An auditory postcard about a woman, her culture, and her territory.
Melanie Dizon
February 22, 2024




*Join us for the inaugural event and presentation, on the 8th of March @ 6pm, to meet the artist Irazema Vera who will be joined by special guest and focus of this work Zoila Ochoa, leader of the Indigenous Community Murui Buue "Centro Arenal" in Iquitos, Peru.

Photo: Leslie Searles / ©2023 Leslie Searles. All Rights Reserved.


For this CTF series #10, we welcome sound artist Irazema Vera who presents us with an ethnographic composition about a woman named Zoila Ochoa from the Murui Buue community in Centro Arenal, Iquitos. In her village, Zoila runs a school about cultural/linguistic recovery and teaches about the politics related to land, territory, and identity. Her family holds an intrinsic connection to the nature around them, sharing many activities in which the forest is central, despite their proximity to extraction activities and Iquitos’ main energy plant, the Central termoeléctrica Iquitos Nueva. 
In this piece that Irazema has titled “Yo soy Murui Buue”, you will witness the artist’s wholistic exploration through the five days spent with Zoila from stories, songs, and moments with wild bees, to extractivism and the popular culture surrounding Zoila and her family in a territory that is full of life. 
Photo: Leslie Searles / ©2023 Leslie Searles. All Rights Reserved.


What inspired you to create this sound piece?

It was my personal desire to leave my path within the music industry to work more closely with nature, territories, communities and all the issues that exist around them, as I have always been sensitive to them. Since then my sound pieces have a political background and, I feel, a depth that belongs to the people, their universes and their strong connections with their territories.
In the case of this piece, I accompanied Zoila in her daily routine for five days. For me there are certain aspects that mark the piece: her notorious and inspiring strength leading the Murui Buue school and maintaining spaces suitable for conserving the flora and fauna of her territory threatened by the "modernity" of the city (Iquitos), extraction and deforestation, and the constant concern about the impossibility of protecting her territory legally. Also, in their daily life, their closeness to the plants and their sound memory that they recover in the present, always with traces of the bloody and abusive past of rubber, which also affected their ancestors, still present in their daily struggle and life. This piece then is a kind of suite, whose parts represent the different realities of Zoila in Centro Arenal.
Also, this meeting with Zoila was part of a larger project I participated in as a sound recordist for Pai Films, which we did for Conservation International, documenting indigenous women leaders who received grants from the organization to carry out their conservation projects throughout the Peruvian Amazon.
Photo: Irazema Vera / ©2023 Irazema Vera. All Rights Reserved.

How would you describe your experience with the Murui Buue in their community?

We stayed in a small hotel right at the entrance of Centro Arenal, to spend every day with Zoila, her family and her environment. From the beginning Zoila's presence was powerful. It was possible to perceive her wisdom and the strength she has built to face the difficulties day by day, and at the same time it was very easy to get attached to her and feel cared for by her and her family. 
To have shared with Zoila and her family, to have seen the work they do in the school and the challenge they face in the face of the threat of losing their territory to extractivism and vulnerability to legality was at the same time inspiring and overwhelming. Within a vulnerable and violated place, we were also able to enjoy the beauty and life that they fight so hard to preserve. 
On a personal level, it was shocking to see the environmental impact and other realities so close to the city (Iquitos). Centro Arenal is located near a hydroelectric plant that, according to Zoila, feeds Iquitos. This has been possible precisely because the territory is not protected and continues to be threatened and the Murui Buue community continues to be threatened.

What message do you hope to convey with this composition?

Memory and perhaps a bit of questioning. The image of Zoila outside of Centro Arenal is that of the great environmental defender that she is and leader of her community. In this piece, however, I wanted to get closer to the more everyday Zoila; the one who enjoys her family and the forest and, in that day to day, how she transmits the memory of her Murui Buue culture to her children and grandchildren.
Sometimes people imagine the Amazon as a pristine place without threats, or that threats are far away, only in certain places. So it will probably be surprising to hear about extractivism so close and the reality of those who live and survive it and at the same time understand the coexistence and adaptation/acceptance of different cultural and material elements of this other world that threatens them.

This project was made possible by Zoila Ochoa and her beautiful family. The filming was done during a production with Pai Films for Conservation International. Thanks also to Leslie Searles for pushing us to make it happen.

Photo: Irazema Vera / ©2023 Irazema Vera. All Rights Reserved.

Crafting the Field by Xapiri Ground is a creative series of musical compositions that express upon the natural and social environments surrounding Indigenous culture and their contemporaries. 
Through collaborations with Indigenous artists, sound designers, and music producers we hope to encourage a diffusion between cultures through creative research and mutual respect.

Listen to the full composition on our bandcamp page.

*All field recordings were taken by Irazema Vera in the Murui Buue Community, Centro Arenal, Iquitos on behalf of Pai Films and Conservation International.

Crafting the Field series 10 will be playing in our soundroom at Xapiri Ground from March 8, 2024 - July 31, 2024.

BIOGRAPHY | Irazema Vera (Puno, Peru)

Irazema Vera (Puno, 1983) is a sound engineer, music producer, sound artist, researcher and activist. Her work revolves around memory, music and territory. As a researcher and sound director, she has participated in audiovisual initiatives (documentary and podcast) focused on conservation and memory, the relationship of communities with their territory and the destigmatization of communities in conflict zones. During her work documenting the Aimara protest in Lima, she became an important bridge to ensure respect for human rights. Her sound work has elements of traditions from the Puno highlands where she has her cultural heritage and has been featured on SONODOC, Radio Alhara in Palestine, RRFM in Holland and Común Radio in Peru.

BIOGRAPHY | Zoila Ochoa (Iquitos, Peru)

Photo: Leslies Searles / ©2023 Leslie Searles. All Rights Reserved.

Zoila Ochoa has been a Leader of the Indigenous Community Murui Buue "Centro Arenal" in Iquitos, Peru (her birthplace) since the age of 19, where she held various positions such as secretary and municipal agent of the CN Centro Arenal. At 25 she was elected as the first woman Communal Chief of CA and later was elected Lieutenant Governor, Coordinator of Vaso de Leche. At the age of 45 she was elected Indigenous Woman Leader of the Federation of Native Communities of the Nanay River and Affluents (FECONARINA). At the age of 52 she was Second Vocal of the National Organization Interethnic Association for the Development of the Peruvian Jungle (AIDESEP).
Currently she is recognized as a Meritorious Person of Culture, Environmental and Cultural Defender, Entrepreneur of the Murui Buue Autonomous School; Coordinator of the Murui Buue Cultural Dance Association "DƗRUE NANA NAƗRAƗ KOMEKƗ" (Heart of all bloods), a fellow of Conservation International.