The Black Line Initiative

Blog post, April 4 2015

The Black Line Initiative has arisen as a result of the film ‘Aluna’ and interest raised in the Kogi people of northern Colombia. Last summer, inspired by watching this film, I spent time walking along sections of my own local rivers the Brue and the Axe, and getting to know them. Then the (much delayed) general release of the film towards the end of last year coincided with two significant things.

One was a series of dramatic events – including a massive and lethal thunderstorm – in the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta, where the Kogi live; this has convinced them that they need to be proactive in working with ‘little brother’, the people of the modern world, in making efforts to turn back the tide of ecological destruction that is now threatening life on this planet. The other was that the film’s producer, Alan Ereira, found himself inundated with messages from people all over the world saying ‘great film, but what can we actually do?’

The result is the Black Line Initiative, which is just beginning to take shape. In Kogi terminology the ‘Black Line’ is the spiritual connection between everything, and in this particular context the link between people all over the world who are committed, within the context of their own local environment, to being part of making the necessary global change. The Kogi are preparing to give direct support to people working in their own localities around the world. Alan Ereira, after meeting with the Kogi mama Alejandro during a visit to Colombia last November, wrote this on his blog:

“We talked about encouraging people in all countries to form associations to befriend their own river and their own countryside, woodland or landscape. The Mamas will help them. They will communicate directly with all who ask, responding to each group’s pictures of what they are protecting. They will consult and advise. A new movement is being born from Gonwindua, this mountain. Go-na-win-dua means the place where all life is anticipated and quickened, the place which nurtures the birth of all things. They say the foot of the mountain is the origin of the thread that connects all nature and all of us.

“Now, Mama Alejandro says, the Mamas will consider how, in practical terms, they will do this – and make clear that what comes back when people ask for help is truly from them. Meantime the associations, Friend of the River, Friend of the Wood, of the Forest, of the Field, of the Desert, should grow and go to work. And the Mamas will speak to them.”

This initiative, inspired by the thinking and actions of the Kogi themselves as indigenous people, is different from what we would think of as a ‘political movement.’ The Kogis’ exhortation to ‘make friends with your local river, forest, mountain, desert …’ directly addresses the key problem of modern peoples’ disconnection from the natural world – physical, emotional and psychological. The Kogi are particularly concerned that we should look after our rivers.

All this has arrived just as my own project with the River Brue is picking up momentum. I have compiled a history of the river over the winter, and I am planning a five-day walk from the source of the River Brue to the mouth of the River Axe over midsummer in June, looking towards publishing a book later in the year. Meanwhile, the Black Line Initiative is being officially launched in London on April 20th. The co-ordinator in England is my friend Felipe Viveros, who lives near Baltonsborough, and I am helping to organise a local presentation; this will be taking place at Glastonbury’s Red Brick Building on Thursday June 4th.