AADO MEDIA⏐Our photography from "Amazon Icons" AADO MEDIA - Gallery
colombian indigenous cacique fisi andoke recording songs and smoking piel roja

"Amazon Icons" is AADO MEDIA’s first feature documentary film.
It is an immersion in the depths of the Colombian Amazon in the life of stranger-than-fiction Cacique Fisi Andoke, who after 80 years of dissolute existence suddenly decides to take his fate into his own hands. The film follows him as he embarks on a race against time, and defies the ghosts of his past to reunite a straying community and save their disappearing culture.

Photo by Emile DOMINE for AADO MEDIA
Sony A1 + GM 50mm f/1.2
f/1.4 - 1/250 s - ISO 4000
© AADO MEDIA 2021

"Amazon Icons" is AADO MEDIA’s first feature documentary film.
It is an immersion in the depths of the Colombian Amazon in the life of stranger-than-fiction Cacique Fisi Andoke, who after 80 years of dissolute existence suddenly decides to take his fate into his own hands. The film follows him as he embarks on a race against time, and defies the ghosts of his past to reunite a straying community and save their disappearing culture.

Photo by Emile DOMINE for AADO MEDIA
Sony A1 + GM 50mm f/1.2
f/1.4 - 1/250 s - ISO 4000
© AADO MEDIA 2021

Indigenous maloka in the colombian amazon

All his life, Cacique Fisi has been living carelessly, enjoying the privileges of his position since his father died. Now an old man himself, he realizes that he is leaving behind a divided and derelict community. The crumbling state of his maloka, or traditional hut, is symbolic of his tribe’s ruin.

Photo by Emile DOMINE for AADO MEDIA
Sony A1 + GM 16-35mm f/2.8
16 mm - f/5 - 1/50 s - ISO 250
© AADO MEDIA 2021

All his life, Cacique Fisi has been living carelessly, enjoying the privileges of his position since his father died. Now an old man himself, he realizes that he is leaving behind a divided and derelict community. The crumbling state of his maloka, or traditional hut, is symbolic of his tribe’s ruin.

Photo by Emile DOMINE for AADO MEDIA
Sony A1 + GM 16-35mm f/2.8
16 mm - f/5 - 1/50 s - ISO 250
© AADO MEDIA 2021

cacique fisi andoke in the colombian amazon

But after dreaming of his father, Fisi has a revelation and decides to save his heritage. The first step is to repair the maloka, starting with the roof. The Cacique has to go deep in the jungle to find the right palms that can be weaved into long tiles. These palms grow in tall thickets near streams. They have small thorns whose stings make hands swell and give fever to someone unaccustomed.

Photo by Emile DOMINE for AADO MEDIA
Sony A1 + GM 16-35mm f/2.8
16 mm - f/2.8 - 1/320 s - ISO 4000
© AADO MEDIA 2021

But after dreaming of his father, Fisi has a revelation and decides to save his heritage. The first step is to repair the maloka, starting with the roof. The Cacique has to go deep in the jungle to find the right palms that can be weaved into long tiles. These palms grow in tall thickets near streams. They have small thorns whose stings make hands swell and give fever to someone unaccustomed.

Photo by Emile DOMINE for AADO MEDIA
Sony A1 + GM 16-35mm f/2.8
16 mm - f/2.8 - 1/320 s - ISO 4000
© AADO MEDIA 2021

cacique fisi andoke with his machete in the colombian amazon

Finding the palms in the maze of the jungle is just the first challenge. The harvest is the second: chopping off just a few leaves per plant so that it survives and grows back for future necessity, and then equalizing the leafs’ stems length with an expert machete hit.

Photo by Emile DOMINE for AADO MEDIA
Sony A1 + GM 16-35mm f/2.8
16 mm - f/2.8 - 1/250 s - ISO 4000
© AADO MEDIA 2021

Finding the palms in the maze of the jungle is just the first challenge. The harvest is the second: chopping off just a few leaves per plant so that it survives and grows back for future necessity, and then equalizing the leafs’ stems length with an expert machete hit.

Photo by Emile DOMINE for AADO MEDIA
Sony A1 + GM 16-35mm f/2.8
16 mm - f/2.8 - 1/250 s - ISO 4000
© AADO MEDIA 2021

colombian indigenous cacique fisi andoke sorting palm leaves in the forest

Cacique Fisi makes sure all the palm leaves’ stems have the same length, and stacks them up in piles to gauge the harvest.

