VR Film Follows The First Female Shaman Of The Yawanawá People

Emmy® Award winning filmmaker Lynette Wallworth captures an Amazonian tribe as they make an historic transition to their first female shaman.

100-year-old Tata has experienced his fair share of difficulties throughout his time as Shaman of the Yawanawá people. Years of invasive missionaries and slavery by rubber trappers had nearly extinguished the Yawanawá culture, losing songs, art and history in the process.

Recognizing the diminishment of eons of ancient culture, Tata sought to secure the future of his people by reinforcing the roles of women within the community. He would start by selecting Hushahu as his apprentice and successor, making her the first female Shaman in Yawanawán history and introducing women to the Yawanawá spiritual ceremonies for the first time. The results have been extraordinary, with modern Yawanawá women now going on to become chiefs within their respective communities.

After viewing the VR film Collisions and recognizing the “spiritual compatibility” of VR & AR, Tashka Yawanawa, chief of the Yawanawá people, reached out to the projects director, Lynette Wallworth, to record a dying Tata’s last message, as well as witness the effects of his important work.

The result is Awavena, a powerful mixed reality film that follows Hushahu’s transition to Shaman and the positive ramifications that would come from her revolutionary appointment. Recorded using LIDAR data capable of capturing millions of points of light per square inch, the immersive experience utilizes a combination of VR & AR in order to place users right in the middle of the Amazonian community.

Wallworth, an Emmy® Award winning artist and filmmaker, and her partner, producer Nicole Newnham, traveled to the Amazon to meet with Tata during his final moments and speak with Hushahu about her vital new role.

“These glasses act like medicine, they carry you without your body to a place you have never been, colours and sounds are intensified, you meet the elders, you are given a message and then you return,” spoke Tashka in an official release. “Lynette is the best channel to help us transmit this vision to the world, through these new technological tools.”

Lynette and her team would return two months later to a vibrant community completely reinvigorated by Tata’s life-altering decisions. The surpression of female rights, once a prevalent part of the Yawanawá culture, was virtually nonexistent.

The Emmy® Award winning artist and filmmaker, was careful to provide an experience authentic to the Yawanawá culture, especially when it came to their traditional medicine.

“In gathering such a range of technologies for different forms of capture we were responding to a very specific request,” says Lynette. “Last year when we met at the Sundance/Skoll Stories of Change Lab to plan our work ahead I asked, “What essentially must the vision show?” and Chief Tashka answered ‘That everything is alive.” We transported 3 canoes full of technology; multiple cameras and scanners, all to reveal what the Yawanawa have always known.”

Awavena made its initial debut earlier this year at the Sundance Film Festival in Salt Lake City, Utah. The documentary is part-two of Lynette Wallworths and Nicole Newnham’s ongoing VR documentary series. Their first release, Collisions, won a 2017 Emmy for “Outstanding New Approaches: Documentary.”

No word yet on when or where Awavena will be made available to the public. Collisions is currently available for viewing via the Jaunt VR app, available on major VR platforms.

“There is a humility in taking up this work, the gift of story that is being offered to us at, it seems to me, exactly the time we need it most,” adds Lynette. “I am, as always, simply a translator for a larger story, one of profound hope, that holds us all inside it.”

Image Credit: Awavena VR

About the Scout

Former Writer (Kyle Melnick)

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