Camilla Morelli is Lecturer in Social Anthropology at the University of Bristol. She is a social anthropologist who conducts research with indigenous children and youth in Amazonia. She has conducted fieldwork with Matses people in Peru over the past ten years, examining ongoing processes of social, economic and environmental change. She uses visual and participatory methods that can bring out people’s own perspectives and engage the participants in the representation of knowledge, while producing outputs that can raise awareness about threatened indigenous lives and their futures.

Acate – The Frog Poison Ritual

“This visual story is extracted from an animated film that I co-produced with a professional animator (Sophie Marsh), a Matses illustrator (Guillermo Pëmen) and elderly Matses in the rainforest. It explains the meanings of acate, a ritual in which an intoxicating secretion produced by a tree frog is applied onto a person’s body, inducing an altered sensory state and provoking a frightening physical reaction.

Acate is said to make the body strong and transmit sinan, a substance that creates a connection between people and the forest environment. This ritual is now performed around the world by alternative medicine practitioners, similarly to the global trade and commoditisation of Ayahuasca, but not many people know about its cultural meanings amongst the Matses, who want to share this story widely.

The text was narrated by Matses people in the community of Estirón, the images were painted by Guillermo Pëmen, and the graphics curated by Sophie Marsh. Our project was funded by the British Academy and the animated film Acate can be accessed here.”