The Exxcentric Winds [work in progress]
The Exxcentric Winds. [work in progress]
Location: Santa Ana de Chipaya, Bolivia
Duration: 2019-2021, or more.
“The Exxcentric Winds” is an on-going aural inquiry into the extraordinary qualities of several winds that flows in-between the frontiers of Chile and Bolivia. These winds have been described by the oral tradition of a small ethnic group called the Uru-Chipayans, in the desert of Bolivia.
Hopefully, The re-activation of this archaic, communicational technology could provide an alternative example on how natural resources can be accessed and administrated nowadays. The visibilization of the Uru-Chipayan’s territorial knowledge, on distant geographies (much greater than the ones they have been currently displaced), can help to enrich the limited view on indigenous mobility, but more importantly, this project could also produce an additional argument to the current Chipayan’s struggle for the recuperation of their forcibly taken lands
What follows, are the questions, stories, history, context, challenges, dreams and incomplete ideas that animates the past and future of “The Exxcentric Winds”.
One of the most renowned creational myths in the Andean world affirms that the Uru-Chipayans (people from the water) are the descendants of a pre-solar population. Archaeologically, its origins have been calculated in between, 2000 and 1500 years B.C. (Wachtel 1994). This constituted the Urus as the most ancient ethnic group, with the oldest language in the region.
As Semi-nomads, hunters, fisherman’s, and gatherers, the Uru-Chipayans occupied a vast territory animated by the need for natural resources, their walk traced vast distances, from the Andean high plateau until the pacific coast, reaching the neighboring countries of Chile and Peru. (Muñoz and Lazaro 2015)
In the Chipayan worldview, the winds have been fundamental in the way they constituted themselves through transitory lands.
In between 1982 and 1984, Lilianne Porterie has collected a series of oral myths that described the complex topographical narrative traced by the winds, These stories illustrate spectacular interactions between the winds, animals, and humans.
Generally humanized, the winds are considered active members of the Chipayan society. Within these oral myths, the winds will help, eat, rest, drink, eat ass, and have sex, in specific places, across hundreds of kilometers, flowing around mountains, lakes, and unmarked places.
THE URU-CHIPAYAN’S PATHS
The transitional culture of the Uru-Chipayans have motivated other sedentary indigenous cultures, and later dominant cultures such as the Spanish colony, to call them “savages” or primitives (Mamani 1991). This derogatory term carries hundreds of years of oppression that eventually end up displacing them to the driest, most harsh areas in the desert of Bolivia.
The city of Santa Ana de Chipaya, located at the southwest of the Altiplano desert at 3600 meters above sea level, is the oldest living Uru-Chipayan’s settlement. In these extreme conditions, the Chipayans have developed extraordinary methods of survival, skilfully administrating their natural resources. Currently, their greatest diaspora is located in Chile. Nowadays, they are the main economical support sustaining the precarious conditions of the citizens of Chipaya. (Riveros et al., 2018)
 Political Constitution of Bolivia (CPE), 7 de Febrero, 2009, online version. https://bolivia.infoleyes.com/norma/469/constitución-política-del-estado-cpe
 Bolivian Ministry of Autonomies, (2015). Estatuto de la autonomia originaria de la nacion Uru-Chipaya, Bolivia:CES.
MY PATH AND THE URU-CHIPAYANS
I am a Chilean mestizo, I have been living in Chipaya for a couple of months now. Even though I am a brown male, I’m usually called Choco (White).
We share the same language, unfortunately, the Colonial one. Even though I have started to learn their native tong Chipay-Taku, I’m still unable to use it. This, I believe, greatly challenge my understanding of the Chipayan’s life together with limiting their trust to what I am doing.
THE WINDS NEVER GO ALONE BY THEMSELVES.
“I had to walk for hours in the desert to find one particular farmer I needed to interview, one time I thought I was reaching a lake, cause I saw water at a distance.
