Dimitri “Mobengo” Mugianis

4/1/2012 Broadcast

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Guest BIO

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Dimitri Mugianis (born August 4, 1962) is a drug policy activist, Nganga, poet, musician, and lifelong anarchist.Dimitri was born in Detroit, Michigan to a politically leftist Greek American family. His father, Chris Mugianis, is a restauranteur, and his mother, Catherine Mugianis, is an artist. Growing up, Dimitri was heavily influenced by rock & roll and by African-American culture. 

Dimitri began writing and also using drugs at a very early age. When he was only 10 years old, he started a newspaper (WHERE?) called “The Rat.” Dyslexic, he struggled in the Detroit public school system. He received a full high school scholarship for drama at the Interlochen Arts Academy, but was expelled for drug use in the ninth grade. He was then offered a scholarship to the Roeper School. 

During this period, Dimitri began writing poetry and songs and formed a band with Glenn Johnson called The Leisure Suits, later The Lesiure Class. Under Glenn’s influence and through the eclectic radio of the times, Dimitri was influenced by many artists from the emerging punk movement, as well as by Sun-Ra, traditional blues, the political music of Fela Kuti, and Detroit rock, including the MC5 and the Stooges.

The band grew and Dimitri began a collaboration with the photographer and conceptual artist Misha Gordon. The band moved to New York City and grew into a 14-piece performance collective, playing everything from straight rock & roll to avant-garde rock opera. Dimitri’s heroin use grew along with the band. 

Dimitri settled into the Chelsea hotel in the early 80s, living there and on the Lower East Side. He supported himself by working as a bike messenger, loading dock worker, busboy, waiter, bartender, drug dealer, dishwasher, and union activist in the mailroom of Time Inc. He also became a shop steward (Guild representative) for the International Newspaper Guild.

Dimitri met the next great influence on his life, Herbert Huncke, beat legend and poet, who moved in with Dimitri and his common law wife. This was during the Tompkins Square riots on the Lower East Side; Dimitri became involved in political radicalism, though his heavy drug use limited his activities. Through Huncke, Dimitri met Gregory Corso, learning much from both men while also scoring drugs for them.

Through Huncke, Dimitri also met the musician Adam Nodelman, who was the first to tell him about ibogaine and Bwiti. Around this time he also became friends with Allan Clear, who worked with Act-Up and others to pass out clean syringes and provide other harm reduction services to drug users during the early years of the AIDS epidemic. Through harm reduction, Dimitri met others who shared his views on the misguided and dangerous drug policies of the United States. 

In the early 90s, Dimitri returned to Detroit in an effort to get off drugs. With his older brother George, he took over the operation of the legendary house music and transgender club “Heavens,” simutaneously opening Another Fucking Bar and Club Hell in the 7-Mile and Woodward areas. After three years of financial success and drug-induced debauchery, Dimitri was more addicted than ever. He briefly moved back to New York to record the final sessions of The Leisure Class, living with filmmaker Jamie Raisin and artist and writer Jack Walls. His common law wife, an actress, moved to Atlanta, where she died of drug-related endocarditis while pregnant. The years from 1998 to 2002 were a dark period for Dimitri, seeing him working mainly as a parking lot valet.

In an effort to cease his drug use, remembering his conversations with Adam Nodelman about iboga, Dimitri connected with Dana Beal and Sara Glatt, an ibogaine provider in the Netherlands. By this point he had a daily habit of $150 worth of heroin and cocaine and 100 mg of methadone. During his iboga visions during treatment in the Netherlands, Dimitri saw his Greek ancestors, his future and Papa Andre, the great Gabonese shaman he would work with later. He then spent three months in Icaria, his ancestral homeland on the Aegean sea, healing and embracing his ancestry. He has not used methadone, heroin or cocaine since his treatment. 

Upon returning to Detroit Dimitri worked for his brother, managing a restaurant and promoting concerts. He used the time to write poetry and he met and fell in love with Roman, an Ethiopian woman who he later married. He spread the word about iboga, passing out leaflets in front of Grand Central Station, and made plans to become an underground provider of the drug, focusing on detoxing hardcore addicts. Howard Lotsof became his mentor and had a great influence on him for the rest of his life. In XXXX Dimitri, George Bethos and Louie Jones co-founded VOCAL (Voices of Community Advocates and Leaders), a drug users’ union to advocate for the legal rights of people who use drugs.

Dimitri spent two years in Detroit before moving to New York with his wife, collaborating with Eric Taub, the underground ibogaine expert, learning the process, doing treatment sessions, and speaking internationally about drug user’s rights, human rights and the benefits of ibogaine.

In 2006, when he had already done hundreds of ibogaine treatments, Dimitri was approached by Michel Negroponte, director of “Methadonia,” who wanted to document Dimitri’s work with addicts. In 2008, Negroponte followed Dimitri on his first journey to Gabon to film his initiation into Bwiti, the West Central African religion in which iboga is the central sacramental tool. Negroponte’s film, “I’m Dangerous With Love,” ran the festival circuit in 2010 to great critical acclaim, and was released on DVD in April 2011.

Now a Nganga, Dimitri returned to New York and integrated his understanding of Bwiti ceremony into his underground detox treatments, which is where Michel’s film concludes. Dimitri has since returned to Gabon six times to improve his knowledge of Bwiti and its relevance to drug treatment, working with Bwitists of several ethnicities and with the Babongo pygmies. His interest in bringing the sacred technology of ‘indigenous’ people to the industrialized world continues, extending more recently to the healing properties of ayahuasca in Peru and North American peyote circles. To date, Dimitri has completed over 500 ibogaine treatments.

Dimitri has been an active advocate for the human rights of drug users on the international level, attending the United Nations Commission on Narcotic Drugs meeting in 2009 and working with drug users at Korsang, a Cambodian harm reduction organization. He has also continued writing, and had a joint poetry reading with John Sinclair at the Yippie Museum on Bleecker Street in 2009.

Parent’s Night at the Leper Colony, a best of collection for the Leisure Class, was released in 2010.

In 2011 Dimitri and two others were arrested by a DEA task force while on their way to pray at a tree. As of mid- 2012, no charges have been made in the case.


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