Lesly Vela & Neil White

Lesly Vela & Neil White

Lesly Vela White was born and raised in Colombia and has a degree in Industrial Design. She is particularly interested in alternative means of production and construction using recycled materials. She has been working on community projects in Colombia since 2007. In 2015, along with her husband, Neil White, she led a group of filmmakers, environmentalists and psychiatrists to make a film about the indigenous groups of Colombia who have been drinking Yage (Ayahuasca) for generations. Their main aim was to get an indigenous perspective on the globalisation of Ayahuasca and to find out what they really thought about the commercialisation of their traditional medicine. After finishing the documentary ‘Yage is Our Life’, she has been researching into the second documentary about the relationship between women and Yage in the traditions.

Mujer Yage: women and traditional medicine in Colombia

“Both for women who drink yage, and for the Taita elders, the period of menstruation requires seclusion. Pregnant women may not prepare food either for the Male Elders or for the young men who are preparing to drink yage. Our experience is that the men suffer and because we are women, we may bring disease… because we fail to pay attention to what our mothers taught us.” Amaya, Carolina. The Garden of Life. This is a piece on feminism and the relevance of its ideological values in relation to shamanism in the context of Putumayo, Colombia. I will begin by looking at the events leading up to and during our first expedition to Putumayo; the beliefs that inspired it and the work that helped it become a reality before making the first documentary, ‘Yage Is Our Life’. I will then show a few short interviews with indigenous women from ‘Yage Is Our Life’ as the motivation to make a second documentary, ‘Mujer Yage’, about gender and Ayahuasca. Finally, I will present our plans for the second documentary, based on preliminary research in Putumayo late last year by Rebeca Gezci (MA Latin American Studies) in collaboration with Ancestral Seeds.