Photo by Emile DOMINE for AADO MEDIA
Sony A1 + GM 16-35mm f/2.8
16 mm - f/2.8 - 1/250 s - ISO 4000
© AADO MEDIA 2021

Cacique Fisi makes sure all the palm leaves’ stems have the same length, and stacks them up in piles to gauge the harvest.

Photo by Emile DOMINE for AADO MEDIA
Sony A1 + GM 16-35mm f/2.8
16 mm - f/2.8 - 1/250 s - ISO 4000
© AADO MEDIA 2021

indigenous man harvesting palms in the colombian amazon

Once palm leaves have been gathered in sufficient quantity, it’s time to pack up. All the workers weave their own carrying basket out of another palm’s leafs, and for the whole harvest to fit in it any technique is welcome.

Photo by Emile DOMINE for AADO MEDIA
Sony A1 + GM 16-35mm f/2.8
16 mm - f/4 - 1/200 s - ISO 2000
© AADO MEDIA 2021

Once palm leaves have been gathered in sufficient quantity, it’s time to pack up. All the workers weave their own carrying basket out of another palm’s leafs, and for the whole harvest to fit in it any technique is welcome.

Photo by Emile DOMINE for AADO MEDIA
Sony A1 + GM 16-35mm f/2.8
16 mm - f/4 - 1/200 s - ISO 2000
© AADO MEDIA 2021

colombian indigenous cacique fisi andoke resting in his hammock

A day in the jungle cutting down thorny palms for the maloka’s roof is exhausting. A hammock and a moment of respite are very much welcome upon arrival.

Photo by Emile DOMINE for AADO MEDIA
Sony A1 + GM 24mm f/1.4
f/1.4 - 1/160 s - ISO 4000
© AADO MEDIA 2021

A day in the jungle cutting down thorny palms for the maloka’s roof is exhausting. A hammock and a moment of respite are very much welcome upon arrival.

Photo by Emile DOMINE for AADO MEDIA
Sony A1 + GM 24mm f/1.4
f/1.4 - 1/160 s - ISO 4000
© AADO MEDIA 2021

the preparation of mambe in the colombian amazon

There’s still a lot of work ahead to make the tiles. Before they resume, the Cacique’s sons prepare mambé, that is to say ground coca leaves mixed with specific ashes, for their father to chew.

Photo by Emile DOMINE for AADO MEDIA
Sony A1 + GM 50mm f/1.2
f/1.4 - 1/60 s - ISO 4000
© AADO MEDIA 2021

There’s still a lot of work ahead to make the tiles. Before they resume, the Cacique’s sons prepare mambé, that is to say ground coca leaves mixed with specific ashes, for their father to chew.

Photo by Emile DOMINE for AADO MEDIA
Sony A1 + GM 50mm f/1.2
f/1.4 - 1/60 s - ISO 4000
© AADO MEDIA 2021

indigenous cacique chewing mambe in the colombia amazon

Fisi chewing mambé in his chair. Once consumed with more moderation as a sacred ritual, mambé is now chewed throughout the day in this region of the Amazon, and it has even become a commodity since it was introduced by anthropologists and botanists in intellectual and political circles in Bogota.

Photo by Emile DOMINE for AADO MEDIA
Sony A1 + GM 50mm f/1.2
f/1.8 - 1/80 s - ISO 4000
© AADO MEDIA 2021

Fisi chewing mambé in his chair. Once consumed with more moderation as a sacred ritual, mambé is now chewed throughout the day in this region of the Amazon, and it has even become a commodity since it was introduced by anthropologists and botanists in intellectual and political circles in Bogota.

Photo by Emile DOMINE for AADO MEDIA
Sony A1 + GM 50mm f/1.2
f/1.8 - 1/80 s - ISO 4000
© AADO MEDIA 2021

cacique fisi andoke weaving tiles for the roof of his maloka

Weaving tiles is an extremely tedious operation. One by one, following a regular pattern, the cacique assembles the palms leaves. It takes one hour at less for an expert weaver to finish one piece, while a gatherer harvests the equivalent of 6-7 tiles per day in the forest. There are roughly 900 tiles on the Cacique’s maloka’s roof. With no help from other community members, it could be an impossible challenge.

Photo by Emile DOMINE for AADO MEDIA
Sony A1 + GM 24mm f/1.4
f/1.4 - 1/125 s - ISO 2000
© AADO MEDIA 2021

Weaving tiles is an extremely tedious operation. One by one, following a regular pattern, the cacique assembles the palms leaves. It takes one hour at less for an expert weaver to finish one piece, while a gatherer harvests the equivalent of 6-7 tiles per day in the forest. There are roughly 900 tiles on the Cacique’s maloka’s roof. With no help from other community members, it could be an impossible challenge.

