Lena Mucha

Days in the Amazon

“One morning my father woke me up and told me, We will prepare you for the pelazón. First I was afraid, and I didn’t want to do it. They took me to my grandmother and started preparing everything.”  

The Tikuna, an indigenous group of about 9,500 people, live in the Colombian Amazon, near the Peruvian and Brazilian borders. Life in this part of the world is geographically isolated. Although one can only reach this area by boat, globalization has found a way to leave its mark on the traditions and ways of life.   One of the visible examples of acculturation is the transformation to the practice of one of the more important rituals of the Tikuna. The Yüüechíga (pelazón) is a female initiation ceremony, where young women are isolated from men and their community during their first menstruation. They remain isolated for up to one year and sometimes longer. Despite isolation, this ritual is not about loneliness. It is a time when girls are prepared for their role as a woman.   In the time between childhood and adulthood, tradition and globalization oscillates in the world of these young women. Their stories and their dreams are affected by the impact of modern ways of life.   Surrounded by the Amazon jungle, these women live between realism and surrealism. What is real and what is unreal in this world is left to our imagination.




Lena Mucha (b. 1983, Germany), is a freelance photographer based in Berlin. In 2011 she graduated with a Master of Arts in Social Anthropology and Political Sciences from the University of Cologne, Germany. Lena had lived several years in Latinamerica and Spain, working on research projects about gender violence and civil resistance and covering assignments for NGOs (Doctors without Borders, Peace Brigades International). Besides working in the field she also gives participatory photography workshops. Lena has been awarded with different international prices as the Photo Annual Awards 2015, selected as finalist at the Athens Photo Festival 2015 and the Moscow International Photography Award. Recently she was also nominated for the Unicef Photo of the Year Award and won the Reporters in the Field Scholarship for her upcoming research project in Azerbaijan in 2016. Lenas work has been exhibited and published internationally (El Pais, Nido Stern, 6mois, Lensculture, VICE Colombiam, Private Portfolio Review and emerge – german magazine for young photojournalism amongst others).

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Lena Mucha

3 thoughts on “Lena Mucha – Days in the Amazon”

  1. The picture of a the tree is a stunner but I find the people oddly posed especially the ones with their eyes closed.

  2. My initial reaction was exactly like Harry’s. In the time since, I have found myself wondering how one would visually illustrate a subject that so defies illustration. I just now revisited, re-read the artist statement, then looked at the images again. This time, the juxtaposition of the posed images and the stilled environment brought home the story to me and strongly so. I did wonder how a young woman isolated in her first year of menstruation wound up holding a baby but since it is only men she is isolated from, figured the baby must be the child of another woman.

    I find much beauty in all of these images.

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