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PABLO AMARINGO is one of the world’s greatest

visionary artists, renowned for his highly complex,
colourful and intricate paintings of his visions from
drinking the Ayahuasca brew
HOWARD G CHARING and PETER CLOUDSLEY
met with Pablo at the school which he founded,
the Usko-Ayar School of Painting, in Pucullpa,
where he lives and paints. In this rare interview
Pablo talks to them about his life as a shaman and
artist and the magical images he creates

What drew you to being a shaman? curandero when I cured a young
THE AYAHUASCA VISIONS OF It was a spiritual matter for me. I man with a terrible headache, firstly
had thought that shamans deceived I felt it and then he was better.
and lied to people, so I didn’t

Pablo believe in them. I thought that
ayahuasca healed people because
it was medicine, I didn’t believe in
Is it an important part of the cure,
to feel what the patient feels?
That was how the powers were given

Amaringo magic and spirits. No! Then in
1967 I saw a curandera
miraculously heal my sister who had
been in mortal agony with hepatitis,
and could not either eat or speak,
to me, but others say that when they
take the ayahuasca, they can see
what the problem is with their
patient. I didn’t even have to drink, I
felt exactly where their pains were,
Pablo Amaringo trained as a but with this single healing from the and their emotions, everything.
plants, she was cured in just two
curandero in the Amazon, healing himself hours. That motivated me to start What plant did
and others from the age of ten. He gave this learning the science of vegetalismo. you take on your diet?
up in 1977 to become a full-time painter Just Ayahuasca, but afterwards I
and art teacher at his Usko-Ayar school She was given Ayahuasca? took other plants at the same time
No, the senora used the knowledge as Ayahuasca, to learn more things.
His book, ‘ Ayahuasca Visions: the Religious of Ayahuasca and chanted. That
was during the day. That same Then you practiced as a curandero?
Iconography of a Peruvian Shaman’, co- night I drank and received the Yes, and for many years I travelled
authored with Luis Eduardo Luna, brought his powers, but I didn’t know what I to Madre de Dios, Cusco, Lima,
work and the rich mythology of the Amazon to was being given. I saw many Huanuco, Tingo Maria and Alto
a wide audience in the West things. I sat like a king and Ucayali. Wherever I went I cured
watched! After that I dieted for five people. Pucullpa at that time was
Pablo Amaringo was born in Puerto Libertad, in days, staying at home, without much smaller. The houses were
seeing many people. mostly wooden, with cultivation
the Peruvian Amazon. He was ten years old After one month I began to feel behind them, there were no high
when he first took ayahuasca, a visionary brew what everybody else was feeling, it buildings. None of the streets had
used in shamanism, to help him overcome a was a very strange thing! And I tarmac, they were of red mud,
severe heart disease discovered I could sing the chants except for the one central plaza.
without even learning them. They The road to Lima was terrible and it
The healing he received led Pablo toward came out beautifully and I took a month or more to get there.
wondered how it was possible that I
the life of a vegetalismo [plant healer] in knew them. I realised I had powers How do you communicate
which he worked for many years in me and I began to be a with plant spirits after you

