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Artists: Pablo Cesar Amaringo Shuna

Pablo Cesar Amaringo Shuna
Pablo Amaringo, the seventh of thirteen children, was born in 1943 in Puerto Libertad, a small settlement near the town of Tamanco in Peru, and died November 16, 2009. His parents were small farmers. While Quechua was the mother tongue of his parents, they raised their children to speak Spanish. Many of Pablo's ancestors were healers and shamans. Pablo had completed only two years of schooling when his father abandoned the family. They lost their farm and moved to Pucallpa. After two more years of school, Pablo was forced to work to help support his family. At 15, he worked on the docks in Pucallpa. After falling critically ill, and with his family in extreme poverty, he began to draw. He found that he could create bank notes using brushes and Chinese ink. Arrested for counterfeiting, he escaped from jail and fled to Brazil, where he worked for almost two years. He returned to the Peruvian jungle, where he was cured of his heart trouble by a ayahuasquero, or vegetalist shaman. Arrested again for his past crime, he spent several months in jail and was released in 1969. Soon after, Pablo was taught the mysteries of healing by a forest woman who appeared to him in dreams. He practised vegetalismo from 1970 to 1976, travelling throughout the Peruvian Amazon. Plunging deeper and deeper into the power of Ayahuasca, or yajé, an herbal concoction widely used in a shamanic context among the Indian and mestizo population of the upper Amazon, he became tortured by the spirit world. After fighting, and being injured by sorcerers and spirits, he decided to abandon shamanic practices and forsake Ayahuasca. He began to paint, interpreting the other worlds of his experience in his art, and working for preservation of Amazonian environment and culture.

In 1988, Pablo founded the Usko-Ayar school, where he teaches his students to visualize internally what they are going to paint, in the same way that he does himself. "The school's purpose is well defined: it is a tool for the conservation of the Amazonian environment and culture. By observing and depicting nature, people - especially young children - become more aware of its beauty and richness, and they learn to respect it. In addition, the students hope that their paintings will inspire other people to share similar attitudes of appreciation and reverence."* Pablo feels that he has a mission, which is to show through his own paintings glimpses of other dimensions. Language, he says, is an imperfect means of communication. The spirits do not talk, but express themselves through images.

In 1992, Pablo was presented the prestigious Global 500 Peace Prize from the United Nations Environmental program, joining Jacques Cousteau, Chico Mendez, and Jimmy Carter, among many others, as a true hero of the environmental movement. You can read more about Pablo's introduction to and slow education in the way of the shaman in the book Ayahuasca Visions - The Religious Iconography of a Peruvian Shaman by Luis Eduardo Luna - © 1991, 1993, North Atlantic Books, Berkeley, CA, sponsored by The Society for the Study of Native Arts and Sciences, and from which this biography is summarized. In addition, the photograph of Pablo here is copyrighted by Dr. Luna - no unauthorized reproduction may be made of this text or images.

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