helende kracht
8 September 2019

Ayahuasca: From Holy Plant to Healing Drug

FILM PROGRAM & PANEL DISCUSSION | 8 Sept 2019 | 13:30 - 17:00 | Museum Volkenkunde Grote Zaal 

Taking inspiration from the exhibition HEALING POWER, Museum Volkenkunde hosts a series of theme days: the Healing Power Specials. On this thematic afternoon we’ll take a closer look at the different uses of ayahuasca (and other comparable indigenous sacred plants) in various contexts and communities.What does it really mean to remove a medicinal substance so rooted in the philosophy of an indigenous community from its local context and transfer it to other parts of the world? How are these types of medicinal products used by indigenous communities and how does this relate to their use elsewhere?

Please note, the introductions and panel discussion will be in Dutch. 

The word ayahuasca is derived from Quechua, a native South American language, and can be interpreted to mean ‘liana of the soul’. Ayahuasca is a mind-expanding mixture of two plants, the ayahuasca vine and the leaf of the yakruna plant. Shamans in the Amazon have been cooking and drinking the mixture for centuries and regard the ayahuasca liana as a sacred plant. The drink is a key part of native botanical medicine and is used to communicate with nature, make contact with ancestors and as medicine.

The use of ayahuasca first reached Europe in the 1990s, but over the past five years, its popularity in the West has been increasing. Here in the Netherlands, the number of providers has been increasing steadily, while in the Amazon, ‘ayahuasca tourism’ targeted at international visitors is on the rise. How can it be that ayahuasca is a part of everyday life in the Amazon but is regarded as a controversial substance in the Netherlands?

This programme has been created by Eddy Appels, director and programme maker at Cineblend


  • 13.30-13.45    Welcome by Eddy Appels, director and programme maker at Cineblend, and introduction to the HEALING POWER exhibition by Cunera Buijs, curator circumpolar cultures at Museum Volkenkunde
  • 13.45-14.45    Documentary: Ayahuasca: Expansion of Consciousness
  • 14.45-15.15    Interview with Arno Adelaars, writer and specialist in the field of ayahuasca
  • 15.15-15.45    Interview with choreographer Gil Gomes Leal and Preview performance: Ayahuasca. Amenti MoveMeant, powered by ISH Dance Collective
  • 15.45-16.00    Q&A and end of programme
  • 16.00-17.00   Opportunity to visit the exhibition: Helende Kracht


Documentary: Ayahuasca: Expansion of Consciousness

Fausto Nero, 52 minutes. Brazil, 2018. In Portuguese, English subtitles. 

Ayahuasca: Expansion of Consciousness tells the story of ayahuasca, from its use by indigenous communities in the Amazon rainforest to its popularity within the Santo Daime church and finally its arrival in urban areas. The film looks at the use of ayahuasca in modern society through scientific, religious and anthropological perspectives, but also explores the parallel story of the healing process experienced by director Fausto Nero. The result is a holistic and balanced view on this controversial substance. Watch the trailer: Ayahuasca: Expansion of Consciousness

Arno Adelaars

Arno Adelaars has written books such as Alles over paddo’s (‘Everything About Mushrooms’), Ayahuasca and Ecstasy. He also appeared on the Dutch television programme Spuiten en Slikken to detail the traditional ayahuasca ceremony, in the form which commonly takes place in the Amazon rainforest.

Adelaars has been learning about ayahuasca since 1995. Using the anthropological research method of participant observation, he has written articles, collaborated on radio programmes, been a guest on TV shows, co-organised the first ayahuasca conference in Europe (2003), and co-authored a book about ayahuasca in German (2006) and in English (2016): Ayahuasca: Rituals, Potions and Visionary Art from the Amazon. He has undergone the initiation of a Colombian shaman.

Preview performance: Ayahuasca. Amenti MoveMeant

by ISH Dance Collective

In his work, choreographer Gil Gomes Leal takes inspiration from the mental complexity of human beings. With alienating and occasionally disruptive movements, the choreography depicts dancers taking part in a ceremony that involves drinking the age-old drink called ayahuasca and exposing the depths of their souls.Gomes Leal went on a research trip to Peru in November 2018 to better understand the ayahuasca plant. He had the opportunity to learn and heal during the ceremonies, which were led by a shaman from Peru. This as he says life-changing experience then resulted in the performance Ayahuasca. The premiere of the complete performance takes place at Theater Rotterdam on 28 October 2019.