The Nuhue - the ‘world house’, ‘men’s house’ or temple.

In every village there is a larger hut known as the ‘nuhue. Its architecture is different to other huts being larger and having two entrances, each opposite to the other. Only men can enter the nuhue - it is here that the business of the village is discussed and confession takes place. The architecture of the nuhue is highly symbolic and represents, in fact, the nine worlds which make up the cosmos.

Nuhue Floorplan

‘The first temple was created in the depths of the primeval sea, and was a model of the cosmos. It was shaped like a beehive, with its grass-covered roof reaching down to the ground. In the interior, under the funnel-shaped roof, there were four shelf-like projections, four tiers placed one above the other, representing the four upperworlds. The four netherworlds were imagined to lie, inverted, below the temple floor where a sequence of four invisible temples complemented the egg shape of the cosmos. To this day all temples are built in this manner, and it is believed that downward and upward a sequence of invisible, inverted and upright temples forms a chain similar to a world axis or a world ladder.’ (R-D 1990: 10).

From Mary Ramos

Mary Ramos, a supporter of the Tairona Heritage Trust, made the Kogi the subject of a dissertation for her South American Studies course at Glasgow. The following quote is from that dissertation.

‘The Kogi temple ... is hába’s womb; the top of the temple is her vagina, and the mamas place pots and vessels there like seeds which are supposed to fertilise her. Inside the temple, the men lie in their hammocks which is their placenta. They spin threads which hang from the top of the temple, and these threads represent the umbilical cords which help to nourish them with the Mother’s wisdom. They begin to talk together, duldashi, which is like a confession instigated by the mama and which gives him the opportunity to give advice; then they talk about the myths, they repeat their genealogy and sing ceremonial songs.

  The temples are around seven or eight metres high and some eight metres in diameter. The roof reaches the ground and is supported by sixty props and four cross beams all of which are tied together with liana and rings of cane. They all have two doors which are exactly opposite each other, four fires and four shelves which are parallel to the walls. Each of these elements represent important phenomena in the lives of the Kogi. An imaginary line joins the two doors and this separates good from bad, right from left, male and female, and light and darkness. Kogis must try to balance all of these forces which are opposites but which also complement each other.

  At the highest point of the temple there is a small circular hole which allows the sun to shine through onto the floor making a circle of light. At nine o’clock in the morning on the 21st June, summer solstice, the circle is over the fire in the south west of the temple, and during the day it moves at 1.4 metres per hour and arrives at the fire in the south east at 3 o’clock in the afternoon. On March 21st and September 21st, the vernal and autumnal equinox, the circle of fire moves between the western door and the eastern door, and on December 21st, the winter solstice, the light moves from the north eastern fire to the north western fire. The sun has therefore drawn a rectangle on the floor between the four fires over the year, and the ground within this rectangle is considered sacred ground. By knowing the amount of days before each solstice and each equinox, the Kogi can use their temples as an instrument which brings harmony between the agricultural calendar and the ritual calendar, and reaffirm their capacity to integrate the sacred and the profane, the material and the spiritual.’

Side and floor plans of the nuhue