In its spectacle and ritual the Carnival procession in Oururo bears an intriguing resemblance to the description given by Inca Garcilaso de la Vega of the great Inca festival of Inti Raymi, dedicated to the Sun. Even if Oururo’s festival did not develop directly from that of the Inca, the 16th-century text offers a perspective from the Andean tradition:
“The curacas (high dignitaries) came to their ceremony in their finest array, with garments and head-dresses richly ornamented with gold and silver.
Others, who claimed to descend from a lion, appeared, like Hercules himself, wearing the skin of this animal, including its head.
Others, still, came dressed as one imagines angels with the great wings of the bird called condor, which they considered to be their original ancestor. This bird is black and white in color, so large that the span of its wing can attain 14 or 15 feet, and so strong that many a Spaniard met death in contest with it.
Others wore masks that gave them the most horrible faces imaginable, and these were he Yuncas (people from the tropics), who came to the feast with the heads and gestures of madmen or idiots. To complete the picture, they carried appropriate instruments such as out-of-tune flutes and drums, with which they accompanied the antics.
Other curacas in the region came as well decorated or made up to symbolize their armorial bearings. Each nation presented its weapons: bows and arrows, lances, darts, slings, maces and hatchets, both short and long, depending upon whether they used them with one hand or two.
They also carried paintings, representing feats they had accomplished in the service of the Sun and of the Inca, and a whole retinue of musicians played on the timpani and trumpets they had brought with them. In other words, it may be said that each nation came to the feast with everything that could serve to enhance its renown and distinction, and if possible, its precedence over the others.”
El Carnaval de Oruro by Manuel Vargas in Mascaras de los Andes Bolivianos, Editorial Quipus and Banco Mercantil
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A: Today is a day off to let my fingers heal. When I start a new painting, I need to rub my fingers against raw sandpaper in order to blend the pastel. With each layer the tooth of the paper gets filled up and becomes smooth, but until then my fingers suffer. Here is what I’ve been working on.
This pastel-on-sandpaper painting is an experiment, an attempt to push myself to work with bigger and bolder imagery. The photograph clipped to the easel is one of my favorites. It depicts a Judas that Bryan and I found in a dusty shop in Oaxaca. Among the Mexican and Guatemalan folk art pieces that I’ve collected are five papier mâché Judases. This particular one is unusual because it has a cat’s head attached at the forehead (the purple shape in the painting). They are not made to last. In some Mexican towns large Judases are hung from church steeples, loaded with fireworks, and burned in effigy. This takes place at 10:00 a.m. on the Saturday morning before Easter. Mexico is primarily a Catholic nation, of course, so effigy burning is done as symbolic revenge against Judas for his betrayal of Christ. The Judas in the photo is small and meant for private burning by a family (rather than in public at a church) so by bringing it back to New York I rescued it from a fire-y death! In sympathy with Mexican tradition, I began this painting last Saturday (the day before Easter) at 10 a.m.
Comments are welcome!