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take them into you? the family!” One day I was asked to huge box.
When you take any plant other than accompany a foreign gentleman They sold
ayahuasca, you connect through because I spoke a little English, but them and sent
your dreams; ajo sacha, chric I did not know that he was the me the money.
sanango, bobinsana etc., you learn biologist Denis McKenna. After After that they
while you are asleep. But with some years he recommended me said we don’t
Ayahuasca, no. You are conscious for a job in Sepagua, but I was not want any more
and awake. That is why it is the able to take it up because my landscapes,
planta maestra - the eye through mother fell ill. So when he came only visions!
which you see the world, the back in 1985 I asked him if he They
universe. It is miraculous and would show my pictures in an studied them
sacred and you can learn from your exhibition he was organizing in and said they
studies far more with ayahuasca Switzerland. They were small found
than with other plants, but you must pictures, but later he returned with language and
obey the ‘statutes’ of this plant, the Luis Eduardo Luna who said “How biology in the
rules. If you obey, no knowledge beautifully you paint Pablo. I can pictures, so
will be withheld from you. promote your work, do you want to later I began
My visions helped me be a world class painter?” to make
understand the value of human I said “No, I don’t want any of explanations of
beings, animals, the plants those things. I don’t know what a them. But I
themselves, and many other things. ‘world class’ painter is. I just want could never
The plants taught me the function you to help me sell my pictures to show them to
they play in life, and the holistic make a little money.” I was people here.
meaning of all life. We all should portraying the daily realities of That’s how it
give special attention and deference people in the Amazon, how they sow all started.
Then I
to Mother Nature. She deserves and harvest, how they fish and
our love. And we should also show celebrate their fiestas and so on. Are people still prejudiced here? started to
a healthy respect for her power! Luna said “How is it I haven’t met Yes, many are still. Once some think that
you before now? Every year I have religious people came and said that I could paint
How did you discover been coming for the last eight years, if the name of Jesus was spoken for him all
your gift of painting? travelling up the Amazon through the paintings would explode. And the things I
I used to make portraits and Brazil and Peru to Panama!” they asked me to say “Jesus”. I
landscapes when I was twenty I asked him why he came, what said “I can’t say that word, what
had seen in
years old, but mostly using was he looking for? for?” They said to each other, “He my visions
charcoal. But this didn’t earn me “We are interested in the has got the devil in him, if he says and all
any money so I dedicated myself to magical plants of Peru from the Jesus, he will explode!” the things
other things, agriculture, raising coast, sierra and selva.” that were
animals and hairdressing, all kinds “I know what you are after” I You have many amazing
explained
of things. I was working as said. “I used to be a shaman ten paintings here in your
secretary to the chief of customs years ago, what a shame you studio, can you tell us to me
here in the port of Pucullpa. One didn’t know me before, but now I something about them?
day my boss told me to paint two have put all that behind me. I could The pictures are a means by which
armchairs, and as I had never have told you so much about what I people can cross spiritual
painted, I just slapped on the paint had seen, I said.” boundaries. Some people say they
any old how and it looked awful, Then I started to think that I can only believe what they see, but
with lumps everywhere. But the could paint for him all the things I there are things which exist which
boss didn’t reprimand me, he said had seen in my visions and all the cannot be seen. The pictures are
“How come you are good at things that were explained to me. for reminding people what we are,
everything except painting?” I was But I had to do it in secret because and where we come from, and
a little hurt because he was always even when people saw photos of where we are going. They are for
so impressed by everything I did. what I painted, they said I had people of any culture in the world,
This made me think that if I was gone mad, that I was bedevilled, although there is much that is
going to learn to paint, I would and painting things of the demon! taken from indigenous Amazonian
learn to do it well. They worried me with these culture. For example: ‘A Fines
After three years working there I remarks. I could never have had an Espirituales’ (Spiritual Endeavour)
had a heart problem and returned exhibition here in Pucullpa. So
to doing portraits in pencil, Luna said “Paint for me then”. And In this painting there are
beginning with my own portrait. I made two pictures of visions for horses like humans, humans
his next visit, and when he saw with tiger’s heads and a
How did you those pictures - one of which is in papagayo with a human body
begin painting visions? the Museum of Washington DC and so on. Looking at this
Years passed and I used to say to and the other in the University of painting, it reminds us of many
my mother, “When I am older I will Stockholm - they took hundreds of of the Amazonian legends in
paint several pictures of myself so pictures of them. But I said he which animals adopt human
that after I am dead people will could take them away. And that’s forms. Does this painting relate
know there has been a painter in what they did, wrapped up in a to these stories?

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can discover through the to paint, I will be talking other
visions of ayahuasca and things instead, but I can still paint
other plants like toé, chric now and I am sixty-eight.
sanango, ajo sacha etc. The plants in the painting are
assuming you do the diet ishanga, maromara, pinon blanco,
correctly, then the invisible pinon colorado and pinon negro,
world can become manifest lengua de perro, and verbena. The
to us. It is part of our mystic ethnic elements are Shipibo, Conibo,
evolution. Everyone has a Shetebo, Amahuaca, and you can
role to play inspiring, see the spells and spaceships.
creating, evolving their minds
to preserve the world. The In the painting ‘Hondas de la
spirits are working untiringly Ayahuasca’ (Ayahuasca Waves) is
to protect Mother Nature - represented the different grades of
everything from the plants shaman. A suniruma is the highest
and animals to the circles of expert sitting here, with dominion
the planets. of the sky, then banco puma or
banco sumi who has dominion of
You touch on an the land, finally the muraya who
important point about has dominion over the water.
protecting nature. You can see waves just like the
There is an increasing effects of Ayahuasca - the
amount of damage that mareacion. It comes strongly and it
people are causing to the seems as if it is passing and then
natural world. What is another one comes, like waves
your view why humans do from a stone in the water. This is
so much damage? the sachamama which comes in
It is our lack of ingenuity, and different colours in the mareacion
above all, imagination. We and protects the vegetation. It is a
think we are the only ones semi-mythological animal because
here on earth, unique! We it actually exists, a huge serpent
‘AFINES That is correct, spirits cannot should all work like scientists, which lives on the land but doesn’t
ESPIRITUALES’ materialize easily, if they cannot teachers, composers so that we move, so plants grow on top of it.
take human form, they take animal can fully and creatively engage in You can be chopping a path with
form. They are made from the the world, so in that way the world your machete and strike it
spirits of animals, but if they appear continues. If we play a part in the unknowingly, until blood appears! If
human, then they can reproduce functioning of the universe we will it sees you, it draws you into its
‘HONDAS DE with women in order that they can not die. When I am old and about mouth with its power, you cannot
LA AYAHUASCA’ be incarnate in us. This is what you to die and cannot see well enough escape. You can see here the
seven rays of the rainbow which
portray this power.
You can also see angel serpents
or sarafs who protect the
sachamama.