The Andean cosmovision is normally divided into two opposite worlds, black and white, male and female, dry and wet, alive and dead. Even though this is not rigid and exclusive model it is widely permeated across the Andean cultures, including the Uru-Chipayans. (Astvaldsson 2000).
Chix’xi (grey, stained) according to Aymaran decent Scholar, Silvia Rivera Cusicanqui accounts for contradiction, a symbolic resource that allows the Andean culture to move forward in the face of antagonistic positions, a conciliatory space that allows two opposite forces to live together without Pä Chuyma, (a broken, divided heart).
Chix’xi, works as an alternative to a dialectic, western form of solving conflict, is a dualistic glue that allows, two–otherwise incompatible elements– to survive and complement each other.
CONVERSATION IN THE ANDEAN WORLD:
The Uru-Chipayans have been greatly influenced by their neighbors (the Aymaras). Both of these cultures share similar creational myths; In these stories, the appearance of the sun is considered a force that was both destructive and creative, the mountains and rivers were formed with spectacular noises, sirens (the muses of music) had mouths to sing and the animals were able to talk.
In the Aymaran oral tradition, the spirits of water inspired the sound of musical instruments and the voices of female singers. The spirits of the winds, birds, the breath and sound itself, helped to blow the rivers and complete the orchestration of their ancient world. (Arnold and Yapita 2006)
The ability to speak, sing, and communicate with other entities are considered fundamental to the constitution of all the Andean Cultures. Many of these myths are being constantly, and dynamically transported through generations by their oral traditions.
 Drawing 124, The oldest chronicles of the precolombian Andean world accounted by an indigenous, on 1614., Fest of the Incas, Araui, Song of the Inca. According to Guaman Poma, The Inca sings with his llama, imitating its sound “yn”. This imitation tunes the voices of the rest of the participants that join in by singing in a high but soft voice.
In the Andean cultures, the place of expression of men is located in the head and is inspired by the Wak’as, ancient ritualistic stones that have the ability to cry and to provide the sonic gift of talking. (Astvaldsson 1994).
According to Denisse Arnold, women would occupy singing and weaving as their places of expression which can also be interchangeable. Voices can be woven into a fabric as well as a fabric can represent singing. (Arnold and Yapita 2006)
Since weaving can also be considered a proto form of writing or Arche-Writing (Derrida 1976), much of the vast textile cultures in the Andes represent their own codes, their own words and symbolic forms of interpretation. It is common to find textiles being represented as bodies, weavings with heads and mouths that can “speak” complex ideas, to the ones that know how to read them. (Cereceda 1975)
Singing and weaving as expressions of the female knowledge, incorporate both mind and body to these systems of meaning.
“We have to meditate very well, before having a conversation..
Aymaran conversation listened by Zacarias Alavi, Achiri, Pacajes. My own translation.
In these high Andean lands, distinct forms of human communication cannot be clearly isolated, they seem to be always in relation to different “levels of expressions”, different interchangeable mediums that cannot be easily reduced.
If weaving can happen within the entanglements of fabric, can a conversation also appear in the entanglement of winds? In the traces they left on the sand? Or vice versa?
TALKING TO WINDS AS TALKING TO OURSELVES
In Chipaya, the winds are people, and they are treated as such.
Soqo Pawlu, is a strong wind, the most naughty of them. When it is too violent and threatens to disrupt the Quinoa fields, a ceremony needs to be prepared in order to trap it. The entire preparation has to be whispered so this wind does not eavesdrop what the Uru-Chipayans are planning.
They start by meeting in the local church and tell ancient stories about the winds (this will entertain and seduce Soqo Pawlu).
“you will not keep running”,
Voice recordings Veronica Cereceda made in 1990.
This type of conversation seems to be very straight forward, as a normal type of verbal communication will occur between an Uru-Chipayan and one of their beloved, impulsive child.
