In the Shipibo communities of Santa Clara and San Francisco, Hip Hop is used as a tool for education and social transformation for youth.
Hip Hop, a culture that was born in the neighborhoods of New York with mostly black and latino populations, has historically served many oppressed peoples as a tool for resistance and struggle. Through it’s four elements (visual art, dance, music, and lyrics), hip hop has been the language of those who made art and culture in the streets as a form of often life-saving self and communal expression.
As hip hop has spread around the world, it has evolved and morphed, taking in local elements, reinventing itself, and denouncing new realities. The globalization of hip hop has, of course, not escaped indigenous populations, who in fact have found great solace in integrating the elements of hip hop to talk about their own realities and to address their own needs. Hip hop is thus, used to talk about colonization and environmental degradation, as well as to revitalize cultural pride and language use among the youth.
In Pucallpa, the young members of the mestizo Hip Hop collective Amatska consider themselves workers of art. This means that they do not only use art as a form of self expression or for the sake of art itself, but also use it as a form of social protest and as a way to create alternative spaces for education and consciousness in a world that needs constant betterment. Some of the members of the collective even have their own music, in which they commemorate historical events from an alternative perspective, talk about current sociopolitical issues, or speak to personal transformation.
It was thanks to the young people of the Amatska collective, that we were able to organize a Hip Hop workshop with the youth of Santa Clara and San Francisco. For the youth of San Francisco, it all began with the visit of two rappers from Lima, Edu and Punko, who offered to do a workshop in a Shipibo community. After the workshop, the participants became quite marveled at the power of their lyrics, which spoke to them deeply as they rapped about various social issues that most peruvians face. As Edu and Punko left, the youth of San Francisco were eager to learn more, so this is how we knew we needed to continue with this work.
With the youth of Santa Clara, we found out about their affinity for hip hop during our first youth workshop in the community of Saposoa and the Sierra del Divisor National Park. As we played hip hop music during our activities, the teenagers eagerly wanted to hear more! As a result, we told them that we knew about Amatska and that we could invite them to do a workshop in the community if they’d like to. They enthusiastically said yes.
And so, we embarked on this wonderful journey to connect Amatska to the youth in the Shipibo communities. Our aim was to build intercultural bridges and to share art forms so that the youth could be introduced to new concepts, transformational music, and of course, use hip hop as a tool to revitalize Shipibo language use and talk about the issues that concern them.
A few days after a successful Hip Hop workshop, we came back to Santa Clara to talk with the youth about further activities. On our way back, as we were about to embark on a boat from the San Francisco port, we find out friend Ranin who had attended the workshop and was quite an enthusiastic rapper already. Ranin, excited to see us, told us about the lyrics he was writing, in both Spanish and Shipibo, and how he was planning on writing more (his next project was to honor Shipibo women through rap!). He said he had the lyrics written down but no beats, and that he really wanted to connect with the Amatska Collective to get some help. In that moment, we knew that the bridges had been built, and that Ranin was the first one to cross them. We hope that Ranin’s music is finally able to reach our ears, positively transforming the hearts and minds of his peers and the world!