A Land Called Tamera
Stand for radical peace, love, sustainability
The azure sky held a hint of crimson, perhaps the scorching sun had vaporised the arid red soil. My train had departed from Lisbon station an hour ago, at 6:30 pm, yet the lemon-yellow sun lingered over the countryside. My fellow passenger, a Bangladeshi man, was engrossed in a WhatsApp romance with his lover, while olive trees and stripped oaks baked under the rainless Portuguese summer.
Yet, thoughts of Aldous Huxley's final novel, ‘Island’, continued to drift into my mind. The concept of Pala, an idyllic realm of peace and compassion, remained vivid. Huxley's inquiry about the survival of peaceful communities in the face of predatory capitalism had led to a tragic outcome for Palanese citizens in his narrative.
Here I was, years later, embarking on a journey to another island of hope, a land known as Tamera. My intention was to explore how a modern-day Pala, a community of peace, could endure amidst the onslaught of rapacious capitalism.
As I gazed out of the window, an unfamiliar sensation swept over me. Goa-inspired houses, verdant afro-styled pines, and sombre eucalyptus trees coexisted harmoniously. The train was headed south, venturing into the hinterlands.
Rolling hills, parched earth, and crimson soil stretched out before me, reminiscent of the landscapes of Telangana with its mild climate. “Funcheira Station,” the announcement echoed, and it was time for me to disembark.
At Funcheira station, a member of the Tamera community named Ben warmly greeted me. We settled into the community car and headed southwest, capturing the last vestiges of orange-yellow rays on the horizon.
Tamera lay just 30 minutes ahead, and a sense of anticipation stirred within me. What lay ahead in this enigmatic place? What experiences awaited me? The questions flowed ceaselessly, for the next three weeks were to be spent within the healing biotope of Tamera.
My quest was to see how this sustainable eco-community had spent over half a century pioneering peace research, drawing activists, community leaders, and students to dream of an alternative world together. And so, my dream was only just beginning.
The roots of the community traced back to the collaboration of prominent psychoanalyst and author Dieter Duhm, along with visionaries like Sabine Lichtenfels, Charly Rainer Ehrenpreis, Sarah Vollmer, and eight others. By 1978, Duhm had already authored his influential book ‘Fear in Capitalism’ and initiated the community in southern Germany. In 1995, the community found its home in Monte do Cerro, nestled within the rural Portuguese Alentejo region.
Since then, Tamera has become a global nucleus for radical peace, love, and sustainability research. Their mission to birth ‘Terra Nova’ – a world beyond war – through the creation of Healing Biotopes, futuristic hubs that research and model a new planetary culture, resonated not only with global movements but also with Huxley's vision of a better world.
And what exactly was Tamera? On the surface, a sprawling 140-hectare farm shaped like an eagle, featuring numerous lakes for water management, cultivated lands, biodiverse plantations (including untouched wilderness), and more.
The landscape housed natural structures serving as campus facilities, including Aula, a cultural centre, a solar village, an Art centre , residential areas, and even workshops for mechanical and textile crafts. A community of around 150 ‘Tamerians’, including the founders, called this place home. Additionally, 50 to 80 individuals flowed in and out of Tamera for courses and work-study programs.
This community thrived on a vegan lifestyle, self-sustaining energy sources, and boasted a medical and fire control centre. In essence, Tamera's autonomy encompassed all aspects of communal existence. They collaborated with the outside world for minor needs.
As the sun dipped behind the eucalyptus-clad mountains, I woke to a chilly morning. The air was still crisp and dewy, as I made my way to the compost toilets. Ahead of me, a family of wild boars ambled along.
It was as if they were welcoming me to Tamera, echoing Valentina's (the facilitator's) earlier words: “At Tamera, we commune with all beings, from wild boars to rats. Our approach is rooted in non-violence and respect for all life forms.”
I nodded to the wild boars in acknowledgment and prepared myself for the day ahead. Day one was underway, with around 25 activists from Palestine, Sudan, the USA, and beyond already in attendance.
