Pre-Colombian Art: Were they, In Fact, Having a Laugh?

Andean America, before Christopher Colombus ‘sailed the ocean blue’ was host to a wide variety of peoples with distinctive religious beliefs, cultures and artistic traditions. The history of these peoples is indescribably rich, endlessly fascinating and completely beyond the scope of this post.

What I plan to focus on today is the prominent goofiness of several important pieces of Andean art. While it might be tempting to say, ‘One person’s goofiness is another person’s sacred offering,’ I would reply, ‘Get real, let’s call a spade a spade.’ Not-with-standing all the llamas and child sacrifice, these people weren’t all that different from us. They chewed their quinoa before swallowing; they knew the difference between hot and cold; and sometimes, of an evening, they liked to giggle at pottery. Why not? The nights were frosty. If the mosquitos didn’t get you, the pumas would. Life was sufficiently grim already without boring old plates.

Only having become acquainted with this artwork three days ago, I admit I am no expert. However, I do have eyes, and I say the following ten exhibits argue that potters were partaking of silly sauce in the kiln come Saturday night.

 

10 Potato People

https___blogs-images.forbes.com_kristinakillgrove_files_2018_11_MochePotatoCeramics
Two examples of potato-shaped ceramics from the Moche culture of Peru. L: Anthropomorphic potato vessel from 400 AD in the Larco Museum, Peru. R: Potato shaped vessel from the Larco Museum, Peru. L: Larco Museum / Wikimedia Commons / CC BY SA 3.0. R: Pattych / Wikimedia Commons / CC BY SA 3.0

 

No one likes potatoes more than I do and, yes, I do appreciate that a lot of people relied on them to keep from starving. That said, the idea of potato sculpture is just inherently funny. Who knows, if the Moche had been hired to do Venus de Milo perhaps we’d all have more realistic standards of beauty.

 

9 The Winsome Tortoise

 

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
Viru ceramic bottle. North coast of Peru (1,250BCE – 1AD)

We can all sympathize with its sad, confused expression. “What am I doing on this vase?” it is wondering.

 

8 Belly Fisherman

 

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
Knife in the Machu Picchu museum

Well, more cute than whimsical: a fisherman in a turban tries to pull up a fish with a twisted line.

 

7 The Done-For Deer

 

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
Moche (1-700AD)

A deer is done up like a prisoner of war. I don’t completely get it but pretty sure it was a thigh-slapper

 

6 Zany Werewolf

 

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

“Aroo! The moon is my treadmill!”

 

5 Wide-Eyed Nostril Man

 

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

 

4 Suspicious Llama Handle

 

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

This llama is not taking any guff.

 

3 Sweet lil Smiley

 

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Hurro!

 

2 Little-Handed Whistley Man

 

P1014959.jpg

Whistling a happy tune.

 

1 Scowling Head Bowls

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
Nasca ceramic bowls. South coast Peru (1AD-800AD)

 

When you look past some of the grislier aspects of these bowls, such as the thorn-pierced lips, they seem wonderfully cartoonish. Apparently the Nasca buried these sorts of bowls in the ground as if they were seeds since the head symbolized the regeneration of life.

There you have it. Goofy or not goofy? I ask you.

 

imagesFFRSDR2L

 

1 thought on “Pre-Colombian Art: Were they, In Fact, Having a Laugh?”

Leave a Reply