NASA LEGACY: chapux
Chapux, Day of the Dead
The Nasa are one of Colombia’s largest indigenous people, who predominantly inhabit the western department of Cauca, a region central to the country’s civil war. The region is dominated by sugar plantations, which are surrounded by the country’s two great mountain ranges. The Nasa claim that the plains were taken from them by force in 1915, and that many were then pushed up into the poorer land of the mountains to make way for the sugar industry owned by the white, wealthy aristocracy that has always ruled the country.
In the last decades, the region became a strategic corridor for the trafficking of drugs onward to the Pacific coast. Drug gangs, militias and paramilitaries have made this one of the most dangerous places in the world for indigenous rights campaigners and environmental defenders. The fundamental cause of the violence in the region is the same as it has been for centuries – land – and the victims are those who defend it.
Nasa people reaffirm and protect their territory on a daily basis, not only through legal means, working or fighting for the land, but also through the defense of their cultural heritage and the celebration of sacred ceremonies like the Chapux, Day of the Dead.
The Nasa believe that struggle and resistance is not only physical, but also spiritual. Their struggle is accompanied by the spirits that are in nature and by the force of the beings that have transcended. They talk of ‘transcending to another space’ because death is not the end of life for the Nasa.
In 2018, the ritual began on the morning of October 31 with the leader Eliserio lighting the fire in the maloca, the sacred home of the Nasa community. Subsequently a series of animals are sacrificed and their meat cooked and offered to the dead in the maloca, along with fruit and dishes prepared by each family. In the evening, the whole community dances 'with and in honor of' the dead. After hours of dancing, at dawn on November 1 people return to the maloca where the food offered to the dead is eaten by the community.
Photographs taken under the "Proyecto Cerrando Brechas" (Closing Gaps Project), led by Blumont Global Development and funded by the Government of the United States.