Preservation of Culture and Rituals

By: Ernesto Apomayta

My artistic endeavor have led me towards a personal sense of mission, because the visual arts are more than a passive representation of the life style and culture of the Incas, Aztecs, Mayas and Chinese of the Asian-pacific.

Through my work, I seek to preserve and stimulate an alternative vision to the modern industrialized twenty-first Century. Western culture has moved away from the serene life style that my ancestors lived. It is more important to recognize that we indigenous hold on to a distinct culture with other values other ways of seeking the world.

I am forty-nine years old and was born in the Peruvian altiplano of Puno. The traditional indigenous highlands of the Andean Mountain are portrayed in my art. My parents had been driven there from their home near the ancient Andean ruins of the Incas. This was the result of their families disapproved of their relationship. I returned my home village at the age of seven and since then I have committed my art to indigenous roots, my art expresses my indigenous roots and Asian influences.

My mother has always said that in our culture, we use choose to use strong colors to appease the spirits so that they are happy and will not bring about darkness. It was not expected for the son of an Andean Mountain family to attend in fine arts school, because it is very expensive.

I began to paint at the age of seven and at seventeen studied fine arts in Peru. Afterwards I went to France, China and Mexico. I am presently studying in Salt Lake City and I am also painting full time. Through my formal training, I have been able to explore more than one theme. These themes are within Peruvian, Chinese and Mexican cultures.

In Peru, it is not common for Peruvian artist to step out of the European style taught to them in college.

I choose to emphasize in Incan, Aztecs and Mayan organic cultures of our ancestors. Rather than naming old masters and legends as my inspiration, style, and subjects I choose to name my mother as my true inspiration.

My mother Ceferina has lived a tranquil life until now. I pay direct tribute to women such as my mother. She gave me tenderness care, dedication and guidance to pursue my career.

I paint Mother Nature as the Creator of All Cultures. His is a tribute to Incan Indian women because they often work harder than men.

Most of them spend all day working in the fields with three to five children to care for, and often carrying one of them on their backs.

They are willing to fight for a better life. I render an emotional tone of every rhythm of the Andean life through my vibrant use of color. I also use bright and radiant

Combinations of reds, turquoises, purples, and oranges characterize the textiles and ceramics of the Peruvian Andean Mountain.

I use many colors of the Andean Mountains. When I asked my mother why the Andean Mountains have such vivid colors, she once again replied that it is to appease the spirits so that they will be happy and will not bring forth darkness. I employ simple swirling patterns to transmit a sense of the peace and harmony that radiates from the Incan Indian close interrelation to the land. It is this sense of the sacredness in nature that comes from deep within my works. I think art is the “mother earth." Since in Peru, there are few artists who step out of the European style; there is no a vision of our own way of seeing things. It is the same with mother earth. In expressing this relationship with the land, my paintings have a profound ecological message. In Incan Indian culture, there is always a close relationship between man and his environment. There is a connection with the ecosystem in the Incan Indian world. The people are dependent on it for their very existence. !

For this reason we give thanks to the mother earth.

There are repeated historical themes in my work related to festivals. My paintings represent festivals of the countryside that originated before the arrival of the Spanish conquistadors. One painting depicts a traditional Andean ritual known as the festival of blood, in which a condor is attached to the neck of a bull. The condor pecks at the bull’s head until the bull dies. The image from this ritual is very strong. The condor represents the people of the Andes and the bull represents Spain.

This festival signifies the recovery of the Andean dignity and religious imagery. The imposition of Christianity in the Incan world was never completed. Indigenous cultures of Peru have mixed their beliefs and practices with the icons and lithography of the Catholic Church. I blend indigenous and European religious symbols to show this cultural mixture, also know as mestizo.

Another strong Incan ritual still strongly practiced is to give offerings to mother earth. A type of drink is thrown to all four corner of a room before an event or before eating and drinking. This ritual is done to give thanks to the fruits of the earth that mother earth provides that we may live.

For example, the square cross was a sacred symbol for the indigenous people across the Americas before the arrival of the Spanish. The cross was found in Machu-Picchu, in the ancient civilization of the Incas as well as in the ceramics of the North American Indians and is considered part of a cultural Christ. I see synchronicity between these religions. There is a blend of pre-post Colombian religious symbols to create Andean Virgins, Christ’s and Arch Angels. I am returning them to a more indigenous theme, making them Indian with dark skin and traditional symbols such as the moon.

My paintings are driven by a more ambitious goal that represents an Andean Mountain Incan Indian way of being. My work is a defense against the encroachment of Western values, because of a high level of migration of my people into the cities. Tribal people that come to the city do not want to speak the Incan Indian dialects and they forget their traditions and practices since now they rely on movies and television for self expression. My cause is to retain the cultural integrity of my people which I believe is a noble one. Through my work I seek to preserve and stimulate an alternative vision to the modern industrialized twenty first century. Western culture has moved away from the serene life style that my ancestor lived. I am in a rare position to help promote the Andean indigenous cosmic vision of the world.

In Peru, we are 60% indigenous and outsiders are relatively few in our tribal villages. We want to have our culture valued and that my people can feel proud of their cultural differences.

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