Friday, June 7, 2013


Vicus owl pot

I have always been drawn to the art of ancient cultures especially their jewelry and their pottery. In Northern Peru their works are less known but not any less beautiful.

VICUS peoples (400BC-600AD) were known for their work in ceramics, copper, and gold. Living mainly on the coastal deserts, they used the native clay and local dyes to produce natural and religious symbols; modern day pottery from the town of Chulucanas is said to closely resemble the ancient art. They created Double spout and bridge vessels that created whistling sounds when pouring liquids.

MOCHE potters (100-800AD) produced a great variety of exquisitely decorated vessels. The ceramics incorporated a wide-ranging subject matter, whether the actual form of the pot or the fine line paintings on them, of representations that included people, animals, and gods hunting and making war, music making, visiting rulers, burying the dead, curing the sick, anthropomorphic and ritual scenes. Moche ceramics illustrated all manner of behavior, both human and divine, through expressive modeling and painting, but there were certain reoccurring narrative themes throughout that defined their ideologies.

Moche pottery- note various themes

Pottery representing actual people in Moche ceramics is one of the best known art forms from the Andes.The pieces are very realistic, representing specific individuals, most likely that of important people or rulers.These portrait jars depict weaknesses and physical disabilities accurately; a wide variety depicts disfigured individuals and individuals with genetic defects, giving archeologists an insight into this ancient culture. For these ancients, the processes that created disfigurements were treated with respect and the people they affected were considered part of the normal human condition.

CHIMU (900-1470) ceramics are all black. This culture  is also known for its exquisite and intricate metal-working, one of the most advanced of pre-Columbian times.  Chimú ceramics were crafted for two functions: containers for daily domestic use and those made for ceremonial use for offerings at burials. Domestic pottery was developed without higher finishing, while funeral ceramics showed more aesthetic refinement.

Chimu llama head pot
The main features of Chimú ceramics were small sculptures, and manufacturing molded and shaped pottery for ceremonial or daily use. Ceramics were usually stained black, although there are some variations. Lighter ceramics were also produced in smaller quantities. The characteristic brightness was obtained by rubbing with a rock that previously had been polished. Many animals, fruits, characters, and mystical entities have been represented pictorially on Chimú ceramics.

When I was last in Piura, an old woman whose family I knew well, showed me about six pieces  that her husband has collected- legally or illeglly, I do not know. She later offered me one, which I took, knowing I would never get it out of the country.  I gave it to her daughter to keep for her children, as it is part of their heritage, not mine.

Inca ceremonial vessel
 INCA (1438-1533) ceramics were painted using the polychrome technique portraying numerous motifs including animals, birds, waves, felines (which were popular in the Chavin culture) and geometric patterns found in the Nazca style of ceramics. Without a written language, ceramics portrayed the very basic scenes of everyday life, relationships and scenes of tribal warfare. It is through these preserved ceramics that we know what life was like for the ancient South Americans.

THE POTTERS OF CHULUCANAS - The town of Chulucanas is famous for its pottery. Originally dating from pre-Inca times it is today exported all over the world. The potters of the Vicus culture in the coastal deserts of Peru were known throughout the land as the finest ceramic artists. Using the clay beneath their feet, the natural symbols around them and a strong religious inspiration to guide them, they fashioned elegantly shaped, subtly painted ceramic pots. Designs are varied, but are predominated by black and white. There are several bigger companies but a lot of small manufactures are in Chulucanas itself and in the nearby villages of Quatro Esquinas.

Studio of  Maneno- polishing my purchases
Chulucanas is the home of Maneno. He was born, raise and still living in this town. In this town of artisans, Maneno decided to be a ceramist at the age of thirteen. He learned from his uncle Polo Ramirez, a great ceramist.  When I was last in Piura, we made a trip to this desert town, in evening (due to the heat of day), to visit Maneno and buy some of his wares. It was an amazing experience.

Victor Manuel Juarez is a young artist in search for his own style..." That is what the art critics say about Maneno, but he says he is neither young nor looking for a new style. He is believed to be one with his ancestors that have been making pottery for thousands of years. He is called LLINQA RIMACHIQ "The one that makes the clay speak".

His work reflects the waves, the wind, the mountains and the melted snow. His style is the same used by old communities of Simbala, Chulucanas and Vicus. Maneno has represented Chulucanas all over the world in many occasions.

One of the kilns at Maneno's
Mother & Child & bird with llama from Maneno  (OLR Christmas card)

1 comment:

  1. The Back to Ancestry Ceramic revival in Chulucanas began in 1967 among the sons of migrated-in traitional rock& paddle vessel building-horizontal hand turning 3,000 yr old hereditary method.
    Gloria Joyce(USA Peru 1962-1981 launched them.
    in 1977 ten years later potter Gerasimo Sosa Alache 91953- )AMAUTA 2000 re-discovered the 600BC VICUS(Chulucanas) semi reduction smoke resist called NEGATIVE decoration.He made history and taught locals like Maneno's uncle Polo in 1981
    Later Ngo's and Peru govt went in 2002 and introduced potter's Wheels and kilns thusly ruining her effort as she had left to USA after 20 years in 1981.
    These wares for export went world wide until the economic downturn of 2008.They were put into many box stores in 1 world countries.
    Now they struggle there after 2017 EL NINO flooding of their homes.