MATE and MALBA

What were we looking for? Art that inspired or educated or was just so beautiful we’d not easily forget it. We expected we might find what we were looking for at MATE Museo Mario Testino in Barranco (Lima), Peru.

The special exhibit featured the work of the African photographer, Hamidou Maiga. The image on the wall was his first studio in Bamako, Mali in 1973.

The special exhibit featured the work of the African photographer, Hamidou Maiga. The image on the wall was his first studio in Bamako, Mali in 1973.

Maiga’s portraits were black and white. People came to his studio, dressed to have their photos taken.

Maiga’s portraits were black and white. People came to his studio, dressed to have their photos taken.

What a contrast to the work of the Peruvian photographer, Mario Testino! Bold celebrities and fashion models are what made his photography famous – The Rolling Stones, Kate Moss, Naomi Campbell.

We thought Testino’s most stunning works in the museum were of the Peruvian women in traditional clothing.

We thought Testino’s most stunning works in the museum were of the Peruvian women in traditional clothing.

Fast forward 10 days and many miles from Lima, Peru to Buenos Aires, Argentina. We went to see art at MALBA, the Museo de Arte Latinoamericana de Buenos Aires. Unfortunately, their permanent collection gallery was closed for renovation, but two floors with special exhibits were open.

We couldn’t believe we’d come all the way from the US to Argentina only to be presented with Yoko Ono’s Dream Come True exhibit.

We couldn’t believe we’d come all the way from the US to Argentina only to be presented with Yoko Ono’s Dream Come True exhibit.

Yoko Ono’s peace sign was above us as long streams of redacted papers flowed from the top of the building down three levels.

Yoko Ono’s peace sign was above us as long streams of redacted papers flowed from the top of the building down three levels.

When we got to the lower level we headed over to see what the papers said..and what was blacked out. One we read (photo above) starts out “White House Wash DC…Subject: Military coup plotting for morning of 11 Sep 73…Santiago….”

When we got to the lower level we headed over to see what the papers said..and what was blacked out. One we read (photo above) starts out “White House Wash DC…Subject: Military coup plotting for morning of 11 Sep 73…Santiago….”

This memo referred to the events surrounding the coup in Chile, when “on 11 September 1973, the military moved to oust Allende in a coup d’état sponsored by the United States Central Intelligence Agency (CIA).” (Wikipedia) We continued to read on: “At approximately 0500 hrs local on the morning all communications media will be taken over…Additionally, all electric power sources….and critical social services will be seized. This will be a total effort for the armed forces to force a military coup to oust Pres Allende….”

The redacted papers were part of a fascinating exhibit of the work of a Chilean artist, Voluspa Jarpa, who uses archival material as an art form for understanding reality particularly for Latin American countries from 1948-1994.

The art we saw at each museum was oppositional. At MATE, Maiga’s small black and white studies of unadorned people in one room contrasted with Testino’s bold, large portraits of Peruvian fashion in another room. MALBA offered Ono’s heartfelt “imagine peace” message on one floor in opposition to Jarpa’s earth-shattering reality of peace and war on another floor. We had certainly found what we were looking for at MATE and MALBA.

 

August 2016

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An outing with strangers that turned to gold

Our first day back in Lima, started out with a lazy morning. It was a Saturday, the sky was leaden, and we were tired, having traveled the day before from Arequipa. Why not have a relaxed breakfast? We sat down at the long breakfast table at our small inn, Residential Miraflores, the last guests to be seated. We quickly joined the animated conversation among the other guests.

Lothar, from Canada, talked about his travels in Peru. Marlotte and Stefan had an evening flight back home to the Netherlands after a month traveling in South America. The conversation turned to our plan for the day: a visit to Museo Lorca. So how did it happen that 5 strangers decided to spend the day together?

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After a taxi ride we entered the impressive Museo Lorca together. The collection of gold ornaments was truly impressive and extensive.

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A warrior dressed for combat: headdress, breastplate, ear plugs, bracelets, rattle.

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The knife and sacrificial cup appeared to be art objects but had a different purpose. The knife was used to cut a warrior’s throat and the blood was collected in the cup, to be offered to the priests. According to the signage, “the sacrifice ceremony was central to the Moche religion. The offering of the blood of the vanquished to the principal gods was the climax of the ritual combat.”

