One day I came across a captivating term in a unique, beautiful book called “Ayahuasca Visions: The Religious iconography of a Peruvian Shaman”. The word “Mūraya” is a Peruvian-Amazonian expression that carries two meanings: “Mūra” means to look for/to find; inner hidden/essence of man. The suffix “ya” sometimes means with.
In early 1994, I began to explore the meanings of “Mūraya” through the language of photography at the birth of the word’s origin: the Peruvian Amazon. In Pucallpa, Peru I met Pablo Amarigo, artist, ex-shaman, co-author and main subject of “Ayahuasca Visions” and also founder of the Usko-Ayar Amazonian School of Painting. “Usko-Ayar” (a Quechua Indian word meaning “spiritual prince”) is where students of all ages create vivid works depicting their environment and the Amazonian way of life in a most meticulous and loving manner. Drawing upon the inspiration I gained from “Don Pablo” and the students’ sharing of their lives, I left Peru with a new perspective of the term “Mūraya” and some photographic images that began to explore what I was learning. My interest and dedication began to create a distinct path which I would follow to “Mūraya”.
While I was away in Colombia and Peru in 1995 I received an Arts Grant from The Regional Municipality of Ottawa- Carleton. I was working on my “Mūraya” project, and the surprising news confirmed that what I considered meaningful work was also important to others. During my sojourns, I lived with friends and family as I re-visited Pablo Amaringo and “Usko-Ayar”, as well as the homes of others close to me.
“Mūraya” took me back to loved ones I had met in the past such as Agustin, Maruja and their children – who also happen to be my God-children (Los Vibrantes, 1992) – and their friendly community in the Peruvian Andes. Once again I was gifted with moments to experience and share – with the Peruvian painter Pedro Azabache and his family; with Mamita who is like a Grandmother to me; with Wellington and other close friends at “Usko-Ayar”; with my cousin Juan Carlos and his grandmother Agustina (Los Vibrantes, 1992) who lives in Los Llanos, the great eastern plains of Colombia.
During “Mūraya” I mirrored my thoughts and impressions in my journals. I kept all the personal letters I exchanged with friends and family. The metaphors were coming together and my photographic investigation was beginning to crystalize as the people, places and experiences I encountered gently conspired to pull me deep in their world.
Change returned me to Canada in late 1995. I remained in contact with most of my friends and family, and patiently began selecting and printing photographs for “Mūraya”. Next followed written material selected from my journals and letters. I wanted to fuse everything together and create a story.
In early 1997 I received the tragic news of Agustin’s untimely death. Upon my return to Peru to stay with Maruja and the children for a short while, I continued working on “Mūraya”. Moving along with all the changes in and around me, this unexpected portion of this photographic project brought me to a place where I had many questions… and where I would find no answers…
All these spaces, all these souls, all these memories… I am honoured to share the moments of life that filtered through the strangers, the loved ones, and myself; that filtered through emotions, cameras, papers and pens; my personal interpretation of “Mūraya”.
alive, mysterious, and full of
as is its
I wish to acknowledge and thank the Regional Municipality of Ottawa-Carleton, Justin Wonnacott and the loved ones in the inexplicable sweet south for their support in the production of “Mūraya”. *All of the letters or fragments thereof were directly translated as written in order to keep the authenticity of character.