Indigenous Voices Open the Fourth Terra Madre
21 Oct 10
Indigenous Voices Open the Fourth Terra Madre
The fourth biannual gathering of food communities, cooks, academics, young people and musicians from around the world, Terra Madre 2010, was officially opened yesterday, Thursday October 21, during a lively and colorful ceremony at Turin’s Palasport Olimpico, featuring flags from around the world and indigenous languages from the five continents.
The ceremony began with traditional Macedonian dancing from the group Akud Mirce Acev, then continued with a welcome to the 6,400-plus participants from Paolo di Croce, Secretary General of the Terra Madre Foundation. He talked about the document that will be drafted over the following days, setting out guidelines for a new socially, economically and environmentally sustainable food policy, to be presented to governments and organizations around the world.
Next came the by-now legendary parade of flags, with a representative from each country, in traditional costume, carrying their flag into the arena. The arrival of each continent was preceded by music from Pequeñas Huellas, a rainbow-clad orchestra of hundreds of children from all over the world: a traditional African song, “Todo Cambia” for the Americas, a peace march for Asia, “Ode to Joy” for Europe and the Maori song “Tarakihi” for Oceania.
With the country representatives sitting on stage, the official speeches began. The first to speak was Sergio Chiamparino, the mayor of Turin. He welcomed the delegates to his city with open arms and a tribute to the beauty of an open world, with no walls and no barriers. “We can’t wait for someone to change the world,” he said. “We have to ask ourselves what we can do. We have to reassess the hierarchy of values within ourselves. What’s more important, a good diet or a cell phone? When it comes to children, I think a good diet is more important!”
Representing the Piedmont Regional Authority was Councilor Giovanna Quaglia, who spoke about a cultural revolution towards a new humanism, a revolution in our consumption habits, which finds fertile ground in Terra Madre. “We want to attract young people to agriculture to make a clean world and clean and fair food,” she concluded.
This Terra Madre will see a focus on the world’s diversity of languages and the rights of indigenous people, and these two themes were brought together by the next five speakers, each representing a continent and each speaking in their native language. Each brought a different perspective to the shared issues of environmental protection, colonization, arbitrarily created national borders, rights for indigenous people and the loss of traditional culture and identity.
Malebo Mancha Maze from the Gamo farmers’ community in Ethiopia made a striking start, dressed in red robes and scattering grass from his mountains as a blessing. “Food is life and food is us,” he said in Gamo. “If we keep food in our hands then life will be ensured.” He went on: “Our mountains are sources of manure. Women bring manure to the fields, where the men toil, and the children watch the livestock. The system is the combination of all of us. You cannot pull out one element. We want to continue this system, but we fear this might not be possible.”
Representing the Americas was Adolfo Timótio Verá Mirim from the Juçara Palm Heart Presidium in Brazil, who spoke in his native Guaraní about the nightmare of colonization, which devastated the Guaraní population. He described the disappearance of many indigenous cultures in South America during the colonization process as genocide. “We respect nature,” he said. “Our land is sick. Nature is being exploited in a unsustainable way. Indigenous people are the true sons of the earth, the earth’s custodians. Our differences must be respected. All countries must sign the treaties protecting our rights, and also set up laws to protect these rights.” He looked forward to the creation of a network of indigenous leaders, linked to the Terra Madre network.
From the Russian Far East came Albina Morilova, of the Itelmen (Kamchadal) ethnic group, speaking in Itelmen. She talked about the difficulties of maintaining the Itelmen culture and language, particularly after the decimation of the population when settlers arrived in the 18th century, bringing with them disease and forced conversion to the Russian Orthodox church. Speaking the Itelmen language was even banned in the 1950s. “It’s a very simple language, expressing traditional concepts about daily life and the natural world,” said Morilova. “Young people aren’t interested in learning it and there are no teachers so it’s not taught in schools. We are worried about the situation of our culture and language. We have to keep protecting them.”
Ol-Johán Sikku spoke next, a Sami from the Sápmi region of northern Europe. “Sápmi has been colonized for centuries,” he said, “divided between four countries, Sweden, Finland, Russia and Norway. Our culture has been almost completely destroyed, and our land exploited.” Now the Sami are working to revive their language, culture, traditions and environmental vision, setting up a Sami parliament as well as museums and schools. “We want to build a future where traditional knowledge can tie together the past and the times to come,” he said.
“All indigenous people have similarities,” continued Sikku. “We know we cannot waste the environment on which we live. We are only borrowing anything we take from the earth. We know how to keep the earth clean. Together we can advise and instruct the world on how to take care of nature. Together we have the opportunity and strength to influence the world’s leaders. We no longer have time to wait. Mother Earth needs our collective wisdom and power to make a change.” He invited all indigenous people to come to Sápmi next June for the first Terra Madre Indigenous People gathering.
Finally, Aunty Beryl Van-Oploo, an Aborigine from Australia, described in Gamilaraay how she founded the Yaama Dhiyaan Hospitality and Training School, which gives young people training and employment opportunities while sharing Aboriginal knowledge and culture with them. “The young people who come to me are like birds with their wings clipped. Once they graduate, they are proud of their culture, their knowledge and the leadership that allows them able to control their own destiny and to realize their dreams. We must make sure the resources of the earth are guaranteed for future generations,” she said. “We do not own the land, the land owns us.”
The concluding speaker was Slow Food President Carlo Petrini. He spoke of the danger of abandoning traditional knowledge and described the four groups who store this knowledge: indigenous people, farmers, women and the elderly. “They are at the front line for the challenges we face. They are the least considered by politics and the media, but the last will be first and these four groups will show us the right path.” Addressing the 3,000 young people in the audience, he said they must stay connected to this knowledge and fight to transform the current system without fear or reverence for the people who brought us into this current crisis.
Petrini said that we must grow and “degrow,” growing services, green energy, public transport and organic agriculture and decreasing consumer intoxication, traffic, pollution and so on. “It is time to return to an interior life of friendship and love,” he said. “When a system cannot resolve its problems, it either disintegrates or transforms.” He compared the necessary social metamorphosis as being like a caterpillar turning into a butterfly, and outlined how this process of transformation could come about: by valuing diversity, the great creative force in the world; by strengthening reciprocity, the act of giving and giving back, generating a virtuous circle of generosity; and through dialog, rediscovering fraternity in its deepest meaning. “Long live our Mother Earth and long live universal fraternity!” he concluded, to rousing applause and a standing ovation.
Terra Madre 2010 has more than 6,400 participants from 161 countries. Of these, the 4,432 delegates (farmers, fishermen, food producers, cooks, teachers, students and musicians) are divided into 1,557 food communities and coordinated by 650 volunteers.