DEVENIR UNIVERSIDAD IS A BIOCULTURAL PROJECT ENGAGING IN THE PROCESS OF AN AMAZONIAN TERRITORY BECOMING UNIVERSITY. THE PLATFORM DOCUMENTS AND CONTRIBUTES TO THE ACTIVITIES OF AN INDIGENOUS COMMUNITY IN COLOMBIA’S ANDEAN AMAZON, COLLECTIVELY WEAVING A NEW UNIVERSITY. AS A GROWING BIOCULTURAL ORGANISM, THE PROJECT INVOLVES HUMAN AND NONHUMAN MINDS IN BRIDGING DIFFERENT KNOWLEDGE SYSTEMS. AT THE HEART OF THE RESEARCH LIES THE LIVING COGNITIVE TERRITORY AND THE WAYS IN WHICH THIS KNOWLEDGE CAN BE PROTECTED AND TRANSMITTED. THE UNIVERSITY EXPANDS ACROSS THE TERRITORY IN A DECENTRALIZED CONFIGURATION OF LEARNING SITES AND PATHS. NEW PEDAGOGIES ARE DESIGNED TO GENERATE PLACE-BASED KNOWLEDGE AND DRIVE THE PARADIGM SHIFT FROM AN EXTRACTIVE TO A GENERATIVE AND IMAGINATIVE RELATIONSHIP WITH THE TERRITORY. IN INTERCULTURAL TEAMS, WE GENERATE ART & AUDIOVISUAL MEDIA, TERRITORY & ARCHITECTURE, AND STAGE PUBLIC EVENTS AND EXHIBITIONS TO SUPPORT THIS GOAL.
As Inga people, from preschool to our doctorates, we learn and reproduce knowledge that isn’t ours. It is the imposed way of the scientifically proven that has obscured all other routes of access to knowledge, including the one of the indigenous peoples and other epistemologies of the south. Sooner or later, these layers of knowledge will have to be dismantled and transformed, because they have been imposed under the principles of violence. Today, it is important that the western knowledge and our own knowledge have a space for dialogue. I can only see this dialogue in the context of what is called university, although with time the name will also have to change. We can call it pluriversity, Iachaiwuasi or whatever. It has to be a meeting point for knowledge to reflect on how to support and reposition each other in less violent ways.
Hernando Chindoy Chindoy, leader of the Indigenous Inga People of Colombia
The Amazonian communities in Colombia have spent millennia generating knowledge with and through their living forests. Devenir Universidad engages with this living cognitive territory and the ways in which the indigenous communities can protect and transmit their knowledge. It creates partnerships, audiovisual media, cartographies and architectural design, and stages public events and exhibitions to support the indigenous-led initiative of creating a university. Devenir Universidad gathers the materials generated in the collaborative process and communicates it among the dispersed indigenous communities and beyond. It is a hub where different knowledge traditions converge, nurture each other, and mutually translate.
Waira Jacanamijoy, Río Fragua, Caquetá
The Inga people are a Quechua-speaking indigenous group that inhabit a large rural and, to a lesser extent, urban area reaching across several regions of Southern Colombia: Nariño, Cauca, Caquetá and Putumayo. Stretching from the Andes to the Amazonian lowlands, these territories are biologically and culturally diverse and strategically important as the source of major Amazonian rivers and for its deposits of mineral and natural wealth such as oil, coltan, quartz, and timber. Piamonte, a strip of land located along the foot of the mountains between Mocoa and Florencia, where the University is going to have its first center, is a region the Inga traditionally inhabited and walked before anyone else arrived.
The Indigenous University is a collective project emerging from countless conversations among the Inga community, with other actors in the region, with architects and a range of scientific and academic partners from Western education systems. The long-term purpose of these meetings is the conceptualization of this future institution of higher education which aims to integrate multiple forms of generating and transmitting knowledge. Weaving this new fabric for the studying, thinking and sharing of knowledge is the rewarding communitarian process documented in this section. We call the meetings “mingas de pensamiento”, or work of collective thinking.
The Indigenous University holds a vision for a future founded on ecological concepts of mind, knowledge, and the inherent intelligence of life. Knowledge is viewed as embedded in the environment and knowing something means becoming part of this field of meaningful relations. This field of relations is what indigenous people in Amazonia call territory, it is intimately connected to knowledge, wisdom, perceiving and caring. In this regard, it is a real territorial university, collectively processing the everchanging interactions between the different entities involved in meaning and world-making.
Field workshop with architects and education teams in Piamonte, 2021
Devenir Universidad is a growing organism, a living collaborative assemblage of different actors. This organism is linked by a lifeline to the territory and hence is more than simply a network among humans. Plants, animals, rivers, forests, mineral deposits, the weather and countless other actors are playing an active part in this organism. Science is also a strong, if contested, actor, but so are the forces emanating from indigenous practices of knowledge.
Taita Carlos Porfirio Jacanamejoy
Inga conceptions of territoriality are testimony of the great diversity of matter and meaning. The territory is Mother, our mother, and the Sun is Father, our father; the condor, the tapir and other forest beings are family, and the territory is their home: territory is person, or better yet, a multitude of persons organized as a socio-ecological kinship. But the territory is not only a person: she is also a meeting point where lifeways cross each other forming a living tapestry. What is commonly known as the web of life, that is, the relationships between organisms in an ecological community, is not a network of pre-existent points that connect to each other, but a meshwork of interwoven lines in relentless movement and change.
Taita Paulino Mojomboy and Hernando Chindoy, Piamonte
Knowledge transmission is founded on the biocultural principle that nature and culture are not separate but form relationships of interdependence and continuity. In this sense, the territory, with its visible and invisible beings, human and non-human, is not simply the stage where culture occurs but, rather, is a sentient and cognizing being, that is, a living “agent” of knowledge. Indigenous knowledge not being a primarily text-based practice, higher education will be implemented through active, place-based learning in a lively setting of workshops, fieldwork, social investigations, laboratories, agricultural test grounds and biodiverse research gardens (chagra).
Hernando Chindoy crossing the Caquetá River
Antonio Mojomboy, Sibundoy Valley
The urgency to maintain the diversity of life forms on Earth has clearly revealed the necessity to also restore and foster the vast diversity of knowledge which coevolved with them. In light of the unprecedented deterioration of our Earth systems, narratives envisioning future-oriented alternatives to Western anthropocentric science have gained a lot of traction in the humanities and social sciences in recent years. Universities play a major role in this paradigm shift.
Interview with Rubiela Mojomboy
Image-making plays an important role in the research on the living cognitive territory and in the project of creating the Biocultural Indigenous University at large. Images are not merely depicting already existing realities, they contribute to reality-making, to world-making. This concept of imagemaking is vital for a project that assembles undocumented histories and memories, engages with nonhuman actors, visualizes invisibilized dynamics, performs a deep description of the territory, and generally creates a new knowledge organization from scratch.
The university will be present across all Inga territories, connecting the Andes to the Amazon. Planning and design will take place at multiple scales: from cartographic representations to architectural details. Even though new buildings will shelter Indigenous education in close symbiosis with nature, it is the whole territory that will act as the main learning environment. The different infrastructures of this interconnected academic network will respond to the particular pedagogic, social and political requirements of each location.
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