Talk on nature and permaculture


Talk given at the technoshamanism encounter in Aarhus, November 22, 2014.

I wish to talk about the Danish nature, and I’d like to start by showing
you some pictures. The first pictures I’m going to show you were taken
by the writer and photogropher Rune Engelbreth Larsen who has been
working a lot on documenting the Danish nature as it is today.

Photo (c) Rune Engelbreth LarsenWhat you se here is of course a Danish forest with a lake, and if you
look at these pictures (which Rune Engelbreth has been dedicating
several years of his life to taking, making excursions and going to the
most remote corners of Danish nature) you’ll find that
many places in Denmark we actually have a rich nature
with very beautiful places, e.g. like this.

Photo (c) Rune Engelbreth LarsenSo if you visit a place like this and many others, you’d be forgiven for
thinking that if there are so many wonderful places here in Denmark
where you can go to meditate and enjoy the nature, we must have a
beautiful and very diverse nature in this country. And it’s true -
you can indeed find places where you can
take such pictures. You can find many such places, also e.g. like this:

Photo (c) Rune Engelbreth LarsenThese examples of Danish nature are places with a really peaceful
atmosphere. They are very green and very nice, usually with very
comfortable temperatures. If you visit some of the best places in Danish
nature, you’ll find that these are places that you can really feel a
part of, where you can relax and be happy and feel a strong sense of
belonging. As a Danish person I grew up with this kind of nature, and
I really feel at home in these tranquil spots. This is a landscape to
which I can really connect, spiritually.

Photo (c) Rune Engelbreth Larsen

In the photo above, you see one of our great oak forests, in Langaa.
Originally, Danish forests consisted mainly of oak trees; today, species
like beech, birch and fir are much more common. We don’t really
know why this forest has been conserved as oak, but in pre-Christian
times oak trees were connected to the ancient Nordic religion – the oak
is the tree of Thor. Thus, a very old oak forest like this one can also
help us connect to that part of our ancestral history.

However, if you look at other parts of the Danish landscape, a very
different picture emerges. The following pictures were all taken during a
walk that I took one day several years ago when I was living in
Solbjerg, a small town south of Aarhus. I walked around the lake called
Solbjerg Sø in one end and Stilling Sø in the other. There are, as you
can see, nice pastures along its banks that you can follow.

The trees that you see in the background are a small forest that’s also
quite beautiful once you get inside.

From there, you can go up a hill road and get a good view of the
landscape (click to see the full panorama image).

You have the hillside, the trees in the background, the
lake, and it’s all very nice, but: as pleasant as all of this might
appear, these pictures are actually lying. The first pictures I chose to
illustrate this article are truthful enough – they really do show some
very nice spots of Danish nature. But the pictures from my walk are
lying, all of them. Solbjerg Sø is situated in a completely agricultural
district, and the only reason there are green pastures at its banks is
that it’s too humid, so they can’t get their tractors all the way down
there. The trees at their edge form a hedge, and the corn fields start
right on the other side. In the autumn and winter, the pastures are
flooded and it’s nearly impossible to walk there. This is partly because
the lake’s water level is rising slightly, but mostly it’s because of
the drainage pipes that carry water from the fields on the hillside,
making them more tractor- and corn-friendly. This drainage water will
also carry excess fertilizer and pesticides which are sprayed on the
crop, all of which are flowing directly onto the pastures on their way
to the lake.

If you enter the forest on the other side of the lake – as I did that
day, since I walked all the way around the lake as close to the banks as
possible – you’ll se that it has been cut back and replaced with corn
fields as far down the slope as possible, right down to the point where
the ground becomes so humid that no matter what they do and how many
draining pipes they put in the ground, they still won’t be able to till
it and thus they can’t grow corn on it. The hillside is drained as far
down as possible, and the water from the fields is conducted to that
wood and makes it much too humid, creating a very bad climate in the
wood. The water from the fields is polluted with nutrients from the
chemical fertilizers used for the corn. This means that the wood by the
lake is overgrown with nettles, and otherwise the biological diversity
is nil. The high humidity does make it an ideal breeding place for
mosquitoes, though. As idyllic as that wood may look at a distance, it
really isn’t a nice place.

The area around Solbjerg Sø is a good example of a very idyllic but
completely destroyed Danish landscape. And this is the real state of
most of Danish nature these days.

