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Art, Nature, and Religion in the Central Andes

Themes and Variations from Prehistory to the Present

By Mary Strong

Publication Year: 2012

Taking a new approach to traditional Andean art that links prehistory with the present, this book illustrates the ongoing legacy of the past in contemporary art and the importance of art not only as a way of expressing religious ideas rooted in nature, but also as a means of resisting discrimination and oppression.

Published by: University of Texas Press

Series: Joe R. and Teresa Lozano Long Series in Latin American and Latino Art and Culture

Title Page, Copyright, Dedication

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pp. vii-viii

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pp. ix-x

The writer would not have been able to take on the task of producing this book were it not for Theresa J. May, editor–in–chief of the University of Texas Press. Her constant positive support and practical help as well as that of her very capable staff made this project come to pass in concrete form. ...

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pp. 1-14

This volume is a broad look at the cultures of the Andes and their arts. Readers will find an introduction to the subject here that will encourage further exploration of these fascinating and beautiful traditions. Following is a general ethnohistory of symbolic meaning in a selection of Peruvian religious art motifs relating to the natural world. ...

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Part I. Themes

Themes are ideas embodied in art that took shape, probably, at an early time in regional Andean cultural development. The local natural environment combined with religious conceptions of space and time inspired these themes in art. The themes were taken up and elaborated upon by civilizations that built cities and colonized other regions. ...

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Chapter 1. Pre-Columbian Andeans

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pp. 17-58

Pre-Columbian Andeans include all Indigenous peoples who lived in the region before the coming of the Europeans in the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries. This chapter concentrates on some of the later cultures, notably those of peoples who built cities and established empires or had panregional influence ...

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Chapter 2. Andean Thinking

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pp. 59-94

This chapter presents some aspects of the way Andeans think by using their own art or approximations of the images in their minds with regard to nature and religion. For this reason, attention to the illustrations is just as important as the verbal text in this chapter. ...

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Part II. Variations

Variations on a theme in music or in visual art imply that continuity of thematic elements coexist with changes simultaneously through time and space. Listeners and viewers recognize references to the themes within the variations because the variations contain partial repetitions of the themes. ...

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Chapter 3. The Spanish Colonial Period

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pp. 97-129

The Incas interpreted the coming of the Spaniards as a pachacuti, or inversion of the universe. Pachacutis, as described previously, occur cyclically in the Andean concept of time. The Incas reacted to the Spanish colonization with the idea that if they became more strictly exacting about religious observance, the world would once more put itself right ...

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Chapter 4. Globalization Today

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pp. 130-162

The second great variation this book considers is that of the modern period from the mid-twentieth century to the first decade of the twenty-first century. This was a time of profound change among Andeans. Peru shifted from being a primarily rural to an urbanizing country. Most rural-to- urban migrants have Indigenous cultural background. ...

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Part III. Andean Arts Today

Part I and Part II of this volume provide prehistorical and historical background for Part III, about contemporary Andean arts with an emphasis on artists now living in or originally from the Huamanga region in the department of Ayacucho of the Central Andes of Peru. ...

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Chapter 5. The Scissors Dance (La Danza de las Tijeras)

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pp. 165-194

The scissors dance (danza de las tijeras) is one of a number of ritual dance theaters performed in the Andes today in honor of local communities’ patron saints. Traditionally, elaborately costumed group dancing was the highest form of prayer to the divinities in Andean tradition. ...

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Chapter 6. Home Altars (Retablos)

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pp. 195-218

Retablos are small, portable altars that have the shape of a box with doors that can be tied in a closed position. Inside are one or more shelves replete with small figures of people and animals, some sacred and some profane, as well as painted background scenery. The box is a miniature of a large altarpiece and the two doors plus shelf or shelves ...

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Chapter 7. Carved Gourds (Mates)

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pp. 219-241

Dried and decorated gourds called mates appear everywhere in Peruvian craft markets. The word mate comes from the Quechua mati, meaning gourd. Mate is also a term referring to certain kinds of herbal tea that were traditionally prepared and drunk from gourds in some areas of Latin America. ...

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Chapter 8. Ceramics (Cerámica)

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pp. 242-262

Ceramic arts are a complex tradition in the Andes. For this reason, the chapter concentrates on one type of object, a jar in the shape of an animal; this evolved over time and developed regional variations. Inca and pre-Inca civilizations are famous for the great quality and variety of ceramic ware that they created. ...

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Chapter 9. Painted Boards (Tablas de Sarhua)

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pp. 263-278

Painted boards, or tablas, were traditionally long planks divided by painted lines into rectangular sections containing typical designs and scenes. Each section featured painted portraits of the homeowners’ families and friends as well as images of religious symbols. The long plank shape was meant to fit on the ceiling of a family home under the main roof beam. ...

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Chapter 10. Weavings (Textiles)

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pp. 279-304

Weavings, and to a slightly lesser degree ceramics, constitute the most highly prized of the Andean arts. Art historians and archeologists have produced an enormous and detailed literature that presents Andean textiles in their great beauty and variety. These fine works rank with the best in the world. ...

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Chapter 11. Tinware (Hojalatería) and Huamanga Stone Carving (Piedra de Huamanga)

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pp. 305-322

Hojalatería, or tinware, and piedra de Huamanga, or alabaster carving, are two arts of Ayacucho that are in danger of disappearing despite their great beauty and venerable history in Andean arts traditions. These two contemporary arts represent the complex legacies of metalworking and stoneworking in the Andean past. ...

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pp. 323-329

This book is about how Andean people of the past and present create meaning in their lives and assert their self-worth using images and forms as communicative media. The specific natural forms, living beings, and processes taking place in their life-sustaining and sacred mountain environment provide the raw materials for art motifs. ...


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pp. 330-342


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pp. 343-356

E-ISBN-13: 9780292735729
E-ISBN-10: 0292735723
Print-ISBN-13: 9780292735712
Print-ISBN-10: 0292735715

Page Count: 368
Illustrations: 92 b&w illustrations
Publication Year: 2012

Series Title: Joe R. and Teresa Lozano Long Series in Latin American and Latino Art and Culture

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Subject Headings

  • Indian art -- Andes Region.
  • Indians of South America -- Andes Region -- Religion.
  • Indians of South America -- Andes Region -- History
  • Indians of South America -- Andes Region -- Social life and customs.
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