian no estaban listas y tenia que caminar 9km por los viveres.

Is feeling connected to the land important to you?
Of course [because] my it's where I learn to live with myself and my happiness is reflected in the waters of the rivers.
Claro que si es donde aprendo a vivir conmigo mismo y mi felicidad se reflecja como las aguas de los rios.

How does internet access affect your relationship with your world?
It depresses me to realise that we suffer as the human hand destroys the fauna and flora and through the medium of the internet, we withdraw from our world.
Me deprime al darme cuenta de lo que sufrimos por medio de la mano humana destruyendo fauna y flora y por medio del internet nos sacan de nuestro mundo.

Do you have any spiritual, religious or philosophical beliefs?
No. I believe in what I see because everything that is, is in front of me.
No yo creo en lo que miro porque todo lo que esta estaba antes de mi.

What did you dream about last?
I had a very interesting dream! I was visitng a family close to the river. I was there with my 2 children, 2 teenagers and a baby. I had a feeling as if there was a fish in the river. I had a quick look and then noticved that the level of the river was reaction was to tell the children to to the top of the house. The river began to rage, so we took the children and went to the highest part, the river was still rising violently...almost to the floor of the house. The oldest child saw that the river rose to the harvest as his parents were desperately jumping, and the river then rose up to him too, leaving only his 2 brothers, my 2 children and me. Running on a lot of adrenaline, I held them close [...] they were very quiet, just watching the waters and suddely the waters calmed again. The most interesting thing was that the children weren't scared and I felt a strong energy through them that I can't explain. The house was pulled to the other side of the raging river, we reached the shore. I put them down and I began to cry inconsolably, like a baby, and I woke up in tears. I learned that a dream teaches me that children are the closest to nature, and it's that same nature that protects those who look after it.

What are your hopes for the future?

[that we all] return to our roots, we will work the earth together and those who don't have a particular crop can swap food with another and [do] activities together where there won't be any metal or technology.
Volver a nuestras raices todos trabajaremos las tierras juntos y el que no tenga de un tip do cosecha el otro la tendra y podremos intercambiar comida y actividades juntos donde no existira la plata ni la tecnologia.

Thanks to Mogly for his pictures and to Sonia Tome and Diana Ruiz for translation work

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