In ‘Sinchi Pucalpuna’ (Red
Ceiba Tree), in its round cupola you
see an old woman who lives there,
and comes down these stairs to a
city. The guardian of the city is a
cock hen. She administers to all
the virgin maidens, teaching them
all they should know. You can see
Cyclops, black people, red skinned
people like monkeys protecting the
cupola of the tree.
Ayahuasca was known to the
ancient Peruvians, the Waris and
Chancas, as also King Solomon. You
can also see here the Huayramama
(Mother of the Wind), which the
rainbow comes out of. And you can
see where the great spirits who have
learned all the sciences enter, to see
all the great old people who are in
other dimensions.

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And you can see an Ayahuasca People who are not so
session in progress and people’s dedicated to the study and
emotions conflicting with the experience of plants may not
angels. In ancient times, when think this knowledge is so
people were not so corrupt important to their lives - but even
spiritually and emotionally, the they should be conscious of the
angels came out and walked freely nutritional, medicinal, and
on earth. Now people are too scientific value of the plants they
astute and wily and they don’t want rely on for life.
to have anything to do with them. My most sublime desire,
The same has happened with the though, is that every human being
mermaids, also depicted: before should begin to put as much
you would see loads of them on attention as he or she can into the
the River Ucayali. I’ve seen them. knowledge of plants, because they
are the greatest healers of all. And
In ‘Yacaruna Huasi’ (The all human beings should also put
Yacaruna’s House.) we see the effort into the preservation and
yacaruna, who are people that live conservation of the rainforest, and
under the river in tunnels which care for it and the ecosystem,
are pictured here, and they lead because damage to these not only
to another world, as you see. prejudices the flora and fauna but
They play musical instruments to humanity itself.
enchant people at midnight when Even in the Amazon these
all is silent under the moonlight. days, many see plants as only a
You can see dolphins, manatee resource for building houses and
(sea-cow), electric eel and to finance large families. People
charapa mama which are marine who have farms and raise animals
turtles. Then there are muraya also clear the forest to produce ‘SINCHI PUCALPUNA’
(Shipibo shamans), water dogs, foodstuffs. Mestizos and native
water horses and fish which fly Indians log the largest trees to
when it rains very hard and fall sell to industrial sawmills for ‘YACARUNA HUASI’
out of the sky. subsistence. They have never
heard of the word ecology!
Would you like to add
anything more about the I, Pablo, say to everybody who
importance of plants? lives in the Amazon and the other
For me personally, though, they forests of the world, that they
mean even more than this. Plants must love the plants of their land,
-in the great living book of nature and everything that is there.
- have shown me how to study This expression of love must
life as an artist and shaman. They be a sincere and altruistic interest
can help all of us to know the in the lasting well-being of others.
art of healing and to discover We are not here simply to exist,
our own creativity, because the but to enjoy life together with
beauty of nature moves people plants, animals, and loved ones,
to show reverence, fascination, and to delight in contemplation of
and respect for the extent to the beauty of nature. A shaman
which the forests give shelter to has in his mind and heart the
our souls. attitude of conserving nature
The consciousness of plants because he knows that life is for
is a constant source of enjoying the company of this
information for medicine, world’s countless delights.
alimentation, and art, and an
example of the intelligence and More about PABLO AMARINGO see
www.pabloamaringo.com
creative imagination of nature.
PETER CLOUDSLEY has built up an
Much of my education I owe to exstensive archive of traditional Peruvian
the intelligence of these great music and interviews. He teaches
courses on music and popular culture in
teachers. Thus I consider Latin America.
myself to be the HOWARD G. CHARING is a co-director
‘representative’ of plants, and of Eagle's Wing Centre. He has studied
for this reason I assert that if plant spirit medicine with shamans and
healers of the Andes, Amazon Rainforest,
they cut down the trees and and the Philippines. He has been
burn what’s left of the initiated in the lineage of the Maestros of
the Rio Napo community in the Upper
rainforests, it is the same as Amazon and has been baptised into the
burning a whole library of books Shipibo tribe. Howard organises journeys
to meet and work with these maestros.
without ever having read them. www.shamanism.co.uk (01273) 882 027

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