Photo by Emile DOMINE for AADO MEDIA
Sony A1 + GM 24mm f/1.4
f/1.4 - 1/125 s - ISO 2000
© AADO MEDIA 2021

colombian indigenous wife preparing manioc bread casabe

Fisi’s wife, Isabel, is in charge of cooking for the family. Here, she is preparing the local staple food, casabé, or manioc bread. Once the bitter manioc is harvested, it has to be fermented during several days before it is apt for human consumption. Eaten straight away, it is fatal poison.

Photo by Emile DOMINE for AADO MEDIA
Sony A1 + GM 50mm f/1.2
f/1.6 - 1/125 s - ISO 4000
© AADO MEDIA 2021

Fisi’s wife, Isabel, is in charge of cooking for the family. Here, she is preparing the local staple food, casabé, or manioc bread. Once the bitter manioc is harvested, it has to be fermented during several days before it is apt for human consumption. Eaten straight away, it is fatal poison.

Photo by Emile DOMINE for AADO MEDIA
Sony A1 + GM 50mm f/1.2
f/1.6 - 1/125 s - ISO 4000
© AADO MEDIA 2021

chagra burning in the caqueta colombian amazon

The Andoke, like the others indigenous tribes of the area, cultivate subsistence crops like manioc or pineapple in traditional chagras. These gardens are planted for a few years on cleared and then burned plots of the forest. Once the soils are depleted after a few harvests, they rotate the chagras to a new, virgin plot, and the jungle grows back on the abandoned one.

Photo by Emile DOMINE for AADO MEDIA
Sony A1 + GM 16-35mm f/2.8
22 mm - f/2.8 - 1/400 s - ISO 4000
© AADO MEDIA 2022

The Andoke, like the others indigenous tribes of the area, cultivate subsistence crops like manioc or pineapple in traditional chagras. These gardens are planted for a few years on cleared and then burned plots of the forest. Once the soils are depleted after a few harvests, they rotate the chagras to a new, virgin plot, and the jungle grows back on the abandoned one.

Photo by Emile DOMINE for AADO MEDIA
Sony A1 + GM 16-35mm f/2.8
22 mm - f/2.8 - 1/400 s - ISO 4000
© AADO MEDIA 2022

commercial fishing in the colombian amazon

Since the arrival of Whites in the area during the rubber scramble of the early 20th century, indigenous communities have started leaving aside their traditional lifestyle to work for, or be exploited by settlers. After rubber, skins, coca, and illegal mining, commercial fishing is now the main mercantile occupation in the area.

Photo by Emile DOMINE for AADO MEDIA
Sony A1 + GM 70-200mm f/2.8 II
200 mm - f/5.6 - 1/1250 s - ISO 800
© AADO MEDIA 2022

Since the arrival of Whites in the area during the rubber scramble of the early 20th century, indigenous communities have started leaving aside their traditional lifestyle to work for, or be exploited by settlers. After rubber, skins, coca, and illegal mining, commercial fishing is now the main mercantile occupation in the area.

Photo by Emile DOMINE for AADO MEDIA
Sony A1 + GM 70-200mm f/2.8 II
200 mm - f/5.6 - 1/1250 s - ISO 800
© AADO MEDIA 2022

fisherman with harpoon in araracuara caqueta colombia

When the night comes, the harpooners come up to the rapid. Perched on wooden platforms that hang over the boils of the rapid, they wait for hours, a flashlight in one hand and their harpoon in the other, for giant catfish to show up.

Photo by Emile DOMINE for AADO MEDIA
Sony A1 + GM 50mm f/1.2
f/1.2 - 1/2 s - ISO 4000
© AADO MEDIA 2022

When the night comes, the harpooners come up to the rapid. Perched on wooden platforms that hang over the boils of the rapid, they wait for hours, a flashlight in one hand and their harpoon in the other, for giant catfish to show up.

Photo by Emile DOMINE for AADO MEDIA
Sony A1 + GM 50mm f/1.2
f/1.2 - 1/2 s - ISO 4000
© AADO MEDIA 2022

indigenous fishermen in the colombian amazon

Camaraderie is key amongst the night-time harpooners. Accidents are often deadly. Tonight, a storm lurks in the horizon, illuminating the sky with scarce flashes, but as of here and now the night remains calm, and fishes are keep a low profile.

