The Kichwa people of Sarayaku in the Ecuadorian Amazon Rainforest have always maintained a physical and spiritual connection with the jungle and its supreme beings. They believe in the Kawsak Sacha – the Living Forest – and the idea of a living, conscious and rights-bearing entity in which all elements are alive, have a spirit and are interconnected. They believe that damage to any one part of nature triggers a chain reaction that affects the Earth as a whole.
By documenting the everyday life of the Kichwa people, Vallejo charts their fight against oil extraction and the damage it poses to the forest. This transmedia project, comprising a web documentary, book, exhibition and podcast, offers a reinterpretation of the Kichwa people’s worldview. The project merges contemporary Western technology – such as satellite communication and social media, which the community use to pressure authorities to respect their territory – with ancestral indigenous knowledge. This fusion promotes a philosophy which, if implemented to our everyday lives, could mean the difference between extinction and survival.
Misha Vallejo is a visual artist whose work lies in the border between documentary and art. In 2014 he received a master’s degree in documentary photography from the University of the Arts London. He has published three critically acclaimed photobooks and has produced an interactive web documentary on the project Secret Sarayaku. His work has been exhibited throughout Europe and Latin America and has appeared in international newspapers and magazines.