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Myriad reflections

Trisha Bhattacharya, April 28, 2013 18:52 IST
art on pots Exquisite pottery from Peru.

Pottery from different parts of the world brings to collectors and admirers a reflection of the culture in which such pieces of art develop, and are nurtured. The ancient civilisations of Peru contribute much to the intriguing history of this country.

Although these cultures and civilisations no longer exist now, certain remnants of their lifestyle, beliefs and practices are proof of their once-upon-a-time existence, in the form of vessels, jars, containers and other ceramic ware.

We discuss some of the influential ones here; where the intricate art of pottery shape some cultural aspects of the region, and vice-versa, and represent facets of its erstwhile civilisations, and how the awning of the thought patterns and creative styles of its rulers still strongly tinge the pottery of Peru today.

The Incas ruled Peru for years, and during their reign, pottery flourished, in the shape of animals and other geometric forms. Huacos, part of Inca pottery, were used primarily as ceremonial wares, which were filled with food and water, and placed in burial grounds, to follow the departed ones into afterlife. These Huacos are still found in some temples and excavation sites in the region. Inca pottery was also used for utilitarian purposes. Once the Spanish conquerors took over the rule of Peru (a story worth knowing in itself) from the Incas, the prime use of Huacos stopped, and they found replacement in the utilitarian category.

Faces on pots

Another striking, eye-catching and intriguing form of Peruvian pottery was those developed by the Moche community, or the Mochica, from before the time of the Incas.

Dramatic human faces, those of animals, and versions of warriors and healers were all part of their form of pottery. The reasons for mass producing pottery emerged from Moche community’s need to circulate theories and teachings of higher hierarchies to the rest of Peru.

Important pieces like the snarling ferocious cat, or almost-about-to-speak human faces, in addition to those depicting deformed individuals, albeit without any signs of melancholy, and the natural intimate poses of procreation, in pottery, all had some significant use and an idea to perpetuate.

The Incas employed restrained and simplistic designs in their pottery, unlike the Moche and the Nazcas who were more flamboyant with their molds from which pieces of pottery emerged in numbers.

Nazca pottery was essentially painting-oriented, stylised with intricate but clear designs, and the involvement of a variety of vivid colours, the use of important technical styles of painting, and other distinct methods of pottery making.

Chimu, on the other hand, resorted to using molds, like the Moche, to create pottery, and employed simple painting on black pottery, which sometimes carried a final glazed silver sheen. The ferocious cat artefact is one common highlight between Chimu and Moche pottery. The monkey stirrup-spout vessel is also part of Chimu pottery. Huari’s, like the Moche, had elements of realism in their ware.

Between Chulucanas and Ayacucho pottery, the first one is focused more on a particular subject like doll-like figurines in dresses (making use of black, brown and other colours), whereas Ayacucho pottery is all-encompassing, portraying the lifestyle of the community, and their beliefs and practises of religion.

Puno pottery is most famous for the ceramic bull. Cuzco pottery includes crockery and other figurines.

Early dwellers like the Chavins believed in animal gods like the Jaguar and Puma, hence they portrayed their deities in pottery, in addition to other phantasmal creatures, in muted colours. The Paracas pottery contains influences from the Chavin and Nazca cultures and pottery-style. Shipibo pottery is made by the Shipibo Indians who live by the Amazon basin in Peru; they create their masterpieces in the form of striated jars and other vessels, taken as inspirations from nature.

Peruvian pottery is wide-ranged and expensive. There are originals and replicas in the market; so, one should purchase these with care. This beautiful array of pottery, with its specific nuances in style, patterns, colourings and themes of creation give one not only an idea of the artistic influences of Peru, but in a way open gateways to the rich and diverse cultures of the Andes, and in turn launch other interesting paths of cultural explorations and discoveries.

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