Photo by Emile DOMINE for AADO MEDIA
Sony A1 + GM 24mm f/1.4
f/1.4 - 0.6 s - ISO 4000
© AADO MEDIA 2022

Camaraderie is key amongst the night-time harpooners. Accidents are often deadly. Tonight, a storm lurks in the horizon, illuminating the sky with scarce flashes, but as of here and now the night remains calm, and fishes are keep a low profile.

Photo by Emile DOMINE for AADO MEDIA
Sony A1 + GM 24mm f/1.4
f/1.4 - 0.6 s - ISO 4000
© AADO MEDIA 2022

fishermen waiting for fish in the night in the colombian amazon

Every piece of gear or installation of this iconic fishing style is handmade. A string is tied to the tip of the harpoon, and at the end is a tank with a LED light and a battery. When a fish is stabbed, the fisherman lets go of the harpoon and the tank. Tension on the string lights the LED. Down river, where the current is navigable, a boat spots the tank thanks to the light, and fetches the fish.

Photo by Emile DOMINE for AADO MEDIA
Sony A1 + GM 24mm f/1.4
f/1.4 - 1 s - ISO 4000
© AADO MEDIA 2022

Every piece of gear or installation of this iconic fishing style is handmade. A string is tied to the tip of the harpoon, and at the end is a tank with a LED light and a battery. When a fish is stabbed, the fisherman lets go of the harpoon and the tank. Tension on the string lights the LED. Down river, where the current is navigable, a boat spots the tank thanks to the light, and fetches the fish.

Photo by Emile DOMINE for AADO MEDIA
Sony A1 + GM 24mm f/1.4
f/1.4 - 1 s - ISO 4000
© AADO MEDIA 2022

night fishing and stars in the colombian amazon

It’s quite a workplace for the fishermen. But most nights, though sleepless, are not fruitful. Fortunately, the fish are so big and weighty that catching one fish a week is sufficient to provide for the family… if one does not drink!

Photo by Emile DOMINE for AADO MEDIA
Sony A1 + GM 24mm f/1.4
f/1.4 - 4 s - ISO 4000
© AADO MEDIA 2022

It’s quite a workplace for the fishermen. But most nights, though sleepless, are not fruitful. Fortunately, the fish are so big and weighty that catching one fish a week is sufficient to provide for the family… if one does not drink!

Photo by Emile DOMINE for AADO MEDIA
Sony A1 + GM 24mm f/1.4
f/1.4 - 4 s - ISO 4000
© AADO MEDIA 2022

sunrise over a fisherman’s boat in araracuara in the colombian amazon

When dawn comes and the sun rises, the fishermen boat down from the rapid to the village, where they will sell their night’s catch to one of the buyers in the village. The buyers freeze the fish in giant coolers, before sending them to urban markets on the weekly cargo plane.

Photo by Emile DOMINE for AADO MEDIA
Sony A1 + GM 16-35mm f/2.8
16 mm - f/5 - 1/250 s - ISO 640
© AADO MEDIA 2022

When dawn comes and the sun rises, the fishermen boat down from the rapid to the village, where they will sell their night’s catch to one of the buyers in the village. The buyers freeze the fish in giant coolers, before sending them to urban markets on the weekly cargo plane.

Photo by Emile DOMINE for AADO MEDIA
Sony A1 + GM 16-35mm f/2.8
16 mm - f/5 - 1/250 s - ISO 640
© AADO MEDIA 2022

cacique fisi andoke with hernando andoke cutting his hair

Cacique Fisi ANDOKE, in the middle of a hair cutting session with his son Hernando ANDOKE outside of the maloka.

Photo by Emile DOMINE for AADO MEDIA
Sony A1 + GM 16-35mm f/2.8
35 mm - f/2.8 - 1/160 s - ISO 640
© AADO MEDIA 2022

Cacique Fisi ANDOKE, in the middle of a hair cutting session with his son Hernando ANDOKE outside of the maloka.

Photo by Emile DOMINE for AADO MEDIA
Sony A1 + GM 16-35mm f/2.8
35 mm - f/2.8 - 1/160 s - ISO 640
© AADO MEDIA 2022

colombian indigenous child in the caqueta amazonas

Andoke children are numerous, but the tribe’s traditions, language and ancestral knowledge is not passed onto them. Only two dozens of fluent speakers of this unique tongue with no traceable origin remain.

