GAWI: A Rarámuri Message in Virtual Reality
In the majestic heights of the Sierra Tarahumara in northern Mexico resides the Rarámuri community. These guardians of the earth have whispered messages of care and respect for the planet for generations. Now, that ancient "dream" is woven with the fibers of virtual reality, giving life to a 10-minute documentary that emerges as the fruit of the work of Rarámuri Experiencesa community-based enterprise from the Bacajipare and Huetosachi communities, who were the star players, in collaboration with Atlantic Institute, Dansker Digital, Barrancas del Cobre Adventure Park, Huella Futura and La Mano del Mono..
The seed for this project germinated in the inquisitive mind of Myriam Hernández, a visionary producer whose curiosity was piqued by the transformative potential of virtual reality. Driven by a deep desire to link this technology with the indigenous cultures of Mexico, Hernandez set out on a mission: how could she co-create a film script steeped in decolonization and authenticity?
Living a Rarámuri dream through virtual reality
At the end of 2021, Myriam received an invitation that would mark a turning point in her path. She was selected as a beneficiary of the Atlantic Fellowships for Social and Economic EquityThe project, which would provide the necessary resources to bring to life the research that would eventually evolve into the pre-production phase of a virtual reality film, imbued with the values of ethical co-creation, was gradually woven into a team of international collaborators and an alliance of alliance partners. Gradually, a team of international collaborators was built up and in partnership with Future Footprint and La Mano del Mono, an open call for community-based tourism projects was issued. The response was inspiring, with 14 applications received. Among them, the following emerged Rarámuri Experiencesa group composed of the communities of Bacajípare and Huetosachi, in the Sierra Tarahumara, Chihuahua, Mexico.
"This film is unique in the sense that the process has always been more important than the result."
Myriam evokes the origins of the project and the days of shooting, emphasizing that this film is unique in the sense that the process itself is of equal importance to the final result. "All major decisions had to be decentralized and submitted to consensus, both with the communities and with the rest of the team."he explains. In this way, the Rarámuri took the hand of the creators, guiding them through their stories. One scene in particular encapsulates this approach: "We left the camera where they indicated us and those of us who were not indigenous withdrew. We didn't know what they intended to record or do. Between them, they organized and directed a magical scene. In that instant, we perceived that we had achieved our purpose.". With the culmination of the shooting, the first stage of the project was completed, resulting in a ".Behind the scenes"and a checklist for maintaining an ethical narrative.
With new support from the Atlantic Institute, 2023 marked the close of the post-production phase of the film, now titled "GAWI: Territorio en Rarámuri" (GAWI: Territory in Rarámuri). The narrative becomes an immersion into Isabel's intimate dream, where extraordinary panoramas, deep-rooted traditions and messages from the Rarámuri people that invoke the protection of Mother Earth unfold.
The film transcends as a clear spokesperson for the Rarámuri leaders. Karen Bellato, producer, emphasizes that its message is forceful, focused on the defense of their territory and the urgent need to heal our relationship with the planet. "GAWI" is conceived to be more than a visual experience, but also a medium for awareness forums and dialogues about the reality of indigenous peoples and environmental conservation. Lorenzo Moreno, community leader and co-director of "GAWI," shares his perspective: "This message resonates with power: protect what is ours. We indigenous peoples are the foundation of the Earth. Without our presence, the Earth falters".
At present, the team is concentrating on developing an impact strategy, while persevering in the search for opportunities and funding to distribute and exhibit the film. The focus remains on promoting the self-representation of indigenous communities and their demands. After three years of commitment, the Rarámuri dream is ready to be shared with the world, turning virtual reality into a tool for social awareness.
La Mano del Mono wishes to express deep gratitude to each member of the production team and to all of our valued partners. It has been an honor to collaborate to produce this Virtual Reality film that brings to life the local livelihoods behind the tourism we experience in Mexico. We would like to dedicate a special and respectful acknowledgement to the Rarámuri communities, whose participation and collaboration have been the very essence of this transformative project. Their wisdom, traditions, and generosity have woven the fabric of this unique virtual reality experience that allows us to answer the question How do we integrate new technologies to change narratives that transform our relationships through ancestral Rarámuri messages?