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After seeing so many figures represented in a folk art-style, the realistic portrait vessels were a surprise. They were all men – probably priests, warriors, and distinguished members of the society.

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The pitcher is a 2-headed serpent arched over a Moche lord. The lord probably represents an ancestor, and the serpent symbolizes a heavenly arch.

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A turquoise and gold breastplate was striking in its entirety….

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….and striking in detail. (Upper left hand section magnified.)

All the works above were from the Moche period (1- 800 CE), only one of the periods represented in the museum’s collection. We all agreed it had been a worthwhile trip to Museo Lorca. Why not stay on for lunch at their restaurant?

The leisurely pace of breakfast continued with lunch. Conversation was easy. It was as if we were all old friends. What an enjoyable day it had been, and we marveled at the good luck of strangers spending such a wonderful day in Lima together.

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Upon our return to Residential Miraflores, we had a group photo taken to remember the golden day: Joe, Lothar, Beth, Marlotte, and Stefan.

 

August 2016

 

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Earthquake in Peru: our 2nd miss

The day started like any other. Who could possibly have guessed that so much would change here on this very day?

In mid-morning, we joined the crowds at the lookout for the Andean condors in Colca Canyon - cameras at the ready. Quick! There they are! Snap, snap, snap.

In mid-morning, we joined the crowds at the lookout for the Andean condors in Colca Canyon – cameras at the ready. Quick! There they are! Snap, snap, snap.

The condors appeared several times, but, with the jostling crowds, it was easier to appreciate the mourning sierra-finches gathered at a vendor’s dishpan.

The condors appeared several times, but, with the jostling crowds, it was easier to appreciate and photograph the mourning sierra-finches gathered at a vendor’s dishpan.

We stopped at a lookout in the canyon, and our guide took time to show us the fine hats of the local Cabanas women. The people who live in the valley are Cabanas and Collaguas, two different groups, who predated the Incas. Their clothing and language distinguished them from each other. The Collaguas wear taller hats and the Cabanas wear round, flat hats.

We stopped at a lookout in the canyon, and our guide took time to show us the fine hats of the local Cabanas women. The people who live in the valley are Cabanas and Collaguas, two different groups, who predated the Incas. Their clothing and language distinguished them from each other. The Collaguas wear taller hats and the Cabanas wear round, flat hats.

All the little towns in Colca Canyon have interesting churches in the town square – all built, of course, after the Spanish conquered the Inca. The church in Maca was rebuilt after it was destroyed by an earthquake in 2001.

All the little towns in Colca Canyon have interesting churches in the town square – all built, of course, after the Spanish conquered the Inca. The church in Maca was rebuilt after it was destroyed by an earthquake in 2001.

We saw other damage from earlier earthquakes – damaged buildings, roads destroyed, and alternative roads built. Our guide told us the government was trying to move some towns to other, safer areas.

The statues in the church were an interesting style of folk art and old mixed with new. We’d never seen a statue of a woman with handbags before.

The statues in the church were an interesting style of folk art and old mixed with new. We’d never seen a statue of a woman with handbags before.

The Maca town square had statues on the corners. We’d love to know the story about this one.

The Maca town square had statues on the corners. We’d love to know the story about this one.

We left Colca Canyon in the early afternoon. That evening an earthquake badly damaged the town where we had stayed and several people were killed. We felt a strong aftershock at our hotel in Arequipa, 164 km (100 miles) away. How very sad! One wonders what a recovery can look like in such an earthquake-prone area?  Cabanas and Collaguas have lived in this area for a thousand years. In the beginning they lived in small settlements, but, after the Spanish conquest, they were forced down to small towns with churches, like Maca. Is there a safer area for them to live in the canyon?

We missed the earthquake by 2 days on Ecuador’s coast in April, and we missed the earthquake in Colca Canyon by hours. We felt very sad for the people in these devastated areas but personally – very, very lucky!

 

August 2016

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Getting there was a scenic high

Going over the 15,800’ pass was cold and breath-taking. We had no idea the drive to Colca Canyon would be so scenic. We’d planned this side trip many months earlier and had forgotten any details of what the drive would entail. The day before, we reviewed our itinerary and looked at a map. Somehow it had escaped us that we’d be driving through the very large Salinas and Aguada Blanca National Reserve, home to a volcanic range with mountains in the 20,000’ (6,100 m) range.

Our first stop offered us great mountain views and vicuna grazing in the distance.