Photo by Emile DOMINE for AADO MEDIA
Sony A1 + GM 50mm f/1.2
f/2 - 1/1000 s - ISO 4000
© AADO MEDIA 2021

Andoke children are numerous, but the tribe’s traditions, language and ancestral knowledge is not passed onto them. Only two dozens of fluent speakers of this unique tongue with no traceable origin remain.

Photo by Emile DOMINE for AADO MEDIA
Sony A1 + GM 50mm f/1.2
f/2 - 1/1000 s - ISO 4000
© AADO MEDIA 2021

andoke elder preparing mambe in the colombian amazon

Making mambé is a daily routine for the Andoke community, and it’s one of the only ancient habits to have been preserved. Here Guarapo, a friend of Fisi’s tying the knot to sieve the coca leaves and ashes powder. Guarapo lives further down the river, aside from the community, but he is one of the only Andoke that shows interest in the knowledge Fisi has to transmit.

Photo by Emile DOMINE for AADO MEDIA
Sony A1 + GM 50mm f/1.2
f/1.2 - 1/100 s - ISO 4000
© AADO MEDIA 2021

Making mambé is a daily routine for the Andoke community, and it’s one of the only ancient habits to have been preserved. Here Guarapo, a friend of Fisi’s tying the knot to sieve the coca leaves and ashes powder. Guarapo lives further down the river, aside from the community, but he is one of the only Andoke that shows interest in the knowledge Fisi has to transmit.

Photo by Emile DOMINE for AADO MEDIA
Sony A1 + GM 50mm f/1.2
f/1.2 - 1/100 s - ISO 4000
© AADO MEDIA 2021

traditional indigenous baile in the colombian amazon

Usually, indigenous communities gather frequently for traditional dances and ceremonies which last for several days. But the appeal of mercantile occupations, like fishing or illegal gold mining, as well as rampant alcohol consumption, have torn the Andoke community apart.

Photo by Jules DOMINE for AADO MEDIA
Panasonic S5 + Sigma Art 24mm f/1.4
f/1.4 - 1/15 s - ISO 4000
© AADO MEDIA 2021

Usually, indigenous communities gather frequently for traditional dances and ceremonies which last for several days. But the appeal of mercantile occupations, like fishing or illegal gold mining, as well as rampant alcohol consumption, have torn the Andoke community apart.

Photo by Jules DOMINE for AADO MEDIA
Panasonic S5 + Sigma Art 24mm f/1.4
f/1.4 - 1/15 s - ISO 4000
© AADO MEDIA 2021

colombian indigenous cacique fisi andoke recording songs in the amazon

Days pass in the damp heat of the Amazon. The roof is still leaking and, in spite of Fisi’s call, no one in the community has yet come to help. Fisi can’t lose more time, so he records ancestral songs for an uncertain posterity. What could possibly bring the Andoke community’s interest back to life? Has the Andoke soul died before the physical body of their Cacique?

Photo by Emile DOMINE for AADO MEDIA
Sony A1 + GM 50mm f/1.2
f/1.4 - 1/250 s - ISO 4000
© AADO MEDIA 2021

Days pass in the damp heat of the Amazon. The roof is still leaking and, in spite of Fisi’s call, no one in the community has yet come to help. Fisi can’t lose more time, so he records ancestral songs for an uncertain posterity. What could possibly bring the Andoke community’s interest back to life? Has the Andoke soul died before the physical body of their Cacique?

Photo by Emile DOMINE for AADO MEDIA
Sony A1 + GM 50mm f/1.2
f/1.4 - 1/250 s - ISO 4000
© AADO MEDIA 2021

jules domine on a boat in the colombian amazon with indigenous communities

As producer Jules DOMINE’s face testifies, shooting in the Amazon is both extremely exciting and harassing. Boat rides are a moment of respite, where the bugs can’t reach you, and where a breeze cools you down from the damp heat. Stay tuned.

Photo by Emile DOMINE for AADO MEDIA
Sony A1 + GM 16-35mm f/2.8
16 mm - f/4 - 1/160s - ISO 640
© AADO MEDIA 2021

As producer Jules DOMINE’s face testifies, shooting in the Amazon is both extremely exciting and harassing. Boat rides are a moment of respite, where the bugs can’t reach you, and where a breeze cools you down from the damp heat. Stay tuned.

Photo by Emile DOMINE for AADO MEDIA
Sony A1 + GM 16-35mm f/2.8
16 mm - f/4 - 1/160s - ISO 640
© AADO MEDIA 2021