Vivien Vivela started working with Rudy Randa in 2015.
“This is when we met Ninawa, from the Huni Kuin people, the first leader we started working with. The BOA Foundation was born doing projects in indigenous communities, we were focusing on water wells, schools and cultural centres, always with the dream to do the land buyback projects which we are focused on today.”
The BOA Foundation works with indigenous communities to regenerate degraded ecosystems and protect biodiversity. They support strategic land buybacks, reforestation projects and a range of initiatives that increase the capacity of land and the indigenous communities that live with it.
Back in 2016, Vivien was introduced to a possible donor of funds to BOA. The friend who introduced Vivien to this donor knew she had a lot of relationships in Ibiza — the donor wanted to do an event there — and asked Vivien if she could introduce him to her connections there.
“So I went for a meeting with this guy. I had never planned Aniwa Gathering, I never dreamed of it, but as I was talking with him and a new idea flowed through me, so I said to the guy why don’t you do a meeting of indigenous leaders, like a cultural gathering? He had nothing to do with spirituality but he was taken by my vision that came from so much love and excitement, and he said I don’t understand anything about this, would you be willing to help and work with me?
“And so this was how Aniwa Gathering was born, at first I was going to be working for this guy, but then, a long story short, he had a spiritual experience and he went back into his life and decided this had nothing to do with what he does, so he said, you know what Vivien, I am going to donate the money for you to do this and he donated the money into BOA, and so I said to Rudy, let’s do this.”
Rudy explained how in that moment, he and Vivien were focused on creating an online community.
“The concept for Aniwa was initially predicated on amplifying indigenous wisdom across the globe, creating a point of accessibility for people in the west who had interest but didn’t have the opportunity to meet any of these leaders, didn’t know how to go about it but knew they wanted to engage more with the spiritual world, to learn how to be better stewards for the planet and to heal some of their own traumas that they had been through. So the idea was to create content and documentaries, things of that nature, short films, music videos and talks.
“Then Vivien brought the idea to me, why don’t we do a gathering, you know like a festival where we invite all these different Elders and we create one big opportunity to meet many of them at the same time. I could see this would be an opportunity to bring all of these Elders together to create one place where people could be introduced to many different lines of wisdom, but that it was also going to be special for the Elders, who are separated by thousands upon thousands of miles, who have differences in how they pray and heal and sing, yet have a shared focus of living in right relation with Mother Earth and all beings everywhere. So creating this opportunity for indigenous leaders to meet each other from across the world, so they might have a point of connection and an opportunity to talk to each other about many of the issues they are facing today, that completely resonated with me.”
Vivien connected with a prophecy that speaks to a time when the rivers will be dry, the oceans will be empty of fish, the people will be fighting, the forests will be burning and people will come together looking to Elders for guidance.
“These people will spread around the world as one great swirling rainbow bringing peace and understanding and healing everywhere they go, and at that time a lot of animals that were extinct would come back to life. And you know, in the past few years, a lot of animals that haven’t been seen in forty plus years have appeared again, and so we see this prophecy is being fulfilled. All around the world we see many more spiritual gatherings appearing and there is a great movement spreading through the Earth.”
From June 8 to 11 the Aniwa Gathering will be held for the fifth time, on the land of the Yuhaaviatam people in Big Bear, California. Over 40 Elders will be present representing indigenous nations from territories in so-called Africa, the Americas, New Zealand and Australia. At last year’s event, Rasu Yawanawa spoke of the Gathering’s importance.
“I see that Aniwa is this bridge that is bringing this new moment for a lot of people, for a lot of lives. Here I am today like a little baby in the midst of great men, very strong men, very spirtualised. The Elders for us, we don’t forget them when they get old. When we see an Elder we say here we have a treasure, all this wisdom, all this knowledge, everything they have lived, for us, this is very precious. And to be here in the midst of these men like this, they become my teachers here so I can join and add myself and learn something and continue my day, my time here, and it seems that the doors are opening, more and more, for me to become one of these men as well.”
Another Elder in attendance was Mona Polacca of the Hopi, Havasupai and Tewa people.
“I think Aniwa is the fulfillment of bringing people together, creating a community of unity. I think it’s good to come together and to acknowledge our similarities rather than our differences, as well as to awaken this memory that we as human beings all have about our sacred relationship with the four basic foundations of life — the water, the air, the fire, the earth. And then from that our relationship with our mothers, our fathers, our family, our bloodlines and all of our community, our tribe, our nations, and the world, to make a relationship to acknowledge each other, you know, instead of constantly allowing these artificial boundaries, artificial borders to keep us separate.