On the other hand, if you look at the picture below, you’ll see a
typical Danish landscape. If you look at an aerial photo, you’ll find
that this is what Denmark is: Corn fields. You’ll see some tiny patches
of green dispersed in the landscape. These are forests that they haven’t
felled yet and some very few bogs that they were unable to drain
enough to sow corn.

These landscapes are really dreary. What few people know is that Denmark
is the most heavily farmed country in Europe and one of the most heavily
farmed – and most destroyed – countries in the world.

My assessment of the situation is that, financially speaking, we’re
doing all of this for nothing. The most important crop on Danish corn
fields is barley, which is mainly grown in order to feed pigs and other
livestock. The real reason for having all these corn fields is that we
have to feed the pigs in the industrial pig farms so that we can export a
lot of pork meat.

Meanwhile, in these pig factories the pigs are being overmedicated. All
of them are usually treated preventively with antibiotics. This is
creating new antibiotic-resistant bacteria which may also infect humans.
Right now, there’s a bacterium originating in pig farms called MRSA
(Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus Aureus) which is actually killing
people. In Denmark, four people died of MRSA infection from 2012 to
2014. In order to protect the pig farmers from “harm” (e.g., in the
form of consumer boykot), the government is keeping the outbreak
locations secret. This means that school classes may and do visit farms
with outbreaks of this deadly disease. The teachers are not allowed to
make a informed decision not to visit an infected farm, since that
information is confidential.

So this is the dilemma: Our agricultural production is destroying Danish
nature and undermining the health of future generations by creating
penicillin-resistant strains of bacteria which are already lethal in
some cases. At the same time, we don’t really have to produce food in
that way, because we don’t need to use all this space on corn fields in
order to feed ourselves. Most of our agricultural production is
exported. Of course, one might claim that we produce all this grain and
pork meat for sound economic reasons. The agriculture lobby is always
emphasizing this claim.

But the fact is that agriculture as practised in Denmark is not
financially sustainable. The only reason that Danish farmers survive
economically is that they’re heavily subsidized. If it weren’t for
subsidies, they would quickly go bankrupt. In other words, the present
overfarming is pointless. We’re sacrificing our country’s nature and
biological diversity to the very short-sighted interests of one single
profession whose productions methods are not even economically viable.

This is the first of the dilemmas I want to address: We’re destroying
our country in order to produce far more food than we need, and society
as a whole is losing money because of it. Meanwhile, there are many
environmentally and economically sustainable ways to produce food.

A related dilemma is that today’s consumer society is moving faster and
faster. This means that we as people are constantly pushed harder and
harder to perform. You have to do well in school, you have to get good
grades in secondary school, you have to work hard at the university, you
have to get a good exam. Once you get out you have to get a good job.
You’ll often have to be there at nine o’clock in the morning and stay
until five. In most jobs, you must be there during these hours or
you’ll get fired. If you get fired and you’re eligible for unemployment
benefit, society has all sorts of rules so you have to go to meetings,
attend “courses” and turn up at eight or nine o’clock in the morning
anyway. Only now you won’t get paid more than you need to barely keep
you from starving, so you better find a job soon! In other words, our
society isn’t free at all: We’re forced to become parts of consumer
society and we’re not actually free to choose not to be a part of it.

One way in which we could become more free to choose how to live would be
to become less dependent on money.

I’d like to propose that the two problems I’ve described right now – the
destruction of nature by unsustainable and unnecessary food production
and modern society’s endemic lack of personal freedom – have one single
solution. We, as individuals, can obtain the means to sustain ourselves
and each other without having to work for money in the way we do now.
It is theoretically possible for us to create a sustainable life and a
sustainable production of food and other necessities in such a way that
our society is and remains in balance with nature.

