Colombia: Recovering traditions and culture of the Senu people

Nuevos Decimeros logo

Nuevos Decimeros logo

Through short videos, the indigenous people of the Senu tribes in Colombia have been interviewing members of their community and capturing stories on food: the traditions, the recipes and the meaning behind what and how they eat. In three different communities, a team of audiovisual trainers has been teaching the Senu how to use cameras, write stories and tell their tales, and 3 documentary videos are the result.

The Nuevos Decimeros (New Storytellers) is a project operated by Juliana Paniagua and Otrocuento, an independent film group who train, investigate and develop audiovisual material. The project is sponsored by the Government's National Audiovisual Plan, whose goal is to bring Colombians closer to audiovisual culture and appreciation through creation.

In the Nuevos Decimeros Vimeo channel they have uploaded not only the short documentaries themselves, but also behind the scenes footage of the workshops.

The documentary made by the people of the indigenous community of La 18th in Zaragoza, Antioquia was based on their interests as a community. In their blog, the trainers explain:

Los de La 18 rastrearon el mito del Yacabó, un pájaro símbolo de creciente y muerte para los indígenas Senú, además narraron la preparación del “Moncholo” uno de los principales alimentos de la comunidad, y de la “Chicha de Masato”, una bebida tradicional.

The people of La 18 traced down the myth of the Yacabó, a bird which symbolizes the rising river waters and death for the Senu indians, besides they narrated the preparation of the “Moncholo”, one of the community's food staples and the “Chicha de Masato”, a traditional drink.

The people of Puerto Belgica spoke about food starting with the land: from the family plot where food is planted as a indigenous tradition to the conservation of fertile earth as a way to subsist not only physically but also as a culture.

In Puerto Claver, of El Bagre, Antioquia, the community team focused the documentary on the arrival of the first indigenous groups to the area and inquired about how the food traditions. The people speak of the importance of growing their own food including rice, string beans and corn, and how the corn they use is the traditional varieties, not the engineered “federated” corn. They do mention how some traditions are being replaced, including food, construction styles and the traditional doctors who use plants for healing and how they are trying to get their people to continue in the Senu way, not to loose what makes them indigenous people.

In this short photo-video a group illustrates the process by which rice is grown, harvested and prepared to eat in the community of Puerto Belgica :

In Puerto Belgica there was also  a lot of community interest, specially among kids and youth, so they separated into many different teams to produce content and the previous video was an example. Following is the behind the scenes footage of the short documentary's production:

The documentaries were shown to the communities, who took the opportunity to share their experiences of the process with other participants, and you can see the pictures here. The documentaries will be touring the city of Medellin, Colombia and will be making their rounds in the national film competitions.


  • I throughly enjoyed reading about the documentation processes that you all are working on in the Senu tribes in Colombia. It is vitally important to help bring awareness to their traditional knowledge and innovation. The company I work for, M•CAM Inc., is committed to the ethical, transparent, and accountable alignment of capital and resources with innovation and creativity. One of our projects is the Heritable Innovation Trust (H.I.T.). H.I.T. is a legal trust framework that protects generationally bestowed innovation created by a given community. The document provides a way to steward common innovation resources in perpetuity and provides a licensing vehicle so that intangible trade can occur more fairly. Your work in identifying and documenting the heritable knowledge and traditions in the communities is the first step to putting a trust in place, but in addition to the documentation, a trust would protect the traditions and knowledge. Please read more about the H.I.T. program at and feel free to email me at for any additional information.

  • […] tradotto da Maria Elena Marino · vai all’articolo originale […]

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