Visions That The Plants Gave Us

Pablo Cesar Amaringo

Pablo Amaringo, the seventh of thirteen children, was born in 1943 in Puerto Libertad, a small settlement near the town of Tamanco in Peru. He had completed only two years of schooling when his father abandoned the family, forcing the loss of their farm and subsequent move to Pucallpa, Peru, where 15-year-old Pablo found work on the docks. After falling critically ill, and with his family in extreme poverty, he began to draw and found that he could create bank notes using brushes and Chinese ink. Arrested for counterfeiting, he escaped from jail and fled to Brazil, where he worked for almost two years. He then returned to the Peruvian jungle, where he was cured of his heart trouble by an ayahuasquero, or vegetalist shaman. Arrested again for his past crime, he spent several months in jail and was released in 1969.

Soon after, Amaringo was taught the mysteries of healing by a forest woman who appeared to him in dreams. He practiced vegetalismo from 1970 to 1976, traveling throughout the Peruvian Amazon. Plunging deeper and deeper into the power of ayahuasca, or yajé, an herbal concoction widely used in a shamanic context among the Indian and mestizo populations of the upper Amazon, he became tortured by the spirit world. After fighting with and being injured by sorcerers and spirits, he decided to abandon shamanic practices and forsake ayahuasca. He began to paint, interpreting the other worlds of his experience in his art, and working for preservation of Amazonian environment and culture.

In 1988, Amaringo founded the Usko-Ayar school, where he teaches students to visualize internally what they are going to paint, in the same way that he does himself. As Amaringo notes, "The school's purpose is well defined: it is a tool for the conservation of the Amazonian environment and culture. By observing and depicting nature, people especially young children become more aware of its beauty and richness, and they learn to respect it. In addition, the students hope that their paintings will inspire other people to share similar attitudes of appreciation and reverence." Amaringo feels that he has a mission, which is to show glimpses of other dimensions through his paintings. Language, he says, is an imperfect means of communication. The spirits do not talk, but express themselves through images.

In 1992, Amaringo received the prestigious Global 500 Peace Prize from the United Nations Environmental Program, joining Jacques Cousteau, Chico Mendez, and Jimmy Carter, among others, as a true hero of the environmental movement.

-- Electric Gallery
Miami, Florida

Selected paintings from the exhibition

On loan from Luis Eduardo Luna:

On loan from the Electric Gallery:

Complete descriptions of many of the visions represented in Amaringo's paintings can be found in Ayahuasca Visions: The Religious Iconography of a Peruvian Shaman (North Atlantic Books, 1991) by Luis Eduardo Luna and Pablo Amaringo.

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