The Establishment of the Tairona Heritage Trust

Respect between Alan Ereira and the Kogi was engendered during the course of filming, and Gonavindua Tairona agreed to the foundation of what was to become the Tairona Heritage Trust. The Trust can be seen as an extension of the Mamas’ need for representation and as a product of Alan Ereira’s, and the general public’s, fascination with the Kogi. Subsequent to filming, Alan Ereira had also written a book The Heart of the World. (J. Cape. 1990).

Since 1990, then, the Tairona Heritage Trust has been working in cooperation with the Mamas and their organisation, Gonavindua Tairona. The Trust’s ambit is:-

‘The Kogi message is their attempt to help us to survive; the Trust is to help them to survive.’

First days under Alan Ereira

Alan’s peripatetic lifestyle made it easy for him to publicise the film in well-to-do circles in both America and Britain, this publicity bringing in the first substantial donations which were used by Gonavindua Tairona for land purchases. At another level, he willingly gave talks to any group which prevailed upon him to do so - Friends of the Earth, conservation groups, Quakers etc. Demand for this was high, for the film had been well-received by the public, although more reservedly by the anthropological establishment (see The Film).

Legal establishment

Maintenance of the Trust, however,demanded help. Graham Falvey, then an estate manager in Scotland, offered his services and was accepted as administrator after a meeting with Alan Ereira, Graham Townsley, and Felicity Nock, Alan’s assistant on the film and an Edinburgh trained anthropologist. The Trust was legally established with the help of a friendly lawyer, Elizabeth Millar, thus allowing it to officially receive donations from the public and benefit from tax rebates. Newsletters kept supporters informed of developments in Colombia. Interest in the Kogi flourished and it was considered that the Trust merited patrons. The late Sir James Goldsmith, Jonathon Porritt, Akong Rinpoche (abbot of Samyéling Tibetan monastery, Eskdalemuir) and Leila Luce (an early American supporter) readily agreed.

Support for the Trust

The existence of the Trust allowed an already existing support for the Kogi, generated by the documentary and the book, to be channelled. Donations and letters of inquiry would arrive daily, and a pattern amongst its supporters developed. Two groups became apparent:- first, those for whom the Kogi articulated a message of informed concern for the environment which appeals at these times of increased environmental awareness; second, those working with alternative healing methods attracted by the holistic attitude the Kogi represented. The Trust also benefited from the generous support of grant-giving organisations such as the Chiron Trust in Britain, and Cultural Conservancy in America.

Interest in the Kogi became international. The book, ‘The Heart of the World’, had been published in France, Germany, Italy, America and Japan. The film had been shown at the Rio Conference of 1992, and on various TV networks, including the USA. Copies of it had also been passed around indigenous communities, in particular the Hopi and the Sami. In Europe, Italian, German, Czech, Slovak, and Serbo-Croat dubs were made of the film. Requests for its use in film festivals have come from South Africa, Australia, Cambodia and Thailand.

The Trust was represented in America by Nina Reznick, a New York lawyer. Nina published newsletters in the States and also generated substantial grants for Gonavindua Tairona from American bodies.

The Trust’s ambit

The Trust limits its activities to its relationship with Gonavindua Tairona . Its remit is to publicise the inhabitants of the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta, disseminate news about them, and raise money for their benefit. This money is used principally to buy land, with a percentage (10%) used for health and administrative purposes. The Trust is not a professional fund-raiser in the usual sense - that is, it does not invest money in campaigns to raise money - nor does it advertise. It has no representative in the field but merely acts as a conduit whereby support for the Kogi can be channelled. There are no full-time workers so costs are low, and its relative effectiveness high.

Contact with Gonavindua Tairona has been maintained by numerous visits over the years, principally by Alan whose filming responsibilities often take him to the area. In 1992, Alan, Felicity Nock and Graham Falvey visited together to meet Gonavindua Tairona representatives. The visit resulted in a short second documentary, Return to the Kogi. In 1994, Mr. Falvey visited with Andrés Salgado as interpreter and the spending of £25,000 was arranged. Trust representatives have responsibilities both to its supporters and to Gonavindua Tairona, and Trust funds are not passed over without preliminary discussion.

Since the Trust’s establishment, around £60,000 has been passed over to Gonavindua Tairona. A resumé of the Trust’s activities can be found in the Gonavindua Tairona letter.


In 1996, the Trust was administered by the University of Wales (Lampeter) which established the Tairona Heritage Studies Centre, but as from October 2004, changes at the University have brought this arrangement to an end.