According to the Uru-Chipayan oral stories, the winds behave differently in specific places, For example, the winds will be born–with the color and shape of feces–in the coast of Iquique (Chile),. Later, one of them will rest on La Tirana, (Chile) and another one would dance and run in Sibaya (Chile) (Cereceda 2010)
Different wind performances happening in specific places, provides a topographical script of sensibilities. In the places they rest, a quiet acoustic exchange should be protected, where they run, whispering might be necessary if trapping them is required.
I like to think about conversation as being much more fluid, digressive, erotic and unstable than dialogue. To me, it seems much more appropriate to think about it as a suitable tool to whirlpool, many of the kaleidoscopic dimensions of “The Exxcentric Winds”, especially when we think about this form of verbal communication in a transcultural context.
Without insisting on the idealisms of conversation as a clear exchange of symbols, and language as a succinct path for self-representation. We can talk about it, as a creative process of partially ambiguous interpretations between hearing and talking.
According to Paul Carter, a type of proto-communication can be created when we lack a shared, “straight forward” language. This relational “auditory space” can allow us to interact with alien symbols, whether these are employed by people or other species.
What allows this communication to happen is the mere desire for encounter, an empathic prescription that operates beyond language. The acoustic interferences happening outside and the misinterpretations happening inside of us, are the creative forces of this encounter. The hierarchy of “the need to be clearly understood” is then exceeded by “the need for contact”.
From an oral point of view, The voice of our desire, its seductive gestures and its semiotic incompetence, is what I believe can organize more properly, the verbal expectations of walking in different nations, cultures and habits. I’m thinking about a type of a conversational trajectory that is not expecting only linear interpretations or only peripatetic dynamics. Since it is not uniquely in the service of the intellect, these itinerant exchanges rather promotes empathy, resonance or the individual desire to identifying ourselves with something that is different from us.
In conclusion, it seems to me that I’m trying to explore two planes of conversation here. One that is horizontal and another one, more asymmetrical. The first one, accounts for a type of verbal interaction with the Chipayans and the winds, a conversation that assumes the winds are just another Chipaya. Here, a style of speaking can be geographically staged, as mentioned before, according to the personalities and functions of the winds.
The second form of conversation is more unstable and requires a shift of interpretation and a fine-tuning of our expectations.
This conversational attitude might need the suspension of our assumptions and our dearly hold certainties (which can always produce a healthy amount of disruption to our inner structures).
The sentient jargon I’m attempting to draw apparently falls in these two specular, or inverted categories of interpretation. One that is more linear towards the winds and another one, more volatile, between humans.
When we converse with others there is always a possibility to be overwhelmed by the other’s unexpected world, this type of contact can always express to us the limits of our identity and the limits of our understanding. (Levinas 1961)
At this point, much of my time is dedicated to talk and get to know the Chipayans. At the same time, I spend long hours walking in the desert, learning about the physical characteristics of the winds, their personalities and trying to shape the affects I built around them.
Next, I will join more Chipayan transhumance walks and start arranging additional ones with other non-Chipayan participants.
The Uru-Chipayans are actually in constant transit with different cultures, and radically different industrialized countries such as Chile. This transit have pushed them to be in constant socio-cultural adjustment.
In any case, the Uru-Chipayan’s political interests are clear, there are territorial and ecological (Riveros et al., 2018 ). This probably cannot be avoided and this project might be instrumentalized in that direction, as mentioned before, by visualizing the extension of their geographical knowledge.
Still, at this stage is impossible to delineate the final form of this project. I can still dream about a place that motley voices can live together–even if some agree or disagree with it–. I can think about some kind of compendium that is both legal and poetic, erotic and geographical, something about the past, present, and future of the Chipayans.
All of this is speculation though, the most important part of how the “The Exxcentric Winds” makes its way, will have to be shaped by building some familiarity between myself and the Uru-Chipayans, when a sense of our motivations and the limits of our goals is formed, with time.
The complexity of the project is at times overwhelming and feels way beyond my abilities, especially when I think about all the voices that should be tackled.
I do not have enough experience at this point, I have not yet listened, conversed or walk enough, and this is why much of these ideas are still incomplete and why many crucial implications still rest in the dark.
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