Honoring and celebrating indigenous women and reclaiming ones’ indigenous identity
Kallpay Warmi is an annual event that Saphichay organizes Saphichay re-awakens indigenous identity, knowledge, and practice in indigenous youth in order to build resilient communities. With the intention to honor and celebrate indigenous women and support urban native youth in reclaiming their indigenous identity, Kallpay Warmi means “courageous women” in Quechua. Our event anchors and brings important issues to the forefront, using creativity and culture to attract a wide audience. This gathering offers a platform for women who are on the frontline of resistance and cultural survival to share their stories and dialogue with a native urban audience about decolonization by bringing to light their needs and perspectives. Peru, like many other countries, has a long history of struggle to survive the many waves of colonization. Within this historical trauma, women have been disproportionately impacted. Currently, while looking at our urban populations, many people have eroded their identity, while some deny their indigenous identity entirely because they feel ashamed as a result of overt discrimination. Others are disconnected from their indigenous identity because of generations of denial to survive within an oppressive and violent history. We address these topics at the festival with a positive outlook towards the future. Our long term impact is based on a ripple effect of meeting, listening, and solidarity-building that facilitates and enables urban native youth to become more effective allies to rural indigenous communities.
Our first Kallpay Warmi was in 2016, a pilot effort that reached a modest 250 participants. Despite the focused audience, the two most memorable outcomes were: 1. Having youth who had never considered identifying with their indigenous identity, identify as such. From these youth, 95% had shifted their perception around identity. 2. Urban youth attendees began to use the same space to organize cultural events, promoting their events as alcohol and drug free. This was a direct outcome from Kallpay Warmi, since it was the well-known hip hop artist Pedro Mo who spoke to them about the importance of keeping their cultural events respectful, healthful, and clean. This is particularly significant when we consider that Huancayo has one of the highest rates of alcoholism in Peru.
In 2017, we invited other indigenous organizations to speak about their work around reclaiming their identity and its importance in the face of Peru’s first historical census which offers the option to identify as indigenous. Last year’s memorable impact was having more families present as well as an intergenerational attendance. The workshops around identity provided the first opportunity for a majority of participants to consider being proud of their identity, and it was the first time many had ever identified as indigenous. In 2017, we also had many guest artists come and paint murals within the city to engage with more of the community. Having so many guest speakers also allowed for the space to be seen for what it was – educational and entertaining. The 2017 event also launched AWAY (To Weave in Quechua) a network of urban native youth interested in standing in solidarity with rural indigenous communities
In 2018 our theme was Territory and Identity. We are invited women and youth who, since 2009, had been engaged in three different examples of resistance to stop government-led and private corporate led land grabs: in the Amazon, in Lima, and in the central jungle. We made sure to have a strong representation of the highly marginalized afro-indigenous community to speak on identity and territory. During these events, we created a platform to attract diverse audience by inviting well-known musicians, storytellers, and dancers to perform, host workshops, and tell their stories during the weeklong event. We provided additional time for people to dialogue with the speakers to deepen their understanding of the issues and learn how they can be in solidarity from the urban spheres. Additional activities to enrich our event included guest workshops facilitated by traditional knowledge holders, such as indigenous storytellers from the coast, the Andes, and the Amazon jungle. Throughout the week, the “indigenous cinema” films were screened outdoors throughout the city to assure accessibility for all. We also organized events with the local museums, galleries, universities, and Ministry of Culture. The month of June is dedicated to Afro-Peruvians, events all over the country are being organized for this month and we as Kallpay Warmi affiliated with this effort through our focus on bringing attention to that fact that the state does not acknowledge “Afro-indigenous” as an identity. We will also had native community members that are actively resisting land grabs at the festival in order to generate support through the event. In 2018 we aimed to strengthen AWAY.
This year our theme has been influenced by the international year of Native Languages. In Peru we have 47 languages many which are unknown to the average person. 21 of these languages are considered in risk and high risk of being extinct. These languages are scattered throughout 8 departments Junin being one of them which is where Saphichay is located and where Kallpay Warmi is hosted every year. The two categories of risk and high risk can be described as the following:
Risk: Predominantly spoken by the elders of the community.
High Risk: Spoken by a few families and or individuals.
These 21 languages are said to have no more than 31,000 speakers in total with no one language having more than 11,000 speakers. These statistics are from 2013 which means that it is very possible that 6 years later there are even less speakers.
This year Kallpay Warmi will focus its efforts in locating woman speakers still found in their communities. The following are the languages which we will be aiming to focus on:
- Shipibo- Konibo
We plan to use the wave of awareness and support which the UN is providing around native indigenous languages to highlight our own countries challenges around the loss and threat to our indigenous languages. Because these communities are located in rural parts of the country we will have to team of two Saphichay staff go to the communities to located the women and men speakers in order to make contact so that inviting them to the festival will done in person. Our indigenous communities function in this way in which one can not send a written invitation and have that be enough in person invitations are required. Besides the invitation we will be recording (video and audio) songs, conversations, stories in these traditional languages in order to: make sure there is material to preserve these languages to a degree, to share with linguists, anthologists and any other interested parties and most importantly to disseminate. The sharing of these languages and their state is what is necessary to draw attention to creating efforts of preservation and revitalization. This video will be shared before and during the event. Once at the event we will be organizing three spaces in which these languages and stories will be share:
- Plenary talks on native languages in Peru- “What languages are at risk, where are they from what and what if any efforts are being done to conserve them”. In these talks our guests will have the opportunity to discuss what is happening on the front lines of language loss and the impacts that language loss has on their community, traditional practices and knowledge. This will be a time and space where they will be able to talk about what is being done and what they would like to see happen to save their languages.
- Workshops focused on sharing these languages through: Songs, Story telling, short lessons etc.
- A summarized version of the plenary talks on the main stage of the festival.
If our previous years are telling of the impact which we can generate and expect then we feel beyond hopeful that this years’ theme on language will help highlight the urgency which native languages face for the public in order to draw interest in engaging with native languages and getting urban native youth involved in reconnecting, documenting and revitalizing many of these languages; most importantly we aim that through this event our youth will turn to their local languages to see what state it is in and how to revitalize it.
We have learned that bringing people to the city to hear stories from the frontline, rural areas is critical to raise awareness on issues on indigenous land defense and cultural survival. Like many other countries, the mainstream media in Peru does not create space for indigenous voices to be heard. These gatherings among indigenous communities build bridges for deeper understanding and extending solidarity. We have found that this strategy of connecting different types of spaces and events works well for our community, as well as being engaging, entertaining, educational, and diverse. Part of building solidarity is also reclaiming one’s own indigenous identity with pride. Having examples of others throughout the country resisting the loss of traditional land, knowledge, practices and identity helps to heal and build a healthy self esteem for urban native youth.
We are working with several local and national organizations and institutions as well as the local women’s shelter and food banks. We are the only event of this kind in the country where we highlight topics around indigenous women’s rights, identity, territory, race, decolonization, and revitalization of traditional ways of knowing and being. These are all topics that are interconnected and foster self worth and respect for one another as well as solidarity building.
Kallpay Warmi 2018
Festival with identity