Sowing seeds of awareness with Leah L. Dittmer

-5 Questions About The Project-

How did you find you come up with the concept for ARTE AMAZONIA?


Born in Toronto and raise in New York, I grew up with an inherit interest in Native Americans. The names of the town and villages around me, such as Matinecock and Montauk are all taken from our indigenous forefathers. One of my earliest memories, was my mother and I looking at pictures in National Geographic, and as we looked onto the on the highly glossed pages, she told me that that even if peoples faces are different, inside we are the same.  At that same time, there was a commercial on PBS, which showed an Indian man walking over a pile of garbage with a tear in his eye. It seemed obvious to me then, that as humans, we had made mistakes, but our job was to learn from them and to do better. 

As a teenager, I was impressed by a colleague at a natural food store, who had lived on a reservation to learn about natural medicine. There appeared to me, to be many knowledgable people out there, working to improve the world we live in. Later, I was to realize that people like her, are few and inbetween. In school, history class turned out much like religion class... don't ask too many questions. As I continued in my studies, the Indian issue became replaced with the black & women's issues, and the Russian threat. These were real concerns for anyone growing up in the 80's, but, had something been forgotten along the way? By the time I attened college, the entire world of Indians was some kind of 'other reality', a dream from the past, a story found in history books, and a reminder of some terrible regret.

My travels took me to South America, where something in me was re-awakened. On an excursion following the Orinoco, Sipapo and Autana River with eight hours over hung with rain, the skies finally cleared on our arrival at our destination revealling the magnificent Autana Tepui enshrined with a double rainbow. This table-top mountain is believed by the local Piaroa people to be the base of the tree of life, the axis mundi, which connects the earth with the sky - the portal to heaven.


Heiko & I married there in 2000 with all of the magic of life which pervades this region and our senses were filled with its' raw life force. A treasured experience was when the Piaroa children paddled over the river to visit us, reminding me of what my mother had told me when I was about their age, that we are all connected and that there are many ways to live and to be happy.


What are some of your job functions and responsibilities?


In theory, I perceive my work as sowing seeds of awareness for the future of Amazonia. In application, I am responsible for concept design, project development, most content, marketing and web management. Heiko & I, together, have enjoyed the responsibilities of developing exhibitions and networking with various organizations internationally, scouting and managing our freelance photographers/artist that we present online. We both bring special perspectives to the project. My husband is an amazing story teller and has 20 years of living experience of in South America. My background in art history and studies in International Relations and with over 10 years of working in the design world in NY has given me the insight to focus on details that make things unique and special. The whole concept behind ARTE AMAZONIA is to focus on the art related to this genre and bring it together and present it in a way never done before. In addition, we present sustainable rainforest products in our workshops, which are intended to share in the beauty of natural world and in turn help inspire preservation of these tropical environments. At the heart of what we do, is the philosophy of living in a world that gives backs and helps to maintains it's richness for the generations to come. We make an awesome team and we thrive off of our collaboration and talking about new and creative ideas especially related to the rainforest and indigenous cultures. A Friday night listening to icaraos, chants and translating indigenous myths is our idea of fun!

Confronting ancient

knowledge in modern times

What do you like most about your work with ARTE AMAZONIA?


For me the best part is knowing that we are working towards building something meaningful and discovering that we are not alone in our love of indigenous cultures and their art. Throughout South American and the whole world, we have found people including artist, filmmakers, photographers and scientists, concerned with the Amazon. This region of the world still houses the highest density of diversity on the planet and home to over 200 groups. But, as these cultures vanish, so does their knowledge and traditions.


Our work is in creating awareness and interest in the indigenous way of life through art. My deepest joy is in bring ideas and people together from all over the world, who are interested in learning and creating something beautiful, in a kind of celebration of life itself, through a kind of 'art of living'.


What are your personal goals?


I am currently dedicated to developing ARTE AMAZONIA. I hope to see the project grow to a point where I oversee a team of designers and curators while solely focusing on local and global indigenous programs and exploring the Amazon. Ideally, I would like to represent indigenous cultures and their products which are ecologically sustainable and support their ways of life. I also would like to encourage education programs here in the western world, and also help support initiatives within indigenous communities to help in power themselves to defend their cultures, resources and lands. I have lots of other meaningful ideas but to do them require more time and resources. I am limited, as this project has been developed in my free time inbetween managing home and family. Of course, more financial support would go a long way to help us realize our visions. But, my BIG personal dream would be to be out in the field, with my family (my son already has his back pack ready), where we can share with indigenous cultures and engage in first hand experiences.


What is your vision for the future of AMAZONIA?


My main vision is to see greater appreciation and value for the Amazon with all of its' creatures big and small. I want people to know that indian women, children and men still thrive in the Americas, but they need our support to continue to do so. The history we learned in school about the past is still happening today. The book is still open and not yet closed. We still have a chance to make a difference. By personalizing visions and expressing them through art; my hope is to reach not only the minds but to reach to hearts of people all over the world. To awaken compassion in others to be receptive to the conditions of the indigenous people and to see them as reflections of ourselves is the vision of my work. In other words, for us all to see the colorful and diverse future of the Amazon as part of our own future. Ultimately, for me, I would like the entire Amazon Rainforest be declared a global sanctuary directed by the local peoples, open only to sustainable efforts with protection for the people, plants and animals that live there.