Our workshop was guided by four members of the Tamera community: A'ida Al-Shibli, a Palestinian Bedouin woman who was a nurse, feminist, ecological advocate, and peace activist; Dara Silverman, whose work encompassed LGBTQ+ issues, refugee concerns, and international solidarity; Fredrick Weihe, a seasoned Tamerian focusing on decentralised energy technology; and Martin Winiecki, a peace researcher and activist centred on ecology and international solidarity. Special sessions on grief, trauma, and love were facilitated by Juliet, Rossio (both Tamerians), and Maanee Chrystal, founder of the Somatic Institute for Women.
The notion that men from non-Western societies were not meant to express vulnerability or emotion had been ingrained. Nonetheless, during those three weeks, I shed tears a few times.
The first instance was not born of pain, but rather of love. Witnessing a German, an Israeli, and a Palestinian openly discussing their wounds was a revelation.
People who had experienced the traumas of the Holocaust, Nazi oppression, and occupation demonstrated an ability to trust, forgive, and embrace the prospect of love. It was a profoundly moving experience.
Among us was Sulaiman Khatib, a Palestinian peace activist. Charged with armed assault at 15 years of age, followed by 15 years of jail term made him a radical peace activist. He opened up about his transformation from hate to love, non-violence and humility.
Growing up in India, interactions with Jewish people had been rare. Yet, fate had it that I would engage in conversations with Ashkenazi Jewish women about their religion and spirituality.
We delved into the essence of God and the intricacies of spirituality as perceived by one of the world's oldest faiths. We contemplated matters of love in a society as torn as Israel, discussing its challenges and aspirations.
Nights were filled with shared songs, women’s drumming lead by Eva, and discussions about revolution. Noa Yammer, a storytelling activist from Israel, showed us the power of songs and how to “open the gates, and bring down the walls.”
A podcaster from Israel, Yahav Erez, corrected me when I inadvertently used the term ‘conflict’ to describe the Israel-Palestine situation. ‘Occupation’ was the precise term, she emphasised, reminding me of the gravity of the issue. Her lesson resonated deeply.
Liel, a filmmaker and activist from Palestine/Israel, showed us that if Ireland, one of the most violent conflicts in the world, can achieve peace, there is still hope for the Holy land too.
And then there was Helena, a Spanish activist and mental health doctor, working in Palestine now.
She was best unlearning on privilege. She had been in war zones from Columbia to Palestine and
now used her skills and her identity as white European woman to defend the voiceless. Many times she has stood in front of the firing squads, so the bullets don’t hit Palestinian children.
Her story was one that inspired hope and radical love in activism.
The activist group held within it numerous hidden gems. The facilitators led us through days of exploring grief, trauma, love, power dynamics, community service, and even moments of joy. One particularly heart wrenching point was hearing Rana Bilal, a Sudanese woman unleashed her anguish in Arabic, lamenting the ravages of war in her homeland.
Her cries connected us all to the plight of her land, once beautiful, now marred by greed and oppression. Each lamentation echoed within my heart, evoking images of rotting 12 year old soldiers in Sudan, their lives lost to the brutality of greed and warfare. One question persisted: Was there a peaceful way out when a 12-year-old, fueled by desperation, held an AK-47?
The third world was a place of survival of the fittest, where desperation overshadowed all. The dollar was often the only lifeline, offering a slim chance at surviving the inevitable death that nightfall often brought. Systemic greed and malevolence had smothered the prospects of peace. Yet, we persisted in our efforts.
Weeks slipped by, and we remained committed to Tamera's process. This journey took us deep within our own souls and the souls of others. Looking back, each step had been designed drawing upon psychoanalytic principles and guided by a profound spirituality.
It was a balanced and secure space, meticulously created for healing and conflict resolution, both personal and external. It offered a glimpse into what an ideal world looks like. The only absence was the chorus of Huxley's little birds from the Island, chanting “Karuna… Attention… Karuna.”
Indra Shekhar Singh is an independent writer.
Cover Photograph - Tamera for a Global Culture of Peace.