Monday, April 22, 2013

Trip to the Village of Embera Puru :: Photojournalism Tips for Moms :: Mamatography Photo Workshops

Happy Earth Day : ) For this post I'd like to share my photos from last weekend's adventure to Embera Puru, a Native village here in the jungles of Panama. Home to some of the nicest people on EARTH!

Many months ago, I had a pleasant encounter with an Embera family on the banks of the Canal. I snapped a few pics of them, as they were happy to, but I knew that there was a greater, more colorful experience lying up river amongst their many villages. I've been making a vigorous effort to take advantage of my surroundings here and most of all, the people. The native culture amongst me is so greatly intertwined with the modern happenings in Panama. There are multiple native groups, the most prominent in my area of Panama City are the Embera, Kuna and  Ngöbe-Buglé peoples. My daughter's teacher is a lovely, Kuna lady who I adore, named Teacher Dady (a little confusing at first to my American daughter ; ) She is from a very popular group of islands called San Blas. These are amongst the most beautiful in all the Caribbean sea. I've yet to get there but it's next on my list!

What's so great about the Embera villages for me, is that they offer a unique photographic experience relatively close to home here in Panama City. A friend of mine recommended Embera Village Tours as they provide a very authentic version of a tourist's excursion. 

In the Mamatography Photo Sharing and Critique group, this week, I assigned "Natives" as our weekly shoot topic. I wanted to give this one my all!

The Journey to Embera Puru: Fredrico carried some supplies I wanted to donate. "Amor" was our captain.
When we arrived, what a welcome it was!
This trip took around 1 hour by van to a lush, green, hilly bank just east of the Panama Canal. Driving through the many towns north of the city is a pretty common site. It's hard to imagine what we would soon find on our journey. Suddenly, the earth just opened up! And there were these dug out canoes and colorful Embera men there to greet us. *A couple funny side notes: Our guide contacted them by cell phone which they can access by climbing the hills in the village to notify them to jump in the motorized canoes to meet the tourists at the shore "ramp". Knowing these things did not take away from the experience one bit! In fact, my bottom is utterly grateful that I only had to sit on that piece of ply wood in the canoe for an hour and a half compared to, if rowed, could've taken a full day or more!  

I brought just about ALL of my gear on this trip because I didn't have Safi with me, this time! It was important to me to really focus on capturing the essence of the experience and leaving the diapers and crankiness at home. I used both my camera bodies this day because on one I had my 17-55mm Wide angle, zoom lens for landscapes and on my new camera my 50mm normal/portrait lens to capture faces, details and HD video of the village. I put everything to use! Important to mention that I brought a large raincoat with me to throw over my gear on the boat trip. Luckily, I didn't need to use it as we're on the edge of dry to rainy season.

View from my canoe on Rio San Juan de Pequeni
This trip was a much needed escape from the awful realities that had been LITERALLY exploding back home and seeing it all here on CNN. When I stepped off that canoe and walked up the hill of musicians, my camera holding hands shook with joy! 

My eyes filled with tears as I marveled in the faces of chubby cheeked children and their bare breasted mothers. It was all just so beautiful, like I was meant to go there all this time.

I immediately locked eyes with little Leila. She's 1 of 3 daughters of my new friend, Silvania. Whom, greeted me in English. I was shocked! Most everyday people in Panama, even in the city, do not speak English. That's just the way it is. But here was this native girl, giving up on my bad Spanish, and communicating in MY language.

Silvania is a storybook in herself. She's just 20 years old, a mother of 3 and working towards going to college in the city to perfect her English to show visitors like me, where she lives. What was especially interesting about her, is that she is not actually an Embera. She is from the Ngöbe-Buglé culture generally located in the more Western side of Panama. She met her husband (I still have to get the scoop how) who is from the Embera tribe, and brought her to his village where they are raising their beautiful children together. The elder women, including her mother-in-law, help her care for her girls as well since her family is on the other side of the country. 

I gave Silvania the goods that I brought for little girls. I could laugh at my self because I brought them these fancy sandals from Nordstroms and all the kids were barefoot! Just the way kids should be. One little one got a kick out of a pair of sunglasses Safi never took to. 

She and all the Emberas were so warm and kind. Men and women alike. The little girls whom were big sisters, really amazed me. They were little mothers themselves, filled with affection for their baby siblings.

Another baby's treasure!
Leila being sneaky with the big girls.
The cloths shown hanging on the line and on the female Emberas, are designed by them. However modern technology has enabled them to sketch their designs and then deliver them to the city where they are then EMAILED to Japan, printed and shipped back for them to wear, sell and enjoy!
Beautiful goods, handmade by the Emberas
Silvania coiling a traditional basket made from hand died, palm fibers.

as our guide Dave said, she's never seen a camera before ; )
Lunch! We were fed a fresh feast of Tilapia, which was caught in transit, with Patacones (fried Plantains)
in a leave sleeve. 
Mom splitting up a snack. Keeping the peace amongst little villagers! 

If you have the chance to take the simplest of excursions in which you can capture a native group, do it! Even if they too are adjusting to the modern world, they choose to stay removed from it. This makes for an intriguing VISUAL STORY in the style of "Photojournalism". Even in your day to day lives, when you're taking pictures, attempt to tell a story. Take more than one picture of the same thing or person on a particular day or at a special place. Remember every moment of a unique experience through multiple unique images.

On this day, I truly was a kid in a candy store. One just couldn't take a bad photo of these lovely people! I can't wait to return, next time with Safi. We're going to have a sleep over with Silvania and her girls. Should be intersting to see how Safi fares a day with out the iPad! Silvania says SHE can't wait to go to the city in July and catch up on TV. Though, her kids say to her "Mami, I don't like TV". Bless their little Embera hearts!

Happy Snapping, Vicky