If we were to organize our food production according to the principles
of permaculture; that is, if we were to produce what we need in forest
gardens and carefully designed multicultures, we could avoid the use of
chemical fertilizers, pesticides and fossil fuels. In permaculture you
normally design your crops to balance and suplement each other, so you
don’t need to supply fertilizer – a careful selection of edible
perennials can help provide the nutrients they need and keep each
other’s pests and diseases away. The only monoculture crop we really
have to cultivate is wheat, since people do want bread. In order to
produce bread, we need about 500 square meters (organically farmed) for
each person, and that’s nothing compared to the area we’re currently
using for agriculture. Apart from that, we could organize our
agriculture entirely according to permaculture principles. We could
easily do without agriculture as an export industry, since it’s already
not actually making us any money, since it’s only profitable because
it’s subsidized. Giving up on the pig production, we could shrink the
agricultural land to a fraction of what it is today. Instead of using
60% of the country’s area for agriculture, we could feed ourselves with
just 10% of the space; and we could re-establish nature in the rest of

That’s what we could do as a society if we want to transition to
something more sustainable. But we can also do something as individuals.
If we have the option we might, of course, shoot our proverbial uncle
in America and inherit all his millions – but most of us don’t have that
option. On the other hand, if we were to get cheap access to a garden -
I was lucky, as I was able to buy a house cheaply and I’m now building a
permaculture project there – we could put in a modest amount of work for
some years and afterwards we’d be able to get most of the food that we
need from that garden. It’s estimated that if you want to be
self-sufficient with food, you could get by with 400 square meters per
person, farmed very intensively. When I took my Permculture Design
Certificate, our teacher said that he wouldn’t try to do that himself -
he’d probably go for 800. But that’s still a moderately sized garden.
People could form communities with shared gardens – share the access,
share the cost, share the work, share the food – and you could have
communities of people who sustain themselves without ever spending any
money on food. So this transition is not just something we could do as
a society – we could do it ourselves and become vastly more independent
of having a job and being a part of consumer society. I’m not saying
this is the whole solution – there’s still some dependencies like how to
get the land in the first place – but it could be an important start for
many of us.

If you’re consuming pigs which have been produced by industrial
agriculture, then you’re also paying to have their fodder moved around,
you’re paying to have your fertilizers transported from abroad, you’re
paying to sustain a lot of carbon emissions. If you build a forest
garden in your own garden or help build a forest garden on a shared area
so that afterwards you can get most of your food from that forest
garden, you’re actually not emitting any carbon, you’re storing it. A
growing forest garden is actively removing carbon from the atmosphere
and storing it in the trees, in the roots beneath the ground and in all
the plants constantly growing in that garden. Calculations have been
made which show that if – and that’s a very big IF – we were to
transition to get a large part of our food from forest gardens and
sourcing that produce locally instead of having everything driven and
flown around, we would be able to take enough carbon out of the Earth’s
atmosphere to make a difference regardint the climate changes. I’m not
saying that this is going to happen because obviously it won’t, but we
could theoretically avert some of the dangers of climate change that

Maybe we can’t save the world, but we can make ourselves more
independent and our lives freer and more fulfilling – and in doing so we
can at least try to contribute as little as possible to our own

Installing Baobáxia at the II International Festival of Technoshamanism

A scene from a short film created as part of the festival's video workshop.

On November 9 2016, I and my son Johannes left Denmark for Brazil in order to co-organize and attend the II International Festival of Technoshamanism. You can read more about the background for this festival at the technoshamanism site as well as in previous posts on this blog.

Each participant in the festival was expected to propose an activity, and as one of the organizers I was no exception. The II International Festival of Technoshamanism took place in the Pataxó village Pará in the extreme south of the Brazilian state of Bahia, and my proposal was to install a working node (mucúa) of the Baobáxia system in the village. The purpose of this node is to act as an archive of the indigenous cultural production, a way yo protect and salvage the indigenous culture in electronic form for decades to come, and a way for the Pataxó to do so with complete ownership over the infrastructure as well as the content – independently of corporate and proprietary content-sharing sites such as Facebook and YouTube.

Who are the Pataxó?

Well, I’ve written about them before, after I participated in the first technoshamanism festival in 2014. The Pataxó are an indigenous people (what we sometimes call “Indians”, indeed they sometimes call themselves that) who live near the sea in the extreme south of the Brazilian state of Bahia. The Aldeia Pará (Pará Village) is located in what the Pataxó call their origin or Aldeia Mãe, the area from which they were all expelled in the massacre of 1951. It is situated far from everything in the middle of an indigenous reserve comprising some 8500 hectares and is home to some 69 families. The neighboring village of Barra Velha is located 5 km from Pará and has a population of about 400 families.

