Water Guardian sings
High sun
Dry sun
Dry land
Dry sand
My land
Far away
Every day
A long walk to water
A long long walk to water
Water Guardian starts striking the camp such as it is, as she talks to the audience.
Rivers running into dust
Fields crumble into sand
Metal turning into rust
Famine devours the arid land
Fish flip flapping on the shore
Oil sinking to the ocean floor
Factories producing more and more and more…
A city burning in the heat
Sewage running through the streets
Women carrying water day and night
Children carrying water day and night…
A long long walk to water
A long, long walk to water….
She is ready to go. She indicates something in her belongings to suggest water poverty:
This is now, this is water now,
across the world, my world… our world,
by sea, by air, by email, far away…
Water, wasser, voda, aqua…
agua, uma, omi, maa,…
amanzi, paani, ab, av, jal…
water now, this is water now…
She is ready to go. She indicates something in her belongings to suggest water poverty:
This is now, this is water now,
across the world, my world… our world,
by sea, by air, by email, far away…
Water, wasser, voda, aqua…
agua, uma, omi, maa,…
amanzi, paani, ab, av, jal…
water now, this is water now…
Key facts about Bolivia
Bolivia is a landlocked country, bordered by Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Paraguay, and
It has a population of approximately 10 million people.
Its land mass is approximately 4 times that of the UK.
Potosi Bolivia, is the highest city in the world and is located at nearly 15,000 feet
above sea level.
It has the highest navigable lake in the world, Lake Titicaca.
Only 1 in 5 houses have running water.
Villagers laying pipes to bring water to their village.
The pipe is 2 miles long and must be buried 1 metre underground.
Constant safe running water
Unlike Papplewick, on the plateau there isn’t
gravity feed. Water is pumped from a well that
has been dug about 15 metres into the ground
where there is abundant fresh and safe water.
Papplewick pumps water from approximately 70
metres underground.
Key facts about the Altiplano
The Quechua and Aymara ethnic groups dominate the Altiplano. The Chipaya also
live on the Altiplano. The Water Guardian in the Papplewick performance of ‘A
Crack in Time’ was inspired by these peoples.
The Altiplano, is over 12,500 feet above sea level.
It is the world’s second highest plateau after Tibet.
Temperatures are below freezing 200 nights of the year.
There is no fuel for heating.
So how do people keep warm? They wrap up in a warm blanket and keep their
gloves and coats on.
The Altiplano
Chipaya village in the remote Sabaya Province on the Andean Altiplano. Its population
is estimated at around 200 people.
The distinctive Chipaya costume – poncho and wide brimmed hat for the men, hooded poncho for the
women – is thought to have survived for thousands of years.
Eloi Mamani Alabi, returns from visiting a neighbour’s home.
The most significant modern addition to Chipaya life is the motorcycle. Distances that take
days on foot can now be covered in a few hours. Petrol, however, remains prohibitively
Eloi’s 10 year old son, Jose, emerges from his traditional Chipaya house. Jose and
his brother Samuel are preparing to go hunting for flamingos.
Samuel crouches on a patch of salty earth, where his poncho and hat will blend,
camouflaging him. Here he will wait for a flock of flamingos to pass.
As a low flying flock of flamingos approaches, Jose leaps to his feet and swings his sconi throwing
weapon – versions of which are used throughout the Andes. The brightly coloured bits of thread make
it easier to find after it has been flung.
The sconi is the Chipaya hunting weapon of choice. Traditionally, it was made using flamingo
tendons, though nylon is now used, attached to two lead balls. The weapon is flighted with
volcanic rock
Jose and his brother Samuel display the flamingo they have just caught. Flamingos
are actually grey in colour, the pink pigment comes from the shrimp they eat.
Jose and his Dad, Eloi, pluck two flamingos Jose has just killed with his sling.
Jose and his dad rest after a hard day on the Altiplano in their traditional
circular Chipaya house.
What are the similarities and differences between a 10 year living in the
UK today and a 10 year old living on the Altiplano today?
Jose Luis Mamani Chino waits, motionless. The young Chipaya boy is pressed against the earth, one arm extended, his llama-wool poncho blending with the salt
rich soil. A flock of flamingos flap lazily across the sky and he leaps to his feet, whipping a length of lead-weighted nylon called a sconi round his head three times
before letting it go. One of the birds falters in its flight and plummets to the ground in a chaos of pink feathers.
The Chipaya are the living relic of an ancient past. Their language and customs haven’t changed for millennia and they are cut off both geographically and
culturally from the Quechua and Aymara ethnic groups that dominate the Altiplano.
The Chipaya seldom get visitors. They live in and around the small town of Santa Ana de Chipaya, on the starkly beautiful pampas that fringe the Coipasa salt
desert. The town itself is non-descript – adobe houses with corrugated iron roofs, a church, a cemetery. But most still live out on the plain, building circular
homes of mud and thatch near the Lauca River, which swells and recedes with the passing seasons. It provides enough fresh water – just – to grow quinoa and
tend llamas and sheep.
We leave Jose Luis to the hunt and meet his father, 37 year old, Eloi Mamani Alabi, who welcomes us outside his conical home. He’s wearing the distinctive felt
hat, white shirt and llama wool poncho by which Chipaya males are recognised. His wife’s poncho is darker and hooded. She sits at a loom, deftly manipulating
the thick threads using a stick and a shell – Chipaya textiles are highly prized, fetching hundreds of dollars in the capital and can take weeks to complete. Their
two sons Samuel and Jose Luis appear and their daughter Veronica peeps out shyly from the doorway.
Whether Jose Luis and his brother will still be here a decade from now is uncertain. “A lot of the young people are leaving this place,” Eloi tells us. “There is not
enough land, not enough grazing for the sheep you need to raise a family.” The biggest problem according to Eloi is that the Lauca River is drying up. “The river is
the only reason we can live here,” he tells me. “If there is no more water, we must leave.” Many Chipaya cross the border to work in Chilean mines, or move to
Bolivian cities like Oruro in search of work.
After Jose Luis has killed another flamingo with the same relaxed assurance as the first, he sits plucking the birds’ feathers with his father. Veronica, his sister,
winds thread around a spindle, while their mother prepares a fire of dry tola brush inside one of the houses. As the afternoon passes, I am flooded with the sense
of an ancient past, a way of living that endured on this unforgiving plateau for millennia.
The feeling of suspended time soon passes though. Driving back through town, I spot some Chipaya boys who’ve climbed on top of a wall. I realize they are trying
to get a mobile-phone signal.
Words by Johnny Langeneheim, 2013

Water rich, water poor - Papplewick Pumping Station