Traveling the globe filming 21 indigenous tribes, filmmakers Karina Duffy, David Prusmack, and Bjorn Ahman share the ancient tribal wisdom of ‘Oneness’ in their documentary film TAHI
Back in the day, it was all glitz and glamour for executive producer Karina Duffy, the Irish lass whose dreams of living the high life in Hollywood came true when she moved to America after studying film in England. In no time she was in the groove, making big money as an executive in the motion picture industry. Fancy cars came first, followed by lavish estates in Malibu, and of course, the wardrobe – only the finest tailored suits and expensive accessories would do. It was all about the image, and of course, the art.
After several successful years in film production, Duffy discovered something was missing, but she couldn’t quite put her finger on the source of her discontent. Approaching her 30th birthday – what astrologers refer to as the Saturn Return – Duffy felt a sensation from deep within her soul.
“I call it the Mozart effect,” Duffy explains. “It’s as if you are hit by a huge unknown force and suddenly you discover your true passion. No matter what, you cannot carry on unless you truly pursue your [destiny] path exercising all of your talents. It feels as if you are conducting an orchestra as the musical notes fly out of you. Suddenly you have a masterpiece of an opera and you realize that you are fulfilling your innate purpose in life.”
Whether by fate or coincidence, Duffy found herself attending a healing ceremony where members of the ancient Maori tribe, indigenous healers from New Zealand, were sharing their ancient wisdom. It was here that she met Ruth T. Makuini, the Great Grandmother Elder with the Maori people. “She performed an intensive healing and told me that I must find my true purpose in life,” Duffy exclaimed. Grandmother Makuini then channeled her energies and through her the spirit of ‘Tahi’ came forth, urging Duffy to tell the story of Oneness.
For Duffy, it was a huge spiritual awakening. A concept fundamental to tribal societies across the globe, Oneness is the belief that all beings are inner-connected through a universal mind, body, and spirit. Each individual shares a sort of ‘connective tissue’ that binds all humanity together equally. The tribe is, in essence, the “whole body” while the individuals within the tribe are the body parts that work together, supporting the central One.
“Together we channeled points on the globe marking the sacred spots, charting the destinations we would travel to in order to tell the story of this ancient wisdom,”Duffy said. The mission was set. Venture to remote, sacred areas of the world and film indigenous tribes whose concept of ‘one spirit one soul’ within the tribe forms the social glue that binds these ancient communities together in harmony.
According to Duffy, all individuals are supported by the collective arms of the tribe – a concept that has long been forgotten in the western world, where loneliness is a social disease as the fixation on individualism has resulted in the disintegration of the roots of community both in spirit and social structure.
Coinciding with the economic downturn of 2008, fundraising efforts to support the documentary project were challenging. Driven by her new-found passion, Duffy began liquidating personal assets determined to fund the project herself if necessary.
Next, Duffy began building her production team, turning first to the artistic talent found in her own family tree. Her nephew, Bjorn Ahman, was brought on as chief editor. Soon the skeleton film crew set off for Easter Island, alias Rapa Nui, in the South Pacific. It was February and their arrival coincided with the annual festival of Rapunui where local tribes gathered to celebrate the Story of the Dance.
“We filmed the ceremonies and it was visually beautiful,” Duffy stated. “But it didn’t quite tell the story of Oneness. We had to keep traveling to find stories that we could bring to the world to show the connection of Oneness and the combined message of One Tribe, because we are all one tribe – there is no separation among people. We need to celebrate our similarities and embrace our differences,” Duffy stated with heartfelt passion.
After Easter Island, the filmmakers returned to the US to raise additional funds. Their journey led them to San Francisco, to an international tribal convention. Here, the filmmakers connected with a family of Aborigines from Australia. “During the event they held a raffle and the prize was a round-trip flight to Australia,” Duffy said, “except the person who won didn’t show up, so they called the next number and it was mine. I won the trip!” Duffy said laughing. “All the tribal people we met cheered for us.”
Next stop: Vanuatu, a group of islands known for their magic. “It’s kind of like the Harry Potter world within French Polynesia,” Duffy explained. With two video cameras and one still camera, the film crew flew to the island of Tanna, where the fourteen day festival of Dancing for Love was about to begin.
“We had no idea the festival was going on when we arrived. The receptionist at our hotel told us about it. Turns out, his father was a tribal chief, and he was the one who got us in,” Duffy said. “It was perfect; through him we met Ken, our guide and translator.” But the filmmaker soon discovered that on the island, the clock runs on indigenous time.
“When the locals say, ‘the festival begins soon,’ soon may mean tomorrow, three days, or three weeks, you never know.”
Several days later, the film crew got a knock on their front door at 4:00 a.m. It was Ken. “He told us the festival was beginning that moment,” Duffy says, laughing. “I mean, it was so early in the morning, we were surprised.”
