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: xamanismotecnologico@gmail.com

On behalf of all editorial staff

Fabiane Borges
Carsten Agger

Technoshamanism: Collaborating with the Pataxó

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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:

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Various snapshots from the village:

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sou indio pataxó

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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

Participating in the 1st International Festival for Technoshamanism

This Monday, I’ll be boarding a plane for Brazil in order to attend the First International Festival of Technoshamanism, which will take place from April 23 to April 30 in Arraial d’Ajuda, Bahia.

Which kind of raises the question: What is “technoshamanism”?

It can best be described as an attempt to unite science with religion, and to integrate the worldview of indigenous peoples like the South American Indians with modern technology. It is also about finding a new way for humanity in the era we could call the anthropocene, where not only indigenous people all over the world, but practically speaking all of us arfe threatened with impending destruction.

In that respect, and in integrating the indigenous worldview, technoshamanism is inspired by the perspecitvism introduced by the Brazilian anthropologist Eduardo Viveiros de Castro. This includes an epistemological inversion, where the split between living, conscious human beings and the “dead” Nature inherent in European thought is replaced with a more general view of the world, where animals and things can be considered “living” and “conscious” as well, albeit usually in another way. In that sense, Viveiros’ perspectivism could be considered a formalization and generalization of an Amerindian philosophy.

There’s a more comprehensive explanation available in an article by Brazilian writer and pshychologist Fabiane Borges, which was the basis of her presentation at Transmediale 2014 (in Berlin). I’ve translated this article to from Portuguese to English, and it’s now available as a PDF here.

Borges describes Viveiros’ perspectivism as follows:

The difference between the evolutionary and the Amerindian perspective is that the former believes that there is one nature and many cultures, while the latter thinks of it as many natures and one culture. For the Indian, the only culture that exists is human culture. Everything that exists is human. A stone, the moon, a river, a jaguar, the deceased – all of these are human, but they are dressed in different clothes, behave differently and have different views on reality. For the Indians, a meeting of shamans may mean the same thing as that of a congregation of tapirs in a mudhole – each group is performing its own rituals.

Of course, if we delve into the differences between groups, we will find different priorities for each species and a particular creation myth for each of them, but the important thing here is to understand that the human foundation shared by all beings also serves to connect them and keeps them in a state of constant communication. This understanding is very important: behind the nature of a stone lies a human culture which is also the basis for inter-species communication. (…)

The shaman is a kind of diplomat who has the ability to assume several of these points of view. He is able to contact all those different forms; he can change his clothes and visit the points of view of many different beings. There may be a pact between him and those beings, a mutual affinity but also a repulsion. He is able to leave his own point of view behind and see himself from the outside and see the Indians of his tribe from the point of view of the tree or of the birds, the moon, the stars, or any other object or material. This ability means that the shaman has a deeper insight into the nature of things than most Indians, because he has improved this technique by intense training. That is why his madness, his schizofrenia and his perceptual deviation is considered to be wisdom.

Such a worldview, however, doesn’t always match modern society very well. Borges discusses the French sociologist Bruno Latour and his distinction between “humans” and “earthbound”, where the “earthbound” are those who are more bound to our planet and its well-being, while the “humans” are more dedicated to human society, not least its financial aspects:

On one side we have the poor, dirty bums: lazy, retarded, subjectivist infantile hippies, losers, misfits, spiritualists, barbarians. On the other side the urban people, committed to modernity, growth, development, enrichment, security, productivity, objectivity, and expansionism. These opposed camps are, in spite of not being very clearly defined, disputing modes of existence and ways of relating to Earth and to Life itself.

The point here is, that in the overall economic management of our Western societies (or of all the world’s societies, if we want to tell the truth) the “earthbound” are losing or being neglected, while the “humans” are dominating; “financial responsibility” dictates constant “growth”, i.e., we must burn down the planet in order to preserve it. But if we want to survive in the long run, we might do worse than starting listening in earnest to the earthbound, or at least to the scientists from the IPCC.

Technoshamanism, by following this thread, becomes a kind of spiritual search for everything for which there is no room in the harsh realities of modern industrial societies. It thus becomes a philosophy of garbage – of all the things we routinely throw away: Madness, hallucinations, nonconformity, the compassion for the unemployed and the sick and the poor in general, if and when they are perceived as obstructive to the juggernaut of growth. This means that even though the refuses of society are not necessarily healthy, we are obliged to search for our lost humanity precisely on the garbage heap.

Borges summarizes this position as follows:

This is equivalent to saying that technoshamanism apart from arising directly from a transversal shamanism is also dirty and noiseocratic. It belongs in the garbage dump, is unclean. A significant part of what technoshamanism affirms originates in the leftovers of scientific thinking, from precarious laboratories, uncertain knowledge, hacking, electronic garbage, workarounds, cats, originates from the recycling of materials, from the duplication of already thoroughly tested scientific results.

To this we may add particular questions from social movements related to feminism, to the movements of queers, of blacks, for free software, of the landless, of indigenous people, of river communities, of homeless people and the unemployed among countless others who also perceive through their own noises, their own dissidency, their own garbage.

The last paragraph also tells us what this has to do with free software. In fact, the festival is arranged in close collaboration with the local hacklab Bailux, whose volunteers for several years now have been working with the Indians from the nearby Aldeia Velha to do things with free software; precisely, among other things, helping the Indians preserve their ancestral knowledge using free software. The Brazilian hacker bus, one of the “crown jewels” of a local hacker movement which is completely dedicated to political change through free software, will be driving down to the festival from São Paulo. So, while the overall political and philosophical ideas behind the festival are not related to free software as such, they have everything to do with a culture where free software is completely ingrained. And that, one might add, is not without its own significance.

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