This past April, City Lights, in conjunction with Survival International and The Emerald Tablet, presented a rare evening with Davi Kopenawa, Yanomami spokesperson, shaman, and now author of The Falling Sky Words of a Yanomami Shaman, recently published by Harvard University Press. Listen in on this special event as Kopenawa talks about his culture, his people and their beliefs, as well as the current dangers that they face. Opening statements and translation come courtesy of Leila Batmanghelidj, the US office coordinator of Survival International.
The Falling Sky is a remarkable first-person account of the life story and cosmo-ecological thought of Davi Kopenawa, shaman and spokesman for the Yanomami of the Brazilian Amazon. Representing a people whose very existence is in jeopardy, Davi Kopenawa paints an unforgettable picture of Yanomami culture, past and present, in the heart of the rainforest—a world where ancient indigenous knowledge and shamanic traditions cope with the global geopolitics of an insatiable natural resources extraction industry.
In richly evocative language, Kopenawa recounts his initiation and experience as a shaman, as well as his first encounters with outsiders: government officials, missionaries, road workers, cattle ranchers, and gold prospectors. He vividly describes the ensuing cultural repression, environmental devastation, and deaths resulting from epidemics and violence. To counter these threats, Davi Kopenawa became a global ambassador for his endangered people. The Falling Sky follows him from his native village in the Northern Amazon to Brazilian cities and finally on transatlantic flights bound for European and American capitals. These travels constitute a shamanic critique of Western industrial society, whose endless material greed, mass violence, and ecological blindness contrast sharply with Yanomami cultural values.
Bruce Albert, a close friend since the 1970s, superbly captures Kopenawa’s intense, poetic voice. This collaborative work provides a unique reading experience that is at the same time a coming-of-age story, a historical account, and a shamanic philosophy, but most of all an impassioned plea to respect native rights and preserve the Amazon rainforest.
Survival International is a non-profit organization that champions the causes of tribal peoples from around the world. They assist in defending their lives, protect their lands, and determine their own futures. They build a platform for indigenous people to speak to the world. The investigate atrocities and present evidence to the United Nations and other international forums. They support legal representation. They fund medical and self-help projects. They educate, research, campaign, lobby and protest. For more info visit:www.survivalinternational.org