Géraud de Ville

The Open University, Department of Engineering and Innovation
London, UK

Pantanî Blog: Indigenous Youngsters Broadcast Worldview

Traditional Stories Hit the Web

December 15, 2014

Géraud de Ville is a PhD student in the OU’s Department of Engineering & Innovation, whose research focuses on the use of information and communication technologies by indigenous communities in the Guiana Shield region of South America. Pantanî – pronounced ‘pan-duh-nee’ – means ‘stories’ in Makushi, the language of the indigenous peoples of the North Rupununi, Guyana. It is also the chosen name for a one-year digital storytelling project running until June 2015.

Pantanî Blog: Indigenous Youngsters Broadcast Worldview

Pantanî Blog – Creative Commons

If you happen to visit the Rupununi region of Guyana, and go on a hike with a local guide, it is likely that, as happened to me, you will hear plenty of fascinating stories and legends on the natural environment. At the end of January 2014, when I travelled to the Deep South of Guyana with a team of local and international researchers, I had the opportunity to visit a place called Skull Mountain, located in the Kanuku mountain range, not far from the Brazilian border. During the visit, our elder guide had a story on every mountain, every river and every valley. It was like being walked through an old town, with its church, its streets and its main square. It was buzzing with memories and legends, evidencing the strength of the mutual relationship between Amerindian culture and their environment. Of course, this is a subtle relationship, one that does not immediately spring to the eye of the foreign observer. It is without material evidence, marks or scars, because it is not based on the extensive extraction of natural resources or on the harnessing of the natural environment. Instead, it is deeply spiritual and embraces a cosmo-centric worldview. What appears as thousands of hectares of wild savanna, forests and mountains is in fact the result of a mutual relationship, where human beings shape their environment and their environment in turn shapes what the humans have become, both in a non-materialistic way. No wonder indigenous territories happen to be amongst the most preserved places on earth!

Many oral legends and stories bear witness to the intensity of that relationship. Very few, however, of these stories have been documented to date. And as the sirens of modernity become louder, some communities feel increasingly challenged in their worldviews. As youngsters are drawn to modern lifestyles, traditional culture and values tend to fade away and, with them, that special relationship with nature. Pantanî Blog, therefore, aims at fostering a reflection on how ICTs can be used for the promotion of indigenous worldviews through the exercise of digital storytelling. Thanks to a generous grant of £4,300 from an alumnus of the OU Masters in Environmental Management, the project allows four young participants to improve their writing skills as well as their command of digital communication tools, through the use of digital tablets. Each month, the participants meet with elders in their community, gather traditional stories, edit them and then publish them on the open access Pantanî Blog website (stories are published around once a week). From an initial focus on history and traditions, the project team will gradually explore the possibility of producing stories and opinions on more current topics such as events or issues, and propose a personal interpretation of the subject covered.

Other means of diffusion are also being considered. From December 2014, the stories will be told on the local radio station and, towards the end of the project, a book will be published and distributed in schools. However, as the internet gradually becomes more accessible to local communities, it is hoped that the project will have provided a basis for the development of new virtual spaces for the expression and diffusion of local culture, news, and values. Crucially, by providing a direct channel of communication for indigenous worldviews, the project also upsets the paradigms that suggest only foreign experts are able to represent the views of indigenous peoples to a wider audience. To discover the work of the storytellers, visit the Pantanî Blog website.



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