How ‘Sacred Geometry’ connects a Colombian community to clean water

With the support of the Church, WaterAid found a way through art to provide clean water, sanitation and hygiene to the Wayuu people

In the La Guajira peninsula of Colombia, around 200,000 people called the Wayuu live in harsh terrain. Access to clean water is nearly impossible, and women and girls spend hours each day walking to carry water back to their communities.

People are also more likely to get sick without decent toilets and soap and water to wash their hands.

WaterAid — a nonprofit organization that has focused on water, sanitation and hygiene projects for more than 40 years — has been working together with The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Colombia.

WaterAid Colombia country director Natalia Leon said the Wayuu people were not knowledgeable about the relationship between clean water and their health. Businesses and other organizations invested in infrastructure and humanitarian aid, but something was still missing, she said.

With the support of the Church, WaterAid brought together six different organizations for the first time to address the social, humanitarian and climate emergencies affecting Colombians in La Guajira. 

“When we spoke directly with Wayuu leadership, we learned that art could be a way to connect with their community by reflecting Indigenous traditions and preserving ancestral wisdom,” Leon said.

“Called ‘Sacred Geometry,’ this traditional art form turns a toilet into a sacred space that reminds the Wayuu of the value of water, their ancestors and their rich culture,” she continued.

Isolina, a Wayuu leader, sits in front of the new bathroom incorporating Sacred Geometry in La Guijara, Colombia, 2022. | WaterAid

The Wayuu communities are deeply connected to nature and ancestral knowledge to preserve the roots of their beliefs and Sacred Geometry makes that connection.

Leon said since the sacred art was added, WaterAid workers in Colombia have seen that students, teachers and people in the community are more curious about the water taps, toilets and handwashing stations. The people are more likely to try them out and incorporate them into their daily life.

Some teachers have even used the walls as canvases to teach their students about their history and their ancestors. 

The Wayuu now feel a sense of belonging and ownership over the infrastructure, “and they embrace the improved health it brings to their community.” 

Now WaterAid Colombia works with Wayuu leaders, families and schools incorporating sacred art in all their projects, and the organization is expanding to other Indigenous communities as well.

“We see this as a big step forward in providing clean water, sanitation and hygiene to people in La Guajira,” Leon said.

A new hand-washing station incorporating Sacred Geometry in La Guajira, Colombia
A new handwashing station incorporating Sacred Geometry in La Guajira, Colombia, 2022. | WaterAid
A new well incorporating Sacred Geometry in La Guajira, Colombia, 2022. | WaterAid
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