The question of identity is fundamental to the Memory Wing of the Ayni Institute. Our research and methodology is driven by the following questions:
- Who we are and where do we come from?
- Whom and what makes up our identity?
- Where and when does identity come into place?
Ayni’s Memory Wing is attempting to answer these questions by analyzing and tracing our roots and understanding how our culture has shifted and changed throughout time. We believe that these questions are difficult to answer because we are part of ongoing system of erasure. By erasure Ayni means the erasing of cultures that have been colonized, either intentionally removed, or ridiculed, by a dominant culture in order for it to be abandoned and submit to the dominant culture.
The first school in the Americas was built on top of an Indigenous temple in modern day Mexico.
We have been a part of a continuous project that attempts to make us forget our connection with the past, which is why it is imperative for us to dig deep into our rich legacy of being a part of tribes and the multiplicity of species that live on Earth.
Here at the Ayni Institute we believe that Memory is alive, that it’s in our bodies, in our oldest temples, in the highlands of the Andes, in the coast of Africa, in the seas of Asia, and the forests of Europe. While the Memory from some of these places speak in words, others speak a language we still hold but is not as appreciated, the language of symbols. Our memory also rises from the soil of the Earth and the stars of the universe.
As an institute we delve deeply to understand these questions and we believe that no change can happen within society until we understand them.
As practitioners of Memory we have to understand that to truly remember and embody Memory is to acknowledge that Memory is a muscle. The more often we remember the past that lives within us the more we wake it from dormancy. Our journey of creating coherence around Memory has reinforced our belief that the process of remembrance has to occur in community. When we begin to remember communally is when we can start to create a coherent story – an identity.
We are deeply grateful to explore the multiple stories of life. For us the exploration of Memory is seeing time with a Long View. It’s about understanding that there isn’t one story but instead multiple interrelated stories of life.
- The Story of Mother Earth around 3.4 billion years ago.
- The Story of our Species over 3 million years ago.
- The Story of Reciprocity
- The Gifts between Communities and Mother Earth
- The Story of Tribes
- The visions of life and cultures of Civilizations in Africa, the Amazons, Asia, Europe, the Andes, North America.
- The Story of Conquest
- How some human groups started to disconnect from their living formations and started a process of plundering of other communities 10,000 years ago.
- The Story of Accumulation
- How the plundering of some allowed for massive accumulation of wealth and resources which leads us to present day capitalist society.
- The Story of Resistance
- How communities rose up to create a world of equity.
Exploring takes time, but in order to see the future, we must begin to understand the past.
3. Visions of Our People
When we learn about the past we tend to explain it from a fragmented knowledge of history. For most of us when we look back at the last hundred years we only deeply understand ten of them. When we look back further the portion we know becomes even smaller. It’s like watching the trailer of a movie and thinking we understand the whole plot of the film.
We cannot look at history in fragments instead we have to look holistically. It is in the exploration of the past that we can begin to see and understand our cultures, for the good, the bad, the ugly, and begin to recognize the major patterns and decisions that our species acted upon in different times.
To understand history, we must look at our culture. “Culture” is comprised of the values we embody not the ones we preach. Values are important elements of our societies and at the Ayni Institute we work to understand their genesis, decisions, and processes.
There are so many cultures that inspire us and give us life whether it’s the story of the Mayan Bees, the architects of Egypt, the engineers of the Andes, or the cosmovision of the Dogon Tribes. When we explore history we have to take seriously the 10,000 year process of accumulation and conquest that created modern society. It’s because of this process, that in our analysis of history, we acknowledge how colonialism has made us categorize certain cultures as either civilized or primitive.
4. Memory without Movements
What happens when we look at the past without community?
Everyone needs an identity, a story about who they are and their purpose. Due to modern society’s high level of individualism there is an often perpetuated belief of self-sufficiency that conduces people to become highly disconnected from their communities. This means that individualism in itself becomes a prime source of one’s identity. Modern individualism is supported by various elements within society. The market itself tries to capitalize on our individualistic practices. When we start to search for an identity the market can sell us content that explains our history. However, when we solely read the books that explain our culture or watch the films that give us a glimpse of our past we develop a removed sense of connection. To truly access the past and feel fulfillment in the process we must do it in community. We envision and practice creating circles of people that come together and understand a Long View of History.
We must transform society with a vision that heals and reconciles the past in order to develop a better present. Healing our collective past begins with people organizing, coming together, and replenishing communities. Memory without community is like a soul without a body. That’s why Memory cannot be disconnected from movement and social change.
Within the industry of social change we have identified patterns of thinking where if one solely organizes more or uses better technologies conditions will improve. Fundamentally, issues arise from trying to solve 10,000 year old problems with thinking that spans just twenty to thirty years. We believe that Movements must hold Memory within them if not they would make the fatal mistake of making change for the sake of change without actually improving the conditions around them. For people to truly organize they must reestablish a relationship with our collective story, with our past, and the movements that are rooted in a Long View of life. This is what will create the most quality change for society.
5. Protecting Memory
At the Ayni Institute we strive to protect and preserve Memory. In our analysis of history we have identified that colonialism has led to modern society being largely divided into the market, the state, and the individual citizen. This process has led to communal practices being largely ignored and fragmented. Modern society has preferred individualism as a form of advancement which has led to the fragmentation of communities. The process of becoming individual citizens is largely focused on minimizing or supplanting relationships with the past as it emphasizes values of interdependence.
We are in a crisis of losing our Memory and we must have urgency in protecting it.
Due to the immense development of capitalism and the unprecedented levels of resource extraction means that we are witnessing the destruction of various ecosystems and continuous displacement of communities. The huge increase of development and resource extraction in areas that were previously untouched has led to the destruction of lands and the cultures within them that were thousands of years old. The search for oil and precious metals in Indigenous lands has been one the main culprits of the destruction of Memory.
We must protect Memory – Join the Memory Fund.
We must protect Memory by documenting the wisdom of Native tribes all over the world and by investing resources that can continue their storyteller traditions. Through this documentation we can create educational programs for people that want to know their own history, their identity, so they can embody it themselves. We must protect Memory by taking a Long View with our efforts towards sustainable change, problem solving, and our daily lives.
At the Ayni Institute we are contributing in the protection of Memory by creating the Memory Fund. We are calling on all of us to invest and support the preservation of ancestral wisdom. Click here to learn more.