The Pataxó are an intelligent and open-minded people, and though they have not had much exposure to computers, they are very conscious of the potential of modern technology in the struggle for their culture and their land, which has been a constant factor in Pataxó life for several decades – not least given that many of their villages are threatened by expulsion. In October 2016, the village of Aratikum some 100 kilometers north of Pará was actually razed to the ground by the police in the service of local land owners.

Opening ritual in Akurinã Pataxó's healing space.

The Pataxó’s motivation for hosting the event was to be able to exchange knowledge – to learn something from all us urban hackers and activists with our experience in free software and art and social movements, and to teach us something in the bargain. Each participant would propose an activity – a workshop, an art installation, a ritual, a performance, a talk – and would be free to participate in the other proposed activities. Among the activities proposed by the Pataxó were the festival’s opening and closing rituals, a healing tent, traditional Pataxó cooking, traditional body paint, fishing and hunting methods, the cultivation of manioc and manufacturing of manioc flour, musical sessions and the jogos indigenas, the indigenous sports games which took the form of a competition between Indians and non-Indians.

As I said, my proposal was to install a node of Baobáxia and – just as, or even more, important – give workshops in how to use and maintain the system (running on a dedicated Debian GNU/Linux server) themselves so it could be useful also after we left.

Technoshamanism, ancestrality and the Destructor

But if the Pataxó’s motivation for hosting the event was to make friends and allies and gain new knowledge, then what was our motivation for organizing it? And by “we” I mean a large group of people in the technoshamanism network, mainly but (obviously enough) not exclusively Brazilian: Fabi Borges, Jonatan Sola,  Sue Nhamandu, Rafael Frazão, Fernando Gregório, Luiza Só, Rodrigo Krul and too many more to mention, apart from the many participants who arrived at the festival with similar motives and gave many outstanding contributions?

One thing is the connection of technoshamanism with reconnection  - reconnecting with the Earth, reconnecting with the ancestral worldviews of the thousands of generations of people who lived close to the Earth in a mainly oral culture. The Pataxó live in a reserve where they can live well off the earth, they have a strong connection to their ancestral way of life as well as, quite literally, to their ancestors and other ancestral spirits, who often show up at their rituals.  As such, the Pataxó have 500 years of experience in dealing with European colonizers and the usurping civilization, and they have developed an immense skill in navigating this kind of pressure without losing neither their independence nor their traditional culture.

As opposed to that, the norm in our cities is that of disintegration, not least of community spirit and ancestral culture. Traditional songs and tales which might have been handed down in subtly changing ways for hundreds or thousands of years are replaced with comic books and cinema, which are replaced with endless children’s TV shows, which as we grow up are replaced with “breaking news”, X Factor and a host of even more diluted and inane TV shows. Culture ceases to be something we do ourselves and do together, neighborhoods cease to be communities and the cultural divide even splits up the families, so that we end up as disjoint individuals in a sea of strangers who can only struggle to recreate something vaguely resembling a genuine community. Sometimes, of course, as in the case of many successful free software projects, genuinely succeeding.

In his recent novel “Jerusalem“, the  writer and comic book author Alan Moore metaphorically describes this phenomenon, which he has experienced first hand in his home town of Northampton, as “the Destructor”. The Destructor was a garbage incinerator which for decades was actually and physically located in the poorest neighborhood in Northampton, reducing people’s life expectancy with at least ten years, its location a daily reminder to the inhabitants of the Boroughs of how little the rest of the city cared about them.

And yet the Boroughs was actually the oldest neighborhood in Northampton and home to a bafflingly rich, orally transmitted ancestral working class culture which was, after World War I and under the impression of the Russian revolution, deliberately crushed by city planning. According to Alan Moore, the policies which have disempowered modern Europeans by stripping us of our communities were deliberately inflicted. Moore describes the destructive effect on the communities with these words:

He saw a hundred old men and old women moved from the condemned homes where they’d raised their families, dumped in distant districts with nobody that they knew and failing to survive the transplant. By the dozen they keeled over on the well-lit stairs of their new houses; in the unfamiliar indoor toilets; onto their unprecedented fitted carpets; on the pillows of magnolia-painted bedrooms that they failed to wake to. Countless funerals fell into the Mayorhold’s fires, and furtive teenage love-affairs, and friendships between relocated children sent to different schools. Infants began to understand that they would probably now never marry the classmate they had been expecting to. All the connecting tissue, the affectations and associations, became cinders. (p. 731)

The Northampton neighborhood known as the Boroughs descended into complete misery and insecurity, containing the points of trade that “supplied the customers who drew the girls, who brought the pimps, who dealt the drugs, which bred the guns that shot the kids who lived in the house that crack built” (p. 691). But there’s a point in that – that kind of misery is very common in urbanized Brazil as well as in Europe, and a contact with people who still retain an orally transmitted culture and whose communities were never fragmented by the Destructor could teach us something about reconnecting, with the Earth and its spirits, with our natural spirituality and with true community.

