Thursday, February 4, 2016

From Pre-Columbian Art to Street Music

3 February 2016

Today's music was provided by a small orchestra of musicians, all of whom looked like students.  The really were very good, and I enjoyed the mini concert.  So did the rest of the bystanders, they gathered a sizable crowd.  

And I found a mote con huisilla vendor who posed for me.  All the mote vendors in our area have the same cart.  I'm not sure if there's a central mote maker, or what.  I may need to go around sampling and see if they taste different.  (Mote is the dried peach and honey beverage, served over huisilla, the wheat groats.)

I also encountered a young couple who did the cueca, the national dance of Chile.  I was told that the dance symbolizes a couple flirting as they get to know each other - and this dance definitely did that!  I had trouble getting both dancers in focus, though, they were in constant motion!  Especially the caballero, with his lethal-looking spurs - he's often a bit of a blue, his feet were moving so quickly.

My main focus, though, is going to be the Chilean Museum of Pre-Columbian Art, which was fabulous.  I visited while my camera was in the shop, so I don't have photos, just a few I took when we had lunch in their lovely café during the holiday season.  So if you want to see their collections, check their website:

The photos of my cueca dancing couple will just have to be our visual for today.  (It really was too bad, this museum allows non-flash photos of their exhibits!)

The Museo Chileno de Arte Precolombino states that their mission is to  foster the understanding and appreciation of pre-Hispanic America among the young people of the continent, so that they can see their are all heirs of a common history.  They even extend this to include Meso-America, from Mexico through Central America, and include some of the Caribbean islands.  An ambition mission, but they actually manage to pull it off quite well.

The museum has been in existence for over 30 years, and is housed in the former Royal Customs House, not far from the Plaza de Armas and the Chilean courts.

Their library is a major resource, holding 10,000 books, as many audiovisual files, and thousands of magazines and prints, all focusing on Pre-Columbian archaeology, anthropology, and art.  If you're a scholar in the field, the library is open for loans or research.

The exhibits are arranged so that one permanent exhibit, "Chile Before Chile," is on the underground level.  This exhibit shows art and artefacts from the Pre-Columbian people of the territory now known as Chile.  The first people arrived in Chile over 14,000 years ago, arriving in the southern region.  Presumably they were Polynesian people who made the dangerous crossing of the Pacific (skipping Rapa Nui, Easter Island, which wasn't settled until the 500s CE.)  There were numerous groups of people, and over the centuries they moved, changed, mixed, mingled, and sometimes overpowered each other.  But everything changed once the Spanish arrived in the mid 1500s.

The top floor, or second floor, is dedicated to other Pre-Columbian cultures that were not in the Chilean region:  Mexico, Costa Rica, the Taino of the Caribbean, the Amazon Basin, and the various people of Argentina and Brazil.

The ground floor, the first floor, is where special exhibits are displayed.  There was a wonderful exhibit of funerary textiles and objects from the Pacaras region of Peru, a desert area.  The embroidered fabrics were incredible, absolutely amazing in their detail as well as repetition - but no two repeated motifs were ever rendered exactly the same.  The fabrics were wound around a mummified person who was placed, sitting, in a basket; first plain cotton fabric was wrapped around the mummy, then the embroidered fabrics, sometimes with plain fabric inbetween.  Various objects were included in the wrapped bundle, so that the person would be prepared for either the journey to the afterlife, or the afterlife itself.  This wrapping created a huge conical shape, which was topped by a false head, and then buried in the necropolis.  This cemetery was "discovered" in the 1930s.  Because it was in a desert, the textiles survived.  Plus the ceramic pieces are unbroken, a rare find.  

The other amazing part about the Paracas find is that they date back to about 400 BCE.  While the Egyptians had been mummifying their leaders for centuries by then, mummification in South America actually dates back to 7000 BCE, long before Egypt!!

Some interesting facts:  The Inca conquered northern Chile, and made what is now Santiago their capital in this region.  They ruled all the area north of modern-day Santiago, their southern border being the Maule River.  

The Mapuche people, one of the ancient tribes, has retained more of their Pre-Columbian art and culture than most other groups in Chile.  There are Mapuche markets in various towns, and some of the women wear the traditional skirt and top, covered in the heavy silver jewelry signifying the wealth of the family.  (I saw one woman after I left the museum; she must have been wearing close to 10 lbs, or 5 kilo, of silver around her neck!)

My favorite Mapuche legend:  Earth was created by a conflict between the two giant reptiles who ruled the elements.  Cai Cai ruled the sea, and Tren Tren ruled the earth.  Cai Cai was very displeased that the humans scorned the sea's riches, so he slapped the ocean with his huge tail, causing the water to rise up and cover the coastal lands.  To save the humans, Tren Tren ordered the mountains to rise up so the people could escape the waters.  There were alternating earthquakes and tsunamis, and this created the topography of the earth as we see it today.  (I love creation myths!)

I could go on and on, it was all fascinating.  I spent five hours at this museum, on only the three floors!

They also have a wonderful café in the center courtyard.  Try the salad with grilled shrimp, it was delicious.

And I just found out there's a Botticelli exhibit in town, so I'll try to get to that in the next several days.

Here are two copies of the funerary textiles I was able to lift from the museum's website.  Remember, these are embroidered, not woven!!!  Amazing!


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