Our first stop offered us great mountain views and vicuna grazing in the distance.

A mid-way stop offered a bit of everything: coca tea (for the altitude), snacks, stalls for purchasing handicrafts, photography of mountains and rock formations.

A mid-way stop offered a bit of everything: coca tea (for the altitude), snacks, stalls for purchasing handicrafts, photography of mountains and rock formations.

Another stop offered us the chance to see a herd of alpacas not far from the road. Our guide explained the economics of llama and alpaca to us, with white alpaca wool worth considerably more in the marketplace than all the others.  

Another stop offered us the chance to see a herd of alpacas not far from the road. Our guide explained the economics of llama and alpaca to us, with white alpaca wool worth considerably more in the marketplace than all the others.

At the highest point on the road, the view is clear to Misti Mountain (5,822 meters/19,101’), a volcano that last erupted in 1985. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Misti

At the highest point on the road, the view is clear to Misti Mountain (5,822 meters/19,101’), a volcano that last erupted in 1985.

Cabana and Collagua peoples live in the valley. Their elaborate embroidery differed greatly from the work we’d seen while in northern Peru.

Cabana and Collagua peoples live in the valley. Their elaborate embroidery differed greatly from the work we’d seen while in northern Peru.

Just as the van was ready to descend into the Colca Canyon valley, one last stop was made for a herd of sheep to cross the road.

Just as the van was ready to descend into the Colca Canyon valley, one last stop was made for a herd of sheep to cross the road.

The canyon is 13,640’ deep (4,160 meters), twice the depth of the Grand Canyon. We expected Colca Canyon to be an interesting destination – but had no idea that the journey there would be so scenic.

 

 

August 2016

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The fate of the 2nd daughter

Every day we passed an unusual building on our walk in Arequipa, Peru. The plain white and very high stone walled building took up an entire block near the Plaza de Armas. No windows in sight. We found out that it is the Santa Catalina Convent, built in 1579, for women who were cloistered from the world and spent their days in prayer.

You might wonder: why visit a convent? The building is historically significant, built over 500 years ago in the Mudejar style, and gave us a glimpse into life for some women in the colonial time of Peru.

You might wonder: why visit a convent? The building is historically significant, built over 500 years ago in the Mudejar style, and gave us a glimpse into life for some women in the colonial time of Peru.

The Convent suffered extensive damage in earthquakes in the 1960’s, and so, to raise money for renovations and repairs, the remaining twenty nuns moved into a private area of the convent and the remainder was open to the paying public.

The Convent suffered extensive damage in earthquakes in the 1960’s, and so, to raise money for renovations and repairs, the remaining twenty nuns moved into a private area of the convent and the remainder was open to the paying public.

In 17th century Arequipa, 2nd sons became priests and 2nd daughters became nuns. Girls entered the Santa Catalina Convent when they turned 12 years old. Each girl roomed by herself during the 4-year novitiate-training period. These young novices left their room at 7am to go to the chapel and again at noon for 15-20 minute in the yard. The rest of the day was spent alone in their room – praying, meditating, and sewing.

Their parents paid a stipend each year and, at the end of the novitiate, paid a dowry to the convent – equivalent to $150,000 US in today’s dollars.

The convent housed 7 novices and 180 nuns, with facilities to fully support them as they would never leave the convent.

The convent housed 7 novices and 180 nuns, with facilities to fully support them as they would never leave the convent.

The nuns slept in rooms that might be shared with up to 3 others, depending on how much dowry their families had paid. Each small apartment came with 4 servants.

The nuns slept in rooms that might be shared with up to 3 others, depending on how much dowry their families had paid. Each small apartment came with 4 servants.

The laundry area had large clay vessels with drains in the bottom lined up along a water channel.

The laundry area had large clay vessels with drains in the bottom lined up along a water channel.

The doors and window shutters are all carved wood. The walls have been maintained in their original colors, vibrant blue and red-orange.

The doors and window shutters are all carved wood. The walls have been maintained in their original colors, vibrant blue and red-orange.

Frescoes decorated a number of the archways.

Frescoes decorated a number of the archways.

Potted plants were everywhere and the contrast of foliage and flowers against the bright walls was striking (and photogenic).

Potted plants were everywhere and the contrast of foliage and flowers against the bright walls was striking (and photogenic).