The Festival area

As we arrived in Pará about November 14, our first job was to establish a good contact with the Pataxó, organize food for the event and start rigging the computers and other technical equipment.

As everybody else, we were camping in what was at first quite precarious conditions due to the heavy rainfall before the festival started.

Luckily, the Pataxó were very helpful and we managed to secure everything against the rain before the start of the festival on November 22.

Installing Baobáxia

Community Radio sending from the Pataxó Kijeme Cultural, home of the GNU/Linux computers

Before our arrival, the Pataxó had built a completely new house for cultural production, in which they had placed four stationary computers they had received from the reservation’s Fisherman’s Association which originally got them from a government program. These four computers were quite old and had Windows installed. Our first task was to replace that with GNU/Linux.

At first, our attempts at setting up the computers were haunted by technical difficulties. First of all, we were unable to get them to boot from USB drives, which meant we had to buy burnable CDs or DVDs. When we got them, we realized they could not really boot from the DVDs either due to our images being 64 bit, and these trusty old computers were actually 32 bit. We couldn’t use the Internet for troubleshooting since there was no Internet yet – it was supposed to arrive during  the week before the festival, but the roads were closed because of the rain.

In the end, Pablo Vieira from the Assentamento Terravista near Ilhéus (with the microphone in the picture above) arrived, and as it turned out, he knows these computers very well; they can boot from USB if a rather obscure BIOS setting is enabled. In his pocket was a bootable USB with the most recent 32 bit Linux Mint, and everyone was happy and the computers were well prepared for the arrival of the Internet later that week.

The Internet arriving at Aldeia Pará. Pataxó warrior Txayhuã is painting festival organizer Fabi Borges while the operator's car has stopped at the new culture house. Half an hour later, there was Internet.

I was not alone in the task of installing Baobáxia and giving workshops about it – Vincenzo Tozzi from the Mocambos network, Sicilian and founder of the Baobáxia project, joined the festival as well. Vince is a programmer and computer scientist and wrote a major part of the Baobáxia system himself, but he is really a philosopher of networks with important insights in the potential of free software and offline digital communications, and his presence was an invaluable contribution to the festival.

Vincenzo Tozzi from the Mocambos networks explains Baobáxia to village chief Ubiratã. Also listening are Pablo Vieira and Arapaty Pataxó.

Our two workshops in Baobáxia were a huge success, and especially the younger generation of the Pataxó showed a great interest in working with this technology. The Baobáxia node we installed is still active in the village and is still not connected to the Internet, but you can see the contents in its present degree of synchronization here.

What else was in the festival?

A lot of things.

Some very beautiful rituals:

And video workshops, radio workshops, capoeira, samba in the church in honor of Saint Benedito, seed exchange, agroforestry, construction of dry composting toilets, radio production, discussions about the pros and cons of ecoturism, and much, much more. I might do a followup post on that, in the meantime let it be said that the festival was a unique experience and I’m very happy to be one of the people who made it happen.

Video of our talk on Baobáxia @ FOSDEM

Video link to our talk on Baobáxia, the Galaxy of Baobab Trees

Our talk is, of course, also on Baobáxia itself.

The talk was scheduled late Sunday and that did affect the attendance, but the people who were there displayed a lot of interest in the system.

On Saturday, we set up a booth and operated for some hours, which also gave some very interesting opportunities to share ideas about the system.


Baobáxia at FOSDEM

At the upcoming FOSDEM, I’ll be presenting the Baobáxia system, previously mentioned on this blog quite some time ago.

On the corresponding FOSDEM presentation page, the talk is described with these words:

Baobáxia is a community-built project to connect about 200 Brazilian quilombos to assist the interchange and preservation of traditional, community-built culture.

