In our first workshop in Sesquillé - a small village with a giant church in the Colombian Andes - we were received with a sparkling Mhuysqa welcome ceremony. A short but steep hike led us to the ritual buildings of the Mhuysqa community. While still catching breath we were led to sit in the women´s house where a fire was already burning in the middle of the room. Surprisingly (for us) the get-to-know-each-other does not start with much talking – but with the ritual of „hoscaye“, a sort of Sniff-Tabaco which is blown into our noses, using a birds bone as “pipe”. Hoscaye is used as a medicine to clean your path and thoughts and to teach mutual respect. Tears shoot to eyes, sneezing fills the room, thoughts about titter and tatter stop, and we arrive in the here and now. Only afterwards we exchange thoughts through many words and learn a lot about how the Mhuysca community is rediscovering their almost lost cultural heritage and how they adapt the old myths into modern life reality. In the old days, a Cacique (the leader) had to prepare intensively for the task to lead the people. For instance, he had to spent nine years in a tiny cave for he was not allowed to see the sunlight. Only at night he was allowed to leave for roaming the territory. At the same time his future women spent six years in another cave. After that time the Cacique had to pass hard tests proving his spiritual and transcendental achievement: for instance, he wasn’t allowed to move, not even blink with an eye, while three beautiful women were dancing naked around him. If he failed, he was banned to face death. If he passed, a big inauguration ceremony started around the scared lagoon of Guatavita. The Cacique was balsamed first with honey then with gold powder and decorated with Emeralds. A “golden” raft brought him to the middle of the lagoon, where when the first rays of the sun touched his body, he would jump into the lake. This ritual represented the reunion of Sun (male) and Water (female), a symbol of life itself and the begin of his reign.
The most interesting aspect about the Mhuysqa people is, that it is an old indigenous culture that was almost completely extinguished by the Spanish Conquistadores. But the people in Sesquillé have recently started a process of investigation and recreation of their cultural identity – studying books and artifacts, learning from other neighboring indigenous communities and practicing ceremonies they trace their long lost traditions, beliefs and language. A new and life interpretation of the old Mhuysqa culture has started to pulse in the youth again.
Text: Julia Schneeweiss, Sven Selbert, Photos: Julia Schneeweiss, Diego Barajas