We Learn Together: Shipibo-Konibo Radio Program
The Áxenon Ikánwe (A-shew-nown ee-KAN-wew) radio program was created to promote the living language through practice. It is the first Indigenous language radio to produce entirely in the Shipibo-Konibo language. This project is supporting Shipibo-Konibo language revitalization throughout the Peruvian Amazon. Radio has always been an effective way of reaching and incorporating Indigenous communities living deep in the rainforest as well as in urban settings. Axenon Ikanwe works to recover ancestral knowledge and affirm Shipibo-Konibo cultural values through encouraging Shipibo-Konibo-Xetebo to be proud of speaking their native language.
Three distinct dialects (Shipibo, Konibo, and Piskibo) are spoken by the program hosts and all of their guests are also encouraged to stay in their language. The program director Inin Yoi and co-host Metsá Jisbe are both trained EIB teachers, while the co-host Ranin Koshi has years of working as an educator in the context of language and community health. Their skills for creating a welcoming learning environment contribute immensely to the success of the program.
Áxenon Ikánwe was born from the chance opportunity of a prime time-slot opening up on the most listened to radio station for news in the Shipibo-Konibo language; 100.1 La Primerísima. For years now, there have been a series of 4 different hour-long programs that begin at 5pm and run till 9pm, Monday through Friday, collectively known as Non Jói – ‘Our Language’. Ranin Koshi / Jeiser Suarez Maynas arrived at one of our early Non Jói Kóshi Ákaibo meetings in 2017 excited to share that he had been called by the radio station director who informed him that the 8-9pm time slot would be available mid-November if he wanted it. FM Radio programs continue to be the most accessible and preferred choice for local news in all Shipibo-Konibo communities. The decision to rent the time-slot was nearly automatic and Ranin Koshi, who has years of radio experience, already had a plan. On November 13th of 2017, Ranin Koshi, along with fellow Non Jói Kóshi Ákaibo colleagues, Inin Yoi / Janis Percy Cruz Maldonado and his wife Metsá Jisbe / Ketty Gonzalez de Cruz, went live and Áxenon Ikánwe was born.
A Living Language
The objective of the radio program is to promote the living language through practice, and they began their broadcast with the challenge to not speak any Spanish loan words, or at least keep them to a minimum. The first month of programming, especially the first week, is an outstanding live account of those three decolonizing their own lexicons from Spanish influence. It is also worth noting that all three were raised with distinct dialects spoken in their homes, and each individual represents a different dialect (Shipibo, Konibo, and Piskibo) in their personal lexicons. All of their guests are also encouraged to use less Spanish words, and the friendly and relaxed atmosphere of the program makes this venture into linguistic purism actually work. Initially they held contests for callers to give a two-minute discourse without using a loanword, which worked very well due to the open and educational environment they create every night. Inin Yoi and Metsá Jisbe are both trained EIB teachers, while Ranin Koshi has years of working as an educator in the context of educational workshops, and their skills for creating an open learning environment contribute immensely to the success of the program.
Each radio program covers a range of topics that focus on the language, traditional and modern culture, including social issues such as violence against youth and women in Shipibo-Konibo communities and drug-alcohol abuse as a result of minimal access to economic and educational opportunities. The program is committed to also encouraging youth to continue studying and practicing the Shipibo-Konibo language to connect to cultural traditions and knowledge. Axenón Ikánwe has also been archiving every radio program and will upload them here to keep an ongoing documentation of the living language, which also include calls from more remote Shipibo-Konibo communities in the Ucayali region. With this content and information, the Non Jói Kóshi Ákaibo team hope to work with future linguistics students from the nascent Indigenous language linguistics program with the UNIA. Whenever that program emerges there will be hours of quality data to analyze Shipibo-Konibo language traits and conduct numerous linguistics studies if anyone is interested.
Many programs include special guests to provide an angle that focuses on the realities of being in communities that are distant from the city. They also focus on bringing in youth voices to encourage youth to speak Shipibo-Konibo in public and highly visible spaces. They have also invited Shipibo-Konibo musicians to come and perform in their language. Áxenon Ikánwe is a variety show that has wide appeal. The program is at the end of the Non Jói programing from 8pm-9pm local time and allows it to have more listeners as many Shipibo-Konibo are in bed by this time and listen to the program before falling to sleep.
The public response for the program has been positively encouraging, with people who call in just to express their contentment with the program and to congratulate the hosts and producers for their wit, passion, and commitment to Shipibo-Konibo language and culture regeneration. Others have also expressed how they laugh joyfully while listening to the program and how they appreciate this form of educational entertainment as they end their day. Axenón Ikánwe has aimed to keep the language fresh, relevant, and widely spoken while celebrating their culture. It continues to be a hit and has the highest listener ratings of any other Shipibo-Konibo radio program.
Their successes have gained much attention from the government through the Ministry of Culture and academics in and outside of Peru. Program director Inin Yoi and his wife and co-host Metsá Jisbe have been formally invited to share their inspiring success at the 2nd International Congress on Revitalization of Indigenous and Minoritized Languages, October 1st-4th in Brasilia, Brazil, hosted by The National Historic and Artistic Heritage Institute of Brazil (IPHAN) and the University of Brasilia. To complement this conference, there is also planned the 1st International Encounter about Indigenous Language Diversity: exchange of experiences and safeguarding strategies. There they have an opportunity to share their experiences on this international stage and learn from advocates of other Indigenous Amazonian languages. We really do learn together; áxenon ikánwe!