Life for the nuns radically changed in 1871 when the Pope sent Sister Josefa Cadena to Santa Catalina. Servants were dismissed, the convent’ wealth was sent to Europe, the nuns no longer were housed in private rooms but in a large dormitory style room, and no longer were large dowries required.

Since Santa Catalina has been continually occupied and maintained, the tour allowed us to imagine just what life might have been like 500 years ago for those privileged women in colonial Peru.

 

August 2016

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A glimpse back at the magic

Most tourists spend only a day or two in Cusco as a transit point before moving on to Machu Picchu. If they travel on to the Sacred Valley, it’s often in a quick day trip. We took our time, and it was magic. Why magic? We saw wonderful things on our travels, but often we don’t understand what we’re seeing. Part of the joy of travel is trying to interpret what we’ve seen and to learn how it all fits into understanding the complexities of the new places we’re in.

We visited the studio of the late Cusco sculptor, Edilberto Mérida, with our cousins, Susie and Tom. His subjects are mostly peasants with large feet and hands. We made our own very small purchase on the visit: a small clay hand.

We visited the studio of the late Cusco sculptor, Edilberto Mérida, with our cousins, Susie and Tom. His subjects are mostly peasants with large feet and hands. We made our own very small purchase on the visit: a small clay hand.

Cusco is an old city, and when you walk it, it’s easy to discover old byways that haven’t changed in centuries.

Cusco is an old city, and when you walk it, it’s easy to discover old byways that haven’t changed in centuries.

We’ve now seen many processions and parades and rarely know what they are celebrating. They’re always grand and worthy of trying to get our best photographs.

We’ve now seen many processions and parades and rarely know what they are celebrating. They’re always grand and worthy of trying to get our best photographs.

On our drive through the Sacred Valley, we passed a small town with several “fast food” stops for their signature dish, cuy (guinea pig). We didn’t stop to eat, but loved their statue.

On our drive through the Sacred Valley, we passed a small town with several “fast food” stops for their signature dish, cuy (guinea pig). We didn’t stop to eat, but loved their statue.

There’s never a shortage of architectural details to photograph. At the end of a long hike we walked by a house right on the road and admired the simple exterior.

There’s never a shortage of architectural details to photograph. At the end of a long hike we walked by a house right on the road and admired the simple exterior.

Maybe you can help with an explanation for why we would see a shell, that looked to us like a sea shell, on a rock at almost 11,000’ elevation, far from any body of water? We can only guess that it must be a snail’s shell.

Maybe you can help with an explanation for why we would see a shell, that looked to us like a sea shell, on a rock at almost 11,000’ elevation, far from any body of water? We can only guess that it must be a snail’s shell.

There was a visual richness in Cusco and the Sacred Valley. Everywhere we turned we wanted to take a photograph and try to understand what we were seeing. This is why we travel.

 

 

August 2016

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Sunday afternoon at the Plaza de Armas in Cusco

Wondering where to go on a Sunday afternoon in Cusco, Peru? The old, historic capital city of the Inca Empire has several plazas in the city center. We strolled into the Plaza de Armas and were lucky to get seats on one of the many benches lining the wide walkways.

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On weekdays Plaza de Armas fills with tourists. On Sundays, local kids come with their parents.

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The city dogs of Cusco hang out in the plaza, too, but usually lounge on the grass.

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Some kids looked like little tourists, with jaunty hats and micro backpacks.

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We only got a brief look at some as they raced past us.

No one was having more fun than this tyke riding his shiny red car.

No one was having more fun than this tyke riding his shiny red car.

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Where were the tourists? Most were gathered around the raised fountain at the center of the square. Atop the fountain stands a controversial, gold-painted statue of an Incan. The statue, installed in 2011, has the city and government divided over what should be the statue in a colonial plaza in a UNESCO World Heritage Site. We were amused when we discovered that the original statue was a North American Indian with bow and arrow.

Children and their parents made their way slowly through the Plaza de Armas, out for a Sunday stroll. Tourists gathered around the Fountain, most with cameras in hand. The real surprise came when we left the Plaza de Armas and strolled over to Plaza de San Francisco, a few blocks to the west. That Plaza was filled with local people, entertainment, and food stands. Not a tourist was in sight.

All seemed happy in their chosen spaces. So, if you find yourself in Cusco on a Sunday afternoon, you can choose where to go.

 

August 2016

 

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