“If you were to fly like a bird and take a bird’s eye view down at our mother the earth, you wouldn’t see any kind of divisions, borders, boundaries, you wouldn’t see those things, you would see oneness. And so these gatherings give us that opportunity to come together as one, to come together in a way that helps us to grow.“
Last year’s Gathering was the first time a Waurá family, from the Xingu region of Brazil attended. It was also the first time they had left Brazil. Elewoká, who is the chief of Ulupuene Village in the Upper Xingu in Mato Grosso, shared what this Gathering means to him.
“I am happy to be attending with my brothers and sisters that are indigenous, we are representing our culture and they are representing their culture and we are making an exchange of culture… We are trading objects, the things we brought from our village, they are taking my objects and we are taking their objects, and we are swapping like that, this makes me very happy…
“I am very emotional to see everybody representing their culture, I’m happy to hear and get to know the point of how they live and how they speak. Whenever they speak I listen and I am learning how they live in their villages and this makes me very happy also. And getting to know the people who aren’t indigenous as well, who are here with us and learning from our cultures, I am very touched by this.“
In a world with so much division, it is powerful to hear these stories celebrating our shared humanity, which echoes in the words of Mayan Elder Nana Amalia.
“I feel like Aniwa has opened a lot of people’s minds and have given a lot of opportunities to people so that they can return to the environment and to the ancestral ways, because everywhere there are indigenous people, and Aniwa invites us so that we can practice our spirituality, our culture, our language so we can help other people that need it.
“In the communities and society today, a lot of people are disconnected from nature, and so through Aniwa, with all of these networks and these events that they do, they’re making a call for the awakening of a lot of people, so that they can believe in their own capacities and abilities as people, and also their purpose on the Earth.”
Nana Amalia’s husband, Tata Mario, expands on this.
“All of the people who gather have their gifts and brilliance, and also they have their weaknesses, and I think that Aniwa has been this light for people to be able to learn and discern what we are good for, and also learn where we have erred as people, because as people we commit mistakes. Aniwa is calling for this transformation for this deep change we all need so much, because the world is confusing, it is confused and there is a lot of fear, and Aniwa, this work that has been developed over many years, the organisers have been born with this light, with this mission to bring this light to this Earth, and we take part with a lot of joy, as descendants of our Mayan ancestors, we have come to share and we have come to learn.”
Listening to all of these Elders speak, it is very clear how the Gathering creates connection between cultures while also sparking creativity and collaborations between all who attend. Vivien expands on this.
“To us the purpose of Aniwa Gathering is to ignite more people that want to be agents for Mother Earth, agents of change, to give people a sense of purpose, a sense of responsibility to self, to community, to the Earth. Aniwa Gathering is such a magical event because it goes beyond just listening to a talk, it is receiving sacred codes, ancestral codes that open doors within our subconscious, that open doors in our hearts to allow us to move from the mind into the heart to allow spirit to be our guide from that moment onwards, to teach participants to listen to the wisdom of the water, to rely on the intuition, to be guided by the heart and have a sense of community, a sense of purpose, and to live a connected and fulfilled life. That’s the purpose of this Gathering and the platform that we are putting online, that we can come together and tell a new story for our planet.”
It’s a powerful and important vision that reminds me of the murmurations of starlings, highlighting the importance of Gatherings like this, where people come together to connect with and learn from one another. While knowledge is something we read, wisdom is something we experience, and it is crucial to the transmission of the ancient ways of ancestral cultures to be in shared time and space, to feel the truth in the spoken words of the Elders’ lived experiences, which Mona Polacca speaks to.
“As I was growing up, when I was about 14 years old I began to attend gatherings of Elders. The Elders took me under their wing, as they did with anyone who came to these gatherings, and they would share their wisdom, their knowledge, the teachings about how to be in good relationship with all of life. What I carry is what they shared with me. I always say that this is my way of honouring and respecting the time, the energy, the effort, the thoughtfulness and the bit of their life that they gave to me, to sit with me and share and talk with me. So in respect and honour of that, their life, that little bit they gave to me, I’m carrying that. These things I am talking about, they’re not mine, I didn’t make ‘em up, they’re things that were told to me throughout my lifetime, and that’s how I walk this path of being a Grandmother, being a relative in this world.“
In an increasingly destructive world, it is important for people to gather, connect and celebrate the natural world and Aniwa is a profound opportunity to relate to the ancient cultures who have long been custodians of the delicate energies that nourish and cultivate life. Tickets are still available.
Anton Rivette is a writer and photographer. He leads storytelling at eco-nnect.