Posted on 07/03/2018 at 11:00am

My recent trip to Peru was enlightening in so many ways. My innate fear of such a remote area
of the world was indeed overcome. Could intense sunlight and inherited DNA be what makes these Andean people have such a talent with color? Their abilities are everywhere, even in the poorest villages. Colorful fabrics woven on primitive looms by native women sitting outdoors on the ground and working throughout the highlands expressed so much beauty in such an arid, high desert environment. Skills of intricate designs in weaving by using natural dyes and yarns have been passed down for centuries at this extreme elevation of 12,000 ft.

 

 

The children wear their mother’s colorful handiwork. Woven one-of-kind hats with colorful pompoms attached, bright ponchos, leggings, and sweaters, that are mostly made from the wool of the Alpaca an animal that also makes this high desert their home. They can also sometimes be seen wearing special hats and sweaters made just for them.

When death comes, local people wrap their loved ones for burial in their finest cloth, the culmination of a life of connection with textiles. From an infant’s first breath to her last, beautiful textiles provide not only warmth, love and consolation but also a tangible sacred knowledge that they connect to a strong tradition of proud people stretching back for centuries.

 

 

 

In the smallest villages, round beautiful faces smile easily, and the women wear a variety of strange hats, some tall, some rather flat but highly decorated, and all were very different. I wondered if wearing them was dependent upon the village or life status, Many of the indigenous Andean women wear a very thick layer of skirts, up to 10 at a time. I was told that when the one underneath gets dirty, she removes and cleans it, and puts it on top of the others. They simply squat to urinate, no need looking for a bathroom. I was amazed when native women told me that when babies are born in her village in the Highlands of Peru, they are not allowed to see the sun for the first 5 months of life. She asked me if I would like to see her baby, and she untied the knot at her neck and nestled inside at the bottom of the colorful wrap on her back was her comfortable sleeping infant. She told me the child was almost 5 months old and will be allowed to be exposed to the sunlight in another week or so. The sunlight in the highlands is unbelievably bright. There is very little shade, and although it was the beginning of their winter when we were there, the sun was very hot during the day but the air was low humidity, comfortable and cool, it would warm to about 60 degrees, and at night the temperature was in the 30’s.

The city of Cusco is a bustling village steeped in history that goes back further than the Inca and sadly polluted with old buses spewing toxic gases as they roar up and down the steep, remote mountainous area in this city of about 500,000 residents. Religion is an emotional, deeply sacred thing to them. Although they are Catholic they still hold ancient pagan-like manifestations with idols and rituals from times long before the Spanish arrived. Arriving during one of their most important festivals, I watched as parades of bands, and many types of floats with towering, very heavy decorated religious manikins and dressed-up statues were carried through the streets by rows of men in colorful dress shirts, swaying back in forth in a dancing motion and sweating profusely as they walked in unison for hours around the plaza.

Painting in the highlands was a challenge but I managed to paint two Plein air

“Plein Cusco” Oil on Linen 10″x10″

paintings while there. One day when most of the streets were closed for the festival, I unfolded my stool on a street where not too many people were walking and set up to do a painting. I worked quickly, as I always do, trying to ignore the crowd that began to form around me. It was the most people I have ever had surrounding me while I worked. I glanced around once or twice to smile at them and they would smile wide and nod affirmatively, most of them staying to watch me the entire time I painted. Their kind encouragement kept me going and gave me an incredible rush of excitement.

 

Another plein air painting was completed on the street from the entrance to the hotel I was staying. A native woman was setting up her daily meal to be served to passerby’s in a doorway on a busy Cusco street. I was amazed when a crowd soon formed to purchase and eat her meal while standing near her. Within an hour, her food buckets were empty and she was done for the day. I was lucky to capture her. A moment in time, in a changing world.

 

“Everyday Plein Cusco” Oil on Linen 10″x10″

 

 

3 Comments

  1. DAWN M BUNETTA says:

    Sharon, I ‘m so happy that you had such a great experience in Peru. As you know I traveled there in 2011 and was amazed at such beauty and environment. Your paintings are always spot on. Thanks for sharing. DB.

  2. Bruce & Alice Mitchell says:

    I enjoy your Writings From The Road and the connections to your art .


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