Journey to Awajún Land

On a 7 hour journey through these roads that were endless all the way to Urakusa. This is what makes it feel like we are going into far away lands.

In July 2011, we traveled from Lima to Urakusa in the Condorcanqui Province, Department of Amazonas, Perú, to meet the Awajún artisans. It took two and a half days by land. It would have been four days longer, if we had opted to go by boat from the nearest town of Imacita. Although, that would have been exciting, time was of essence.

After a day stop in Chiclayo we continued on to Bagua, where the June 2009 massacre happened and many innocent people were killed after a peaceful protest turned violent. The Peruvian government had ordered the military to go in with helicopters and shoot from above. Awajún members were among the protestors and many lost their lives, as did police. It was this event in June 2009, after I transcribed video footage of the massacre for Amazon Watch, that I knew I had to do something and be in the communities working on some level.

Artisans of Nazareth on our stop in Chiriaco. Visit with first group of Awajún artisans who are embracing once again their tradition of seed jewelry making.

From Bagua we headed to Chiriaco to meet with the first group of Awajún Artisans of Nazareth, where we spent a few hours. We continued on to Urakusa through the beautiful jungle along the river on a bumpy road for another 5 hours.

Women’s Artisans Association of the Nor-Orient Awajún Region in the community of Urakusa.

We spent two full days in Urakusa, where we met with the artisans that had previously invited me to go in March. It was fulfilling to finally have the time to visit them. I was truly inspired by the quality of their work and creativity. They are eager to share and sell their beautiful crafts and I am honored to be able to bring it to the west. I brought a number of samples of exquisite seed bio-jewelry that you can see in the Collection gallery and Awajún collection pages.

President of the Awajún Women Artisans Association of Urakusa, Balbina Paukal Sebastián.

The president with members of their artisans association in their colorful traditional clothing. Beautiful color and elegance.

Working on collections to be developed by the talented Awajún artisans.

The Awajún artisans of Urakusa possess great talent and a keen attention to detail and quality. This makes working with them a wonderful collaboration, as they will be able to train artisans in other communities.

Balbina Paukal Sebastián, President of the Awajún Women Artisans Association of Urakusa, looking at a portfolio with magazine tear sheets and sketches I brought them to inspire new designs.

Awajún artisans working on the collections as well as their traditional pieces. Photo by Ambrocio Uwak.

My husband Dylan Farnham making a hand blender with one of his knives. The Awajún use this hand blender to make some of their drinks and other delicacies.

After working for two days, we had a short window to do a nature walk in the jungle. We didn’t have time to go deep in the jungle, but being amidst the beautiful scenery and rainforest scents was a gift for the time we spent there. On our walk, my husband learned how to make a hand blender with a fallen branch and one of his handy knives. Earlier, he had given a lesson to the men in knife sharpening with simple tools they had. They invited him to come again to do a workshop in knife making with recycled materials on our next trip there. Dylan is eager to show them how to make long-lasting knives that can perform for a lifetime.

Enjoying a natural spring.

Beautiful & colorful architecture.

Regal farewell in the morning.

Our hosts, the Uwak family, on our farewell breakfast.

Ambrocio Uwak, his wife Claudia and children were wonderful hosts. Ambrocio is an Awajún representative and member of the network Deep in Forests.  He arranged our visit to Urakusa after the artisans’ invitation in March.

The Marañón River alongside the community of Urakusa. Spectacular and majestic.

On our way back for 5 hours, on roads in this condition, all the way to Imacita to head back to Chiclayo, then Lima by land.

Although, for now we are doing work from back home and connecting with them periodically, being there is enriching and inspiring. We look forward to going back and continue our work in the field.