NASA LEGACY: khabu fxizehnxi_san francisco
Khabu fxizehnxi, Refrescamiento de chontas or Refreshing of the Batons
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. In January 2019, indigenous people from the Nasa reservation of San Francisco gathered in a sacred place within their territory to celebrate the Khabu fxizehnxi, Refreshing of the Batons, one of the five main rituals of the community.
The ritual is carried out every year with the change of the traditional authorities of the Nasa people; it is conceived for the harmonization and cleansing of the batons of the Nasa authorities, which are the guardians of the spiritual balance in the community and territory with their ancestral knowledge.
The baton, chonta, as a symbol of authority is refreshed to balance the negative energies that produce dissonance. In this way, the bearer of the baton is not affected by the negative energies. The person that receives the baton has a different energy than the one of the person that presents the baton. It is important that the baton does not transmit that energy. For the ritual, spiritual leaders choose sacred places linked to water sources for the cleansing of both the people and the baton.
Photographs taken under the "Proyecto Cerrando Brechas" (Closing Gaps Project), led by Blumont Global Development and funded by the Government of the United States.