ARTICLE: Pachamama - Honouring Mother Earth
February 2016, The RichMix, Shoreditch
A Sunday afternoon is not usually the busiest time at East London venue RichMix, but today is an exception. The lobby is thronging with crowds of people waiting for the doors to open for tonight’s Pachamama event - celebrating the culture of Bolivia, with traditional music, dance, food and film.
This event has been many months in the planning and is a collaboration between Celebrate Life Events, Vicki Cespedes - a member of the UK Bolivian community - and H E Roberto Calzadilla, Bolivian Ambassador.
There is a buzz of excitement as the doors open early and people rush in to find a seat. Bolivian food is being served in one corner - delicious quinoa salad, humitas (sweetcorn and cheese parcels which sell out within minutes) and the very popular ‘salteñas’ (a kind of Bolivian Cornish pasty) which creates queues that snake around the hall. Nearby are stalls selling Incan handicrafts and fair-trade Brazil nuts from Bolivia’s rainforests.
While DJ Ruben Cordero plays delightful South American rhythms, a slideshow of artwork by Arts4Giving is displayed on the screen. It reflects the theme of the event: Pachamama, Mother Earth. The contributing artists were asked what this planet means to them and their replies were included in the slideshow.
By the time the event kicks off, the venue is packed - 350 people, of all nationalities and ages.
Traditional Bolivian music group ‘Sikuris sin Fronteras’ come marching through from the back with pan pipes, wooden flutes, and large drums. They proceed to the stage and the event has begun.
For those not familiar with the cultural heritage from this part of the world it was an eye-opening experience, filled with colours and sounds both new and ancient, resonating with the traditional cultures of every nation.
Three dance troupes were part of the line-up: firstly ‘Semillas de Bolivia’ performing the ‘Tobas’ dance from the Amazon, with fantastical costumes and high, energetic jumps; then ‘Bloque Kantuta' dancing Morenada with extremely colourful and intricate masks and dresses - a dance originally inspired by the sufferings of the African slaves who were brought to Bolivia to work on the silver mines; and lastly dance troupe ‘Sumaj Punchay’ performing ‘Pujllay’ - literally meaning ‘play’- who wore the most remarkable thick-soled shoes with rattles attached, creating the sound of tambourines.
The event also contained three short films: an animation ‘Abuello Grillo’ telling the story of Grandmother Cricket a mythological character who brings the rain, and two short films featuring Peace Ambassador Prem Rawat’s message. They included clips of his visit to the Incan capital Cusco, where he answered questions from university students highlighting the need for peace and the importance of taking care of the precious planet we live on.
This message was echoed by Bolivian Ambassador H E Roberto Calzadilla who gave a short presentation during the event.
One of the most touching and unique parts of the evening was the Symbolic K’oa offering, an ancestral ceremony based on the Andean principal of ‘Ayni’: ‘We feed Pachamama so that in turn Pachamama feeds us’. This was begun by MC Carolina Herrera singing a cappella. Her mesmerising voice carried to every part of the hall, which fell completely silent. Her song was followed by the blowing of a conch shell and the chanting of the Aymara prayer accompanied by the soulful notes of a wooden flute. ‘Sikuris sin Fronteras’ followed with more traditional music - powerful panpipes that reached to the floor and giant drums that represented the sound of thunder.
This led into the finale of the event where things got really lively.
The joyous music of ‘Sikuris sin Fronteras’ was simply irresistible and had everyone on their feet, joining hands and dancing in circles. People left with big smiles and talk of Pachamama II.
Abuela Grillo: https://youtu.be/AXz4XPuB_BM
Stalls - Arts, Crafts and Food:
Liberation Nuts: http://chooseliberation.com
Thanks to Javier Molina and Marco Canepari for the photos.