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Pablo Amaringo

Pablo Amaringo(1938-2009 ) was an acclaimed Peruvian artist, renowned for his intricate, colourful depictions of his visions from drinking the entheogenic plant brew, ayahuasca. He was first brought to the West's attention by Dennis McKenna and Luis Eduardo Luna, who met Pablo in Pucallpa while travelling during work on an ethnobotanical project. Pablo worked as a vegetalista, a shaman in the mestizo tradition of healing, for many years; up to his death, he painted, helped run the Usko-Ayar school of painting, and supervised ayahuasca retreats.

Pablo was born the seventh of thirteen children in 1943 in Puerto Libertad, a small settlement on the banks of a tributary of the Ucayali river. When Pablo was a boy, his family were reduced to extreme poverty after some years of relative prosperity. As a result, they moved to Pucallpa where Pablo attended school for just two years before he was forced to find work to help support the family. When he was 17 Pablo became extremely ill, nearly dying from severe heart problems. For over two years he could not work. Eventually he was cured by a local healer.

It was while recovering from this illness that he started to draw and paint for the first time. Pablo began making drawings with pencil and shading with soot from lamps. From a friend employed in a car factory he got permatex, a blue substance with which he coloured the drawings. He had no money for paper so he used cardboard boxes. Sometimes he took a little lipstick and other cosmetics from his sisters. Later he used ink, watercolours and then a friend gave him six tubes of oil paint.

Soon Pablo began to make money from portraits, but lost his market when photographers began to colour black and white prints. With the discovery of his new artistic talent Pablo's healing powers were also exposed. For seven years, 1970-76, he travelled extensively in the region acting as a traditional healer.

When Luna and McKenna met Pablo in 1985 he was living in poverty, barely surviving by teaching English to young people from his home and selling the odd painting to passing tourists. Luna suggested he paint some of his visions, a project which became the basis of a co-authored book, Ayahuasca Visions: The Religious Iconography of a Peruvian Shaman.

Since the publication of this book in 1999, Amaringo had not produced any further writings about his work apart from occasional interviews. In 2006, however, he reappeared as a writer, penning the preface for a new book on plant medicines, sacred hallucinogens, and shamanism, called Plant Spirit Shamanism: Traditional Techniques for Healing the Soul.

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