Machu Picchu, two words where a dream gallops. The image of a citadel perched so high that it touches the sky and the gods, so well built that it is one with the mountain, so far away that it was forgotten for centuries until it was rediscovered in 1911. Two words so strong that they immediately conjure up our minds the ghost of the Inca and his golden but fallen empire. So fascinating that the designers of “Machu Picchu and the treasures of Peru” could not do anything other than ensure them a privileged place in the title of their exhibition that is installed in Paris at the Cité de l’architecture et du patrimoine, after a first stage in Boca Raton (Florida).
In these societies without writing, the form and the image are the receptacles of an entire mythology
However, while Machu Picchu is inseparable from the Incas, they are poorly represented in the exhibition, which focuses more on painting a portrait of the Andean civilization as a whole, the only one of the six great civilizations that the day saw in the south. hemisphere. As Andrés Álvarez Calderón, president of the Larco Museum in Lima, which lent most of the exhibits, pointed out, “The Incas are only the last two hundred years of a multi-thousand-year-old civilization.”
Therefore, we must familiarize ourselves with less famous companies, Chavín, Nazca, Mochica, Huari, Chimú, to which we must add a series of even less well-known names: Vicus, Cupisnique, Salinar, Tiahuanaco, Lambayeque, Chachapoyas and others. This profusion could lead one to believe in a great cultural heterogeneity, but this is not the case: despite the great extension, both temporal and geographical, the diversity of the environments in which these peoples inhabited (Pacific coasts, Andean valleys, highlands, Amazon jungle ), great are the permanence and coherence of its symbolic universe. As summed up by the co-curator of the exhibition, Carole Fraresso, a specialist in pre-Columbian goldsmithing and a researcher associated with the Larco museum, the objective is to offer visitors “The keys to understanding how the world was perceived” by the different ancient cultures of Peru.
The works presented are often impressive, sometimes sublimely beautiful. But that should not hide the message they convey. Because, in these societies without writing, the form and the image are the receptacles of an entire mythology and, furthermore, of what the exhibition calls a “worldview”, a symbolic representation of the Universe and the forces that animate it. Therefore, we must learn to read these objects that, in addition to their ceremonial function, also served as communication tools.
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