'Yage is Our Life' is a film about the indigenous people of Putumayo, Colombia, their relationship with Yage and their perceptions on the commercialisation of their traditional medicine. Indigenous groups living in the Putumayo region of southern Colombia have been using Yage (Ayahuasca) for the health, social cohesion and spiritual guidance of their communities for centuries. Yage is rich in the potent psychedelic substance DMT and for these indigenous groups it is sacred, allowing them access to ancient wisdom and the spirits of nature.
In their ceremonies the Taitas, or traditional doctors, use Yage to treat their patients for physical and emotional illnesses and as a guide for making decisions. Over the past 500 years the ancestral territories of Putumayo have been gradually eroded and these communities are at risk of further loss of land and traditions.
In recent years Yage, or Ayahuasca, has become increasingly well-known in Western society. Many people travel each year to the Amazon to experience its effects and many scientific studies are being undertaken into its medicinal properties. As a result of this growing interest there have been numerous cases of people posing as Taitas and offering Yage ceremonies for large sums of money both in Colombia as well as internationally.
This film voices the concerns of indigenous leaders through a series of interviews where they discuss the importance of Yage as a living tradition in their communities, the threat of its commercialisation, and the pressures exerted on their homelands by industrialised civilisation.
Lesly Vela White was born and raised in Colombia and has a degree in Industrial Design. She is particularly interested in alternative means of production and construction using recycled materials. She has been working on community projects in Colombia since 2007. Last year, along with her husband, she led a group of film makers, environmentalists and psychiatrists to make a film about the indigenous groups of Colombia who have been drinking Yage (Ayahuasca) for generations. Their main aim was to get an indigenous perspective on the globalisation of Ayahuasca and to find out what they really thought about the commercialisation of their traditional medicine. Next year she is going to do a master’s in Latin American Studies.
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