Sarayaku is a village and territory deep inside the Ecuadorian rainforest. The people who live there are the Kichwa of Sarayaku, named after the time when the sun reaches its highest point above their forest. The forest plays a very important role in the Kichwa’s spirituality, called Kawsak Sacha, or “Living Forest”.

The Kichwa have been at the forefront of the growing global movement for indigenous rights and the protection of biodiversity. When Kichwa territory came under threat of large-scale contammination by oil extraction, they installed satellites to report the crises going on in several parts of Sarayaku and in 2012 they won a lawsuit against the Ecuadorian government in the Inter-American court of human rights. But despite all this, the Ecuadorian government has recently concessioned part of their land to Chinese oil companies, which means the fight is far from over.

This project connects indigenous and western knowledge
in an effort to emulate the interrelations of forest elements.

Secret Sarayaku is a project founded by esteemed audiovisual storyteller Misha Vallejo to communicate the ancestral knowledge and philosophy of the Kichwa people living in the Ecuadorian rainforest. The objective is to create an interactive platform (by means of a website) which narrates and animates the Kichwa’s care for the environment and to create a photobook and traveling exhibition. Target audience is a global community of young people interested in protecting nature for future generations.

Having lived amongst the community for 3 years, Misha Vallejo has become a trusted advocate for the Kichwa cause. Vallejo’s visual stories are a true and non-stereotypical representation of the Kichwa way of life, at the cutting edge between modernity and tradition; and his unique visual language granted him and the community exposure amongst some major outlets across the world, such as the New York Times and exhibitions of his work at renowned galleries and art institutions across the world.

The Kichwa people have always had a physical and spiritual connection with the forest and its guardian beings in order to maintain balance in the world. They believe in the Kawsak Sacha, or the “Living Forest” where everything is alive, has a soul and is interrelated. The web platform as outlined in the Secret Sarayaku project will connect indigenous and western knowledge in an effort to emulate these interrelations of forest elements.

In partnership with: MISHA VALLEJO

Misha Vallejo is a photographer whose work lies between documentary and art photography. He works as a freelance photographer and videographer since 2010. His editorial and personal work has been published in many magazines, such as a feature about his Secret Sarayaku project in the New York Times Magazine. In 2018 he won the Prince Claus Fund for Cultural and Artistic Response for Environmental Change (Netherlands).

Sinchi has provided funding for the project and will continue to act as a content partner, sharing the communities stories with our global followers, co-hosting events to engage our local community and advising how those interested can support both the Kichwa people
and other indigenous peoples around the world.