Pablo Amaringo was a Peruvian artist, renowned for his intricate, colorful depictions of his visions from drinking the entheogenic plant brew ayahuasca.
Pablo Amaringo was first brought to the West’s attention by Dennis McKenna and Luis Eduardo Luna, who met Pablo in Pucallpa while traveling 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 Amaringo was born the seventh of 13 children in 1938 in Puerto Libertad, a small settlement on the banks of a tributary of the Ucayali River.
When Amaringo was a boy, his family was reduced to extreme poverty after some years of relative prosperity.
As a result, they moved to Pucallpa where Amaringo attended school for just two years before he was forced to find work to help support the family. When he was 17, Amaringo became extremely ill, nearly dying from severe heart problems. For over two years he could not work. He believes he was eventually cured due to a local healer.
It was while recovering from this illness that he started to draw and paint for the first time. Amaringo 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 colored the drawings. He had no money for the paper so he used cardboard boxes. Sometimes he took a little lipstick and other cosmetics from his sisters. Later he used ink, watercolors and then a friend gave him six tubes of oil paint.
Soon Amaringo began to make money from portraits but lost his market when photographers began to color black-green-and-white prints. With the discovery of his new artistic talent, Amaringo’s career as a healer also received exposure for all wonderful things. For seven years, 1970–76, he traveled extensively in the region acting as a traditional healer.
In 1977, Pablo abandoned his vocation as a shaman. He warns:
“Ayahuasca is not something to play. It can even kill, not because it is toxic in itself, but because the body may not be able to withstand the spiritual realm, the vibrations of the spiritual world. “
He devoted himself to painting until becoming an art teacher at his school Usko Ayar (Usko in Quechua means “spiritual”, and Ayar “prince”), where the students freely learned Pablo’s painting technique.
Until shortly before his death, Amaringo worked as a painter, reworking the visions he experienced during his shamanic practice, and at the same time teaching young people to paint at his art school, in Pucallpa, where he worked as a director and founder along with Luis Eduardo Luna in 1988.
This school is also dedicated to the teaching of the preservation of the ecosystems of the Amazonian area, work for which, during the Earth Conference that was held in Rio de Janeiro in 1992, Pablo Amaringo was awarded the Global 500 Roll of Honor, granted by the United Nations environmental preservation program, for the work carried out by the institution led by him, and for the achievements made during these years of work.
These are the objectives of the school: to foster in the youth, through artistic education, understanding and respect for the Amazonian environment, strengthen their cultural identity so that they can improve their living conditions.
Generate a great artistic documentation of the flora, fauna and cultural tradition of the Peruvian Amazon that can be used in scientific and popular publications and in the development of ethnobotanical gardens, near the two largest cities of the Peruvian Amazon (Pucallpa and Iquitos), and to preserve and promote traditional knowledge of useful and medicinal plants.
To help develop the school as a cultural center, very necessary, where young people will have the opportunity to learn not only painting but also theater, traditional dances and music, pottery and other crafts, to disseminate knowledge locally as an international- about the Amazonian nature, art and culture.
Before dying, he was working on the paintings of angels, as well as paintings documenting the flora and fauna of Peru.
After a protracted illness, Pablo Amaringo died on November 16, 2009.
Pablo’s work can be seen in the documentary film “Ayahuasca Nature’s Greatest Gift” which is part of a film series on shamanism, wisdom, consciousness and the medicinal plant Ayahuasca entitled The Path of the Sun.
When Luna and McKenna met Amaringo 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 (North Atlantic Books 1999).
Pablo Amaringo occasionally gave interviews in the years following the book’s publication, and later penned the preface for Plant Spirit Shamanism: Traditional Techniques for Healing the Soul (Destiny Books 2006).
His artwork was featured in Graham Hancock’s book “Supernatural“. Amaringo also appeared in The Shaman & Ayahuasca: Journeys to Sacred Realms (2010), Michael Wiese’s documentary film about ayahuasca.