A special challenge is found in the fact that many of these communities are located in remote areas with no access to the Internet. It is therefore imperative to be able to synchronize multimedia data offline.

Technically, the system uses git-annex to solve the challenging problem of offline distribution – but the really important part of the process is the community effort involved.

The Rede Mocambos is a network of about 200 Afro-Brazilian and indigenous communities. As a network, it is focused on creating new infrastructure and strengthening the communities through the use of free software.

Baobáxia is a system designed to unite these communities in an offline network. Each community will upload their local cultural production (in the form of documents and multimedia content) to their local node of the system and have their contributions synchronized to the rest of the network. Nodes with an internet connection can synchronize directly from other nodes on the internet, while offline communities can synchronize their contents during the frequent meetups and visits with other communities in the network.

Baobáxias purpose is to provide traditional communities with the infrastructure to create and preserve their own digital culture on their own terms. The offline distribution is very important as many of these communities will probably never have fast Internet access due to their geographical location, but the creation of a free and community operated infrastructure for sharing multimedia data may also be seen as an important alternative to centralized global monopolies as YouTube and Facebook.

The system has now been operating for about a year and currently contains 30 nodes corresponding to about 20 different local communities. The project’s efforts are currently directed at consolidating the current features, planning new features for future releases and giving workshops for users and administrators in the communities.

Technically, the system is built in Python and Django, with a front end based on Java Script and uses git and git-annex to synchronize the media. The important part of the process, however, is the community building aspect. Baobáxia represents the hope for the digital future for an existing network of ~200 traditional communities which are already keen on using free software and free technology to propagate and develop their culture.

Baobáxia – the Galaxy of Baobab Trees

Baobáxia - the Galaxy of Baobab TreesYesterday evening, I gave a T³ (Tech Talk Tuesday) talk in our local, friendly hackerspace about the Mocambos network and their software project Baobáxia – a free software project to connect very widely distributed, often rural communities, namely the Brazilian quilombos.

Since my visit to Brazil in April, I’ve been involved in this project as a programmer, at least as far as my time has allowed.

Above, you can find a link the slides from my presentation – you can also read them in PDF format (with functional links) here.

Call for Papers for Book on Technoshamanism

From July 1st till October 30th we are accepting materials for our forthcoming publication TECHNOSHAMANISM. It will be a bilingual edition (in Portuguese and English) and is published as a collaboration between editors in Brazil and Denmark.

We are inviting papers on the subjects of technoshamanism, animism, indigenous people’s culture and rights, shamanic practices, biodiversity, agroforestry, permaculture, retelling of shamanic experiences, hallucinogenic plants, indigenous struggle, DIY culture, science and technology, art and electronics, transhuman interfaces based on technological gadgets, and any other topic related to the broader concept of technoshamanism.

The publication will discuss the issue of ancestral knowledge and new technologies and will pursue ecological alternatives as well as models and aesthetics to obtain new parameters for acting in the world in an era where not only the water supply, but also the very existence of forests and their peoples, of nature itself, are at risk.

We are accepting articles as well as fiction or techno fiction, images, comics, photonovels and any other suitable means of expression, as long as they are no longer than ten pages for each person or group. The publishing, in print as well as online, will be taken care of by the technoshamanist network. We will accept submissions in English, Portuguese and Spanish.

Please send your material to the following email address:

On behalf of all editorial staff

Fabiane Borges
Carsten Agger

Technoshamanism: Collaborating with the Pataxó


One of the more important parts of the 1st Festival of Technoshamanism (previously covered here, here and here) was several points of collaboration with the local Pataxó Indians.

The Pataxó is an indigenous people of about 12,000 people who live in the extreme south of the Brazilian state of Bahia, mainly in the area between Porto Seguro and Caraíva. Traditionally, the Pataxó have lived near Monte Pascoal, in the aldeia or settlement (or “village”) called Barra Velha. In 1951, they suffered a devastating massacre at the hands of the Brazilian military police, who basically burned down the settlement and dispersed the Pataxó, who for many years hereafter often had to be  discreet about their heritage. In the 1980′s and 90′s the Pataxó started fighting for their lands and succesfully reclaimed several of their old settlements, among them the Aldeia Velha located in Arraial d’Ajuda and the area around Monte Pascoal near Caraíva. A retelling of the struggle of the Pataxó for their lands can be found here (in Portuguese).

