5 Fascinating Insights I Learnt Living Next to the Maleku Indigenous Tribe in Costa Rica

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5 Fascinating Insights I Learnt Living Next to the Maleku Indigenous Tribe in Costa Rica

By Jessica Cameron and JP Saliba 

Costa Rica, and Central America is home to some of the most wise indigenous tribes on the planet, but very few know about them. 

As part of our Green Residency initiative ( 7th edition, March 23 – April 13 2024) in Protopia, (www.proptopia.com) we are returning to the ancient wisdom, to the deep earth as a form of modern day education– the type of education we cannot get in traditional universities or schools

The type of education we should have gotten as children

Deep within the jungle, way up North in Costa Rica, right after the Envision festival, we will be gathering 30+ people and – amongst us –  the Maleku Indigenous Tribe.

This is not to sit in Ayahuasca, this is not to sit (only) in ceremony,  it’s to learn their WAYS, and mimic their way of BEING. This unique opportunity allows a broader audience to immerse themselves in the rich cultural heritage of the Maleku people.  Momentum Collective Green residencies serve as a platform for the tribe to showcase their traditional ceremonies, offering a rare glimpse into the spiritual and cultural dimensions that define their way of life. This collaboration fosters a bridge between cultures, promoting understanding, appreciation, and support for the ongoing efforts of the Maleku tribe. 

Nestled in the lush landscapes 30 minutes near Protopia Community in Costa Rica, the Maleku Indigenous Tribe offers a unique cultural experience that goes beyond the ordinary. Having had the privilege of living in close proximity to this ancient community, we discovered a world rich in tradition, wisdom, and a deep connection to nature

Here are five interesting facts and valuable lessons I learned from my time alongside the Maleku tribe.

  • They speak an ancient language as a Living Heritage:

The Maleku people speak Maleku Jaíka, a language that is classified as severely endangered by UNESCO. As there are only 600 active members of the Maleku, continuously practicing their language is crucial to keeping their culture alive. The Maleku believe that their language is a gift from the gods, and it serves as a powerful tool for preserving their identity. The importance of language in shaping culture became evident as I observed their storytelling sessions, traditional songs, and daily conversations. Some words I´ve picked up are:

Afepakion: Thank you
Napchape: I’m hungry
Errek: Lets go
Coraputu: Forest

  • The tribe uses nature as a Source of Wisdom:

The Maleku tribe’s deep connection to nature is awe-inspiring. Every plant, animal, and element holds significance in their daily lives. They make their own bow and arrows from pejibaye wood and other natural material found in the jungle. They taught me valuable lessons and the importance of respecting the Earth. From medicinal plants used in traditional healing practices to the intricate knowledge of the surrounding flora and fauna, the Maleku people exemplify a profound understanding of their natural surroundings. The mountains, lakes, rivers and volcanoes around them represent different elements and aspects of the divine. 

  • Art as Cultural Expression:

Art is woven into the fabric of Maleku culture. The tribe is renowned for its vibrant and intricate traditional crafts, including colorful masks, pottery, drums, and woven items. In every Maleku household, one member of the family is typically an artist.  Witnessing their artistic expressions provided me with a glimpse into their rich heritage. The art serves as a medium to communicate stories, celebrate rituals, and pass down ancestral knowledge. Their art represents their resilience and creativity. Their art uses animals as symbols representing human characteristics. Jaguar, Scarlet Macaw, Coral Snake, Owl, Blue Morpho Butterfly are some animals they like to include in their art.

  • They use Ceremonies and Rituals:

The Maleku tribe’s ceremonies and rituals are deeply rooted in their spiritual beliefs. Living next to them allowed us to participate in some of these sacred events, providing a profound insight into their worldview. From the celebration of the harvest to ceremonies honoring their ancestors, each ceremony connects them deeper to their foundation. They host several ceremonies around the sacred Lago Cote and around the Casa de Rana. In tribal ceremonies, they typically wear fibers of a special tree and typically have lunches on palm leaves. They are known for their dances around the fire.

Reality check on Challenges and Preservation Efforts:

Living in close proximity to the Maleku tribe also shed light on the challenges they face in preserving their culture. The encroachment of modernization, environmental changes, and economic pressures pose threats to the continuity of their traditions. It reinforced the importance of supporting indigenous communities in their efforts to protect their cultural heritage and maintain their way of life.

In  exciting news, the Maleku Indigenous Tribe has graciously agreed to feature in the upcoming Green Residency from March 23 until April 13 2024 in Protopia Community. (www.protopia.com)

This unique opportunity allows a broader audience to immerse themselves in the rich cultural heritage of the Maleku people. The residency will serve as a platform for the tribe to showcase their traditional ceremonies, offering a rare glimpse into the spiritual and cultural dimensions that define their way of life.

This collaboration fosters a bridge between cultures, promoting understanding, appreciation, and support for the ongoing efforts of the Maleku tribe. 

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