"When Kuarahy rises there is a rera for hope. It is a new ara rory jerovia. Ara is made out of histories. Time of tekovekue. For those who had the chance to live and for those who lost it all. Amombe’úta ndéve ko ava tembiasakue."
Iquebí is an ayoreo-paraguayan indigenous kuimba’e (man) that on a long journey back home went through different paths of colonization and decolonization, of learning, unlearning and relearning. Iquebi is a wayfinder, a designer of possibilities.
Dr. Deisy Amarilla is a paraguayan anthropologist and Iquebi’s friend for the past 20 years who has been telling his story through a book and multiple efforts. Deisy shared with me the transcription of Iquebi’s story in order to pass it along, to reflect, provoke and confront the hegemonic capitalist and modernist matrix of power and domination in the world.
In a series of colloquies, I listened to Deisy tell me Iquebí's story. Then, as a listener - messenger, I retell the story to other women from different backgrounds. Amombe’uta (I tell) the reflections, perspectives that ha’ekuera (they) presented and also the ñomongueta kuera (dialogues) that raised.
Iquebi’s voice can be heard today as a claim on identity with love and pride for his culture. It is a voice that also brings urgency and one that demands action.
His land is being destroyed by oil mining. Ayoreos' territory has a forest with open wounds from its deepest roots that asks for getting back its ways, its soil and its people.
“I remember that my dad said to me: “Iquebi, don’t go very far from us, you are still very young, and in the forest something bad might happen to you”…I looked at my dad and my mom, and I went with my friend whom I never should see again. We were already a bit far, and suddenly we found some traces we had never seen before, which we did not know. My colleague said we should follow them, and so we did. That day, I remember very well, there was bright sunshine and it was not very cold. My friend and I were playing and laughing a lot. We, the Ayoreo, always laugh a lot about anything. Soon we heard something terrible, a great noise, and we did not know what it was. We were frightened and started to run, but I was very small and could not run very fast. And then four guys showed up, mounted on some beasts I had never seen before; we ran as fast as we could, my friend to one side and me on the other, and I don’t know where he went, but the four guys followed me on their horses. And when they reached me, one of them tried to shoot me with a pistol, but another one clutched his hand, and so he did not kill me, but they caught me by lasso, with a piola. When they caught me I tried to escape again, I thought: I am Ayoreo, I am stronger than them; but I tried in vain. […] When we reached the Bahía Negra, they finally took off the piola, but it was not to let me free, nothing alike, it was to put me into a cage. That moment I tried again to escape, I thought I would make it, but I couldn’t… the cage was locked. They threw me into the cage in Bahía Negra, and thus they took me till the port of Asunción. I did not know anybody; I had never seen the things I saw. That cage where they locked me was very small, like one meter, and I could not stand up, but sometimes they took me out a little bit to relieve myself. They did not want me to pee or shit inside the cage, therefore they took me out, but I could not shit because I did not eat anything. I could pee, because I was only drinking water, and they took me out to pee inside the boat, down there, peeing into the water; and I also fell ill, I had a lot of headache, the flu and I was coughing; stuff I never had and never felt in the forest”(Iquebí, 2012)
This happened in Paraguay in 1956.
Yes, this happened in 1956. Iquebi was hunted, captured and exhibited in public in Asuncion, Paraguay’s capital, as a prey. He then was liberated by Jesuits priests, "evangelized", colonized and after 20 years of diaspora went back home to his family and land.
This is a story that unfortunately is not alien to most of indigenous cultures. There are similar stories of abuse, displacement and theft by governments and corporations in Canada and around the world. These stories need to be told. The only way to stop the abusers is to denounce and talk about the abuse. The only way that as designers we can decolonize is by creating space for decolonized places.
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