Over the next several days, Ken introduced the crew to the Tree Spirit man, who, according to tribal members, was the keeper of the largest Banyon tree in the world and believed to have special healing powers. “We met many intuitive women healers who helped heal Aids and several other illnesses, including infertility. It really was an island of magic; you could feel it in the air,” Duffy exclaimed.
After Vanuatu, with the Spirit of Tahi under their wings, the filmmakers flew to Cape Town, South Africa. From there they headed to the small country of Namibia to shoot the indigenous Himba tribe. Duffy describes the experience: “The village consisted of one chief, his six wives and dozens of children. They wore dreads, and had Orca mud in their hair. These people were amazing. They were so warm, and generous. They offered to build us a house, and were eager for us to stay with them, to join their family, their community.”
According to Duffy, their sense of community is what holds the village together. They work together to solve problems. With virtually no crime, there is no need for prisons. When a crime is committed, all tribal members are made aware of the situation and the individual is punished by isolation. This consequence is very serious – being separated from the tribe. The punishment, known as a “Walk-About,” is traditional.
“We in the West isolate each other everyday, and yet in the tribe, isolation is very bad, because it means being separated from the tribe – essentially the family unit,” Duffy said. Many Tribes also incorporate the concept of energy balance. When someone gets sick, it is believed to be caused by negative, or bad energy. Dancing expels the negative forces and promotes healing.
“After visiting this tribe, it was clear to us that no one needs to be homeless. Here in the tribe everyone takes care of one another. It’s all about togetherness, working as one, for the benefit of the tribe. Individuality is not as important as the tribe. It’s not about “I” it’s all about “We.”
In India, the crew began their journey in Tamil Nadu, located in the South. There they connected with the Joe Homan Charity, one of the country’s biggest charities – an orphanage for young boys and girls to keep them off the street and away from child prostitution which often occurs in India. “We filmed two boys, Ramul and Kumar, whose mother had committed suicide. She had poured gasoline all over and set herself on fire.
Lots of women burn themselves, for example, if they have a bad marriage. In some tribes, a bad marriage is not an option – but suicide is. It was difficult to understand. There was so much poverty there, but so much joy and generosity too. We saw people with legs full of gangrene and even then they had huge smiles on their faces as they crawled along the poverty stricken streets of India,” Duffy said with compassion.
Next stop: Tibet: Misfortune. The Tibetan government had closed its borders to Americans thus altering the filmmakers itinerary. So, they headed for Nepal: Fortune. Meet 28-year-old Pemba, Buddhist Monk.
Duffy tells the incredible story. “When we met Pemba, he was on his way to Kathmandu, to meet the equivalent of the Dali Lama of Nepal, the High Lama. Pemba makes this journey often, conducting healings in the villages along the way. Walking takes him 14 days, but by car it takes only three days,” Duffy explained. “Along the way he chants ‘Om Mani Paname’ the mantra that calls for ‘peace among mankind.’ It is Pemba’s mission to heal and that is all he does.”
Pemba has no belongings except a knapsack that contains only three objects: a book of Buddhist prayers, an English dictionary, and a Nepalese scarf. These are his only possessions. He is not allowed money, the rule of his Buddhist sect, nor does he desire luxuries.
Pemba surrenders his ultimate trust to the Universe to provide for all his needs. In return, he performs healings. “That is is purpose in this life. Pemba chants nearly 24/7 and he is not a crazy person,” Duffy explained. “He believes when he chants he is chanting not only for his own village, but for the whole of humanity.
When we first met, I was sick, not feeling well at all,” Duffy says. “I told this to Pemba during the drive, and when we stopped the car, he did a healing, chanting around my ankles. The next morning I was perfect. The small monk really did possess a healing gift.”
For the next six years, the filmmakers traveled to 21 countries spending about two months in each location. During that time, Duffy was forced to sell all of her properties and liquidate investments in order to fund the documentary TAHI, which is now near completion.
“Traveling the world, I’ve realized that our core energetics is all programed the same. We are all together, as one. The biggest difference between tribal living and the culture in the western world is that in the tribes everything is done as a collective community together, not separate. In the tribe it’s all about the Oneness, we are all One.
The word Tahi is a Maori word that was gifted to us by the Grandmothers Ruth Tai Makuini and Ataraangi Muru. ‘Ta’ means male, and ‘Hi’ means female. It is the ultimate expression of Oneness, and the love that connects us all,” Duffy states with genuine passion.
Duffy and Prusmack are hopeful they will be able to raise enough funds to complete the documentary. “We founded a non-profit, Tahi Global – Exposing the ancient roots of One, Duffy explains.”Our goal is to help raise awareness, to embrace and honor our indigenous roots of Oneness, so that we can embrace a new world.”
For additional information on TAHI, The Human Journey, visit www.tahithehumanjourney.com