Traditional Artistic Heritage

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Art and crafts are inserted in the ancient tradition from the cultural point of view and the history of the Kamentsa and Ingas tribes, who already record their work since the 16th century. The work of craftsmanship is outlined by the chronicler Jan de Santa Gertrudis in documents dated in 1775, carved masks and bows.

Ingas and Camentsas from Sibundoy Valley are known ancestrally as Cabengbe tabanoka. The Kamëntsá also are known as the Camsá, Camëntsëá, Coche, Kamemtxa, Kamsa, Kamse, Sibundoy, and Sibundoy-Gaché people. The Camsá language is a language isolate,although linguists have tried to connect it to the Chibchan language family in the past.

They are known for their carved wooden masks that are worn during ceremonies and festivals. They farm a number of different entheogens, including ayahuasca (yagé), it had has an important influence on expressionism and surrealistic carvings. This indigenous group insert their tradition in pre-Columbian ancestors and Ingas (Andean Region tribes from South America) as well as in the primitive Asian migrations and settlers in the American continent, these roots features are represented through carving on slanted eyes. The kamentsa handicrafts were significantly affected by the Spanish presence, they became a form of resistance to mock the Spaniards; illnesses brought by them and other issues regarding the conquest using a encrypted code; Kamentsa masters are representing the collective imagination, while shaping the conflicts in the masks as if it would liberate them. Art can be seen as a mirror in which the entire society is reflected. Deformed facial features to deal with conflicts and a sort of defending strategies or shields. Its plastic value and hermetic symbolism, shaped by right procedures that reflect certain social, political, economic and other attitudes.

 

This ancient practice has evolved over time because it was able to remain inside traditions, surviving Spanish acculturation and adapting itself into new artistic works that reflect their beliefs and cosmogony, these masks show us how the world is interpreted by master carvers based on their ancient heritage.

New designs evolve as new experiences are lived, inspiring masters; following ancestral patterns and integrate them into nowadays expressions. The addition of the vibrant colors with acrylics seem to correspond with the modern contribution regarding new materials. Masters were taught by their parents and grandparents, each one of these families belong to a branch that has been always involve with handcrafts, some of them making musical instruments, others weaving natural fibers into bags with ancestral patterns, baskets for harvesting, while carving all of these skills come together inspiring carvers and producing a unique piece that represents a summary of traditions. This skills has passed from one generation to the other and entire families are responsible to keep the legacy from their ancestors. As a fundamental expression of their beliefs this carving has been standing in their ceremonies and daily basis. Artisans learned draw and carving techniques since their childhood, as the most important way to preserve their roots and heritage. There are also workshops and new apprendiship are learning, many conferences and supporting academy studies have been done in order to preserve Kamentsa legacy inside communities and all around the country.

Joining forces have allowed them to improve their life quality, but also as a traditional and cultural roots reinforcement transmitting a millenarian heritage. There are more than 40 forty families of men and women committed with these labors. Each school is led by a Master specialized in a different technique, for instance Master Pastora Juanabijoy is a specialist in beads, weave and jewelry along with carnaval and special ceremonies. Master Carlos Mutumbajoy a master carver that has develop an stunishing expressionism and naturalistic styles on its work and Master Angel gesture specialist. Under this three influences we can identify three styles: On the first hand, San Juan, finishes in black, they are only used in ritual dances and Summer Solstice, they have hermetic sacred meanings and are called “Matachines”. Second hand resistance mask are produced to mock Spanish, to show their illnesses and to express slavery issues. Finally Naturalistic representing their natural world with zoomorph features as well as representing daily life of men a women from the shelter. Carved with great imagination, vitality, dynamism, narrative quality and effective means of expression. Job is specialized according to the production chain, cultivate, recollect, carve, dye, drye , beads. The addition of the vibrant coloration with acrylics seems to correspond to the modern contribution.

Wood carving has been carried out for more than 400 years, 8 generations. the ceremonial masks and daily expression of Kamëntšá men and women life are reflected on pieces produced according to the origin, cosmovision, cosmogony, cosmology and traditions. We are generating around 40 direct jobs and 80 indirect, especially with young people, displaced women and vulnerable population.

Masters Carlos Mutumbajoy and Angel Marino are some of the most important representatives of Kamentsa artistic work, awards and recognitions such as Master Carlos Mutmbajoy has received the following recognitions: awarded as best biexpo 2010, award for Andean art prize ¬Bolivia, art school Bolivia, and also was awarded with Masterpiece Medal 2015, handicrafts of Colombia. As well as Master Angel Marino Jacanamejoy Juajiboy He has been awarded with the Medal to the Traditional Artisan Master (2001) Contemporary (2013) and the Master Teacher Medal (2015). I have been referenced as one of the best Masters of Popular Art in Colombia and Latin America and his works are part of the Banamex Cultural Fomento Collection that gathers around 5,000 works of Ibero-American folk art masters.

Materials

This ancestral carving is nowadays made out of “Sauce”  called scientifically: “Salix babylonica”. It is cultivated by  a generation after the other for instance fathers planted trees years ago and the children now have become adults and are getting the benefits but at the same time they are responsible of planting new trees to support future generations. Cutting down trees is not always required because these trees when they are old fall by themselves or in winter they just fall down so this wood is recycled to carve artistic works. These trees are used for many purposes within the communities: Erosion control its extensive root system makes these species useful for binding soils. A decoction or infusion of the bark has been used as a wash to make the hair grow. The stems are very flexible and are used in basket making. After a drying process wood is selected and carve with chisels, sandpaper is used to smooth the surface before paint is applied, this makes the paint adhere better on a clean surface. Sanding is the first step to creating a high quality finished, it gets rid of rough, edges and gives the wood a feature that`s pleasant to the touch. Dyes are obtained from minerals, sometimes a glue called “Cola” that comes from a cow`s tail is heated to be dissolved and mix it then with minerals. New materials have been addes such as full color beads it seems to be a contemporary touch to improve quality and design.

Back in the conquest and colony periods, Cedar boards were their primary material used to carve masks, bowls and they also served as a form of payment of their tributes owned to the Spanish institution by their ancestors.

 

 

Techniques

This artistic carve starts with collecting logs, then drying them properly, storage and preserve them to be used by the carvers. These manufactured masks have a three-dimensional carving and low relief job, volumes management and strong undulations, protrusions and depressions, curved and straight lines are achieved with precise touches of a chisel or any other sharp instrument available. Some of these artistic works could fulfill the role of portraits of people that the carver knew and wanted to spontaneously translate into wood inspired by some attitude of the character. A three-dimensional masks causes a different effect, forehead and profile shapes - some have so exaggerated eyebrows and mouth, which in profile reminds us of pre-hominids from the Paleolithic - both planes are worked with meticulousness and accuracy, but in some cases it is more expressive viewing the profile than the front. The yellow, the black and the red applied in the masks enclose vindictive symbolic contents, blacks, indigenous, white, creoles, settlers, evangelizers. There are three schools involved in this tradition, knowledge was acquired from their ancestors and has been taught generation after generation.

 

Common Use

The masks are used in their great annual party of reconciliation reenergización a community Carnival called inga Kalusturinda and a Carnival called Kamentsa Clestringe, these events have a deep philosophical content. Mask are instruments of communication with the cosmos and nature where harmony is represented or used to express thankfulness for benefits received. They are also a sort of a language with gestures and codified attitudes that contain hermetic contents that are understood within the indigenous population, but not in the mestiz , black or white, it is only now, thanks to the help of the indigenous people themselves, that some mythological and magical religious contents have been established, but because of the persistent attack of evangelization they have lost their spiritual connection and are now clearly artisanal.