sarayaku ecuador indigenous kichwa

Sinchi collaborates with Misha Vallejo on ‘Secret Sarayaku’

Secret Sarayaku is a project founded by extinguished photojournalist 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.

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.

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.

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.