MYEBOGA Conversations Ep 8 The Yann Guignon Interview Poaching, Sustainability and Ritual Context

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Yann Guignon first discovered iboga in 2004 in France when a Gabonese traditional healer named Aristide Nguema, helped cure his chemical dependency. With Aristide Nguema, Yann founded an association called ‘E-BOGA’ in order to have the remarkable therapeutic properties of iboga accepted as a treatment by the French authorities (AFSSAPS).

In 2006, after the sale and merger of the company Yann worked for, he went to Gabon to be initiated into the Bwiti tradition by Master Atome Ribenga in the branch of the ethnic group Fang’s Dissumba.

In 2007, following the death of a young drug addict, iboga became classified as a class 4 drug by AFSSAPS and was made illegal in France. Furthermore, Bwiti was classified as a cult. The E-BOGA association then had to be dissolved by its founders.

Yann returned to Gabon and decided to film a documentary on iboga and the Bwiti tradition. Yann was then invited several times to speak on RTG1 TV to raise awareness about the French attacks on their ancestral traditions and iboga, which in Gabon is recognized as part of the national cultural heritage. He was received by Mr Louis Gaston Mayila a strong advocate of iboga and also the Gabonese Deputy Prime Minister and the Minister of National Solidarity, Social Affairs, Welfare and the Fight against Poverty. The latter asked him to keep on working in this field as ’compensation from France’ and invited him to move permanently to Gabon.

Alongside his professional activities, Yann continued to study the Bwiti tradition. He met with many villages and traditional Masters from all branches.

As a consequence of his documentary and television shows, he was regularly contacted by people from around the world wanting to go to Gabon to be initiated with iboga. He organized and cared for hundreds of travelers working in different traditions.

Meanwhile Yann trained Yann to be a ‘Kambo’ (Keeper of the Tradition) in addition to the training he had already received from Master Atome Ribenga and others.

During his studies, Yann met Professor Jean Noël Gassita who was the first black African recognized by the French Medicine Academy and the special scientific advisor to the President of the Gabonese Republic.

In 2011, Professor Gassita and Yann convinced the Gabonese authorities to support them in reporting on the national and international state of affairs of iboga through the foundation of the First Lady of Gabon.

The report was submitted to the Gabonese government in July 2012 and revealed that iboga was soon to be threatened by extinction in Gabon if an active protection and replanting scheme was not immediately set up, along with further urgent research in the field of botany, chemistry and medicine.

The Gabonese authorities then decided to integrate iboga into the framework of the Nagoya Protocol, which aims to provide ‘access to genetic resources and the fair and equitable sharing of benefits arising from their utilization’.

In 2014 Yann was acknowledged as a ‘Benefactor to Gabonese culture’ by the Minister of Culture and was asked to represent Gabon at the 4th international conference on ibogaine in South Africa organized by the Global Ibogaine Therapist Alliance (GITA), chaired by Jonathan Dickinson.

Upon his return from South Africa, the Communication Team of the Gabonese Presidency asked Yann to chair a television show about iboga to share the information that was in his report with the Gabonese people. The TV show ‘Ca s’explique’ was produced and broadcast several times during prime time.

Having suffered from the separation of his children, Yann moved back to France at the end of 2014 and decided to look for European partners in order to create an organization to continue to research, protect and invest in the future of iboga. Given the legal situation in France it was in England in October 2015 that the legal structure, Blessings of the Forest CIC (Community Interest Company) was set up with co-Directors Ben Taylor and Kate Hewett.