Today, the Pataxó live in 29 aldeias mainly located in the area between Monte Pascoal and Porto Seguro. Their main source of income is agriculture and tradional craftmanship, and though they have made great advances, their claim to their lands is by no means secure. The area is home to vast financial interests in agrobusiness, who would love to be able to clear what remains of the Atlantic rain forest and plant high-yielding eucalyptus everywhere, and their relationship with the rest of society is still precarious, as craftmanship and tourism are a somewhat insecure financial foundation.

After the massacre, the Pataxó might have opted to simply integrate into Brazilian society, abandon their culture and adopt a more assimilated lifestyle as workers and farm hands. But many of them also recognize that if they fail to conserve their culture, they will disappear and become nothing more than a few thousand urban and rural poor – while if the do conserve their culture and remember who they are, they may yet conserve an incredibly rich historical and cultural heritage.

The collaboration between the Pataxó and the participants in the festival was  natural because the concept of technoshamanism is, as has been discussed, all about reconnecting with ancestral knowledge and a connection to nature. In fact, one of the reasons for selecting Arraial d’Ajuda as the location of the festival was that several of the activists behind the festival already had good relations with the Pataxó. One of those people is Regis “Bailux”, who lives in Arraial and founded the hacklab called “Bailux”. At the festival’s opening (pictured above) Regis explained how his life changed completely ten years ago, when he discovered free software. His passion for free software led him to create Bailux with weekly meetings around free software, and for years he has been working to bring free software and free technology to the Pataxó to enable them to connect to the new digital world. For the Pataxó, collaboration with and solidarity from social movements as well as from other independent people are important, as they may yet need all the support they can get in the struggle for their culture and their land.

As a European and a person from a very different culture, I was honoured to be invited as a friend and a guest of these wonderful people.

The village pajé, or medicine woman, in Aldeia Velha:

Scenes from a wedding and sports contest in Aldeia Velha on April 29, 2014:



Captura de Tela 2014-05-14 às 14.00.51-1

Captura de Tela 2014-05-14 às 13.54.42-1




Various snapshots from the village:


sou indio pataxó



Technoshamanism: Strange rituals

Many artists and theatre people participated in the 1st International Festival for Technoshamanism, and this fact conspired with the festival’s theme – the confluence of technology and shamanism – to create a number of interesting performances and happenings. Below is a selection of images which attempts to give an impression of a few of these events.

This is also the first in a series of posts where I will try to convey a number of different aspects of the festival by selecting and grouping the available photos. Of course, a few and selective photos can’t do much justice to the event itself, and there’s no room on this blog for all of the images that are relevant for this or the following topics. Still, as I said, I hope to be able to convey, mosaic-like, an impression of what the festival per se was like. Click on each picture to see it in better resolution.
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Link: Tecnoxamanismo on Flickr.

Technoshamanism – mindblowing beauty

The opening night of the technoshamanism festival featured a dance with the local Pataxó Indians, and in fact a lot of interaction with these indigenous people. One of the days participants in the festival went to perform workshops in their nearby village, and another day we were all invited to a Pataxó wedding. These photos in themselves, however beautiful, do not do any justice to the encounter – there’s so much content it will take a long time for people to put it online.

Photos by Nubia Abe.

Opening the 1st International Festival of Technoshamanism

The festival opened informally by people turning up little by little during the day. At night we had a long and very interesting discussion about permaculture and the future of the planet where we also discussed the threats to the Internet and the importance on Edward Snowden’s revelation of the real extent of government surveillance.

The weightiest input to the discussion came from our host Jürgen Botz, who is a German software engineer who came to Bahia after working in Silicon Valley for 25 years, mostly with free software. Jürgen believes there is not much we can do to change the patterns of consumption and global waming on the large scale. We can, however, change them on the small scale, by using permaculture, sustainable agriculture, and generally form groups to live differently and simply stop contributing to the madness. This may not save the planets, but it may enable us to save our own souls, or at least our own integrity. This is why he has started the permaculture initiative which is currently hosting the festival in the middle of a  Bahian jungle.

If you understand Portuguese, you can listen to the discussion here, thanks to Livia Achcar who recorded and edited the conversation to turn it into a radio program.

The official opening of the festival was today, and I’ll write about it later.

Photo: Carlos Diego