Cusco, Peru: Day 6

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An serpent on one for the Moche vases. The serpents pops up again and again across Peruvian art.

In all my life I have never seen objects that disturbed my heart in such a way… Because I perceived among them marvellous works of art and was astonished by the subtle talent of these men from such far away lands. – Albrecht Dürer

It speaks highly of ancient Peruvian art to see such words from one of Europe’s greatest artists referring to them. Dürer was only one of many captivated by the works of the peoples of South America, and today it was our turn to be gripped. This time it was at the Museum of Pre-Colombian Art which proved to house some magnificent pieces. But first a rant

Stop reading here to skip rant, normal service resumes at the next bolded sentence.

Now Peru is a poor country by European standards, yes, and needs to earn as much from tourist visits as possible, but in Cusco this has almost gone too far. The price for this museum for example was s/ 20 per person which becomes a very chunky entrance fee for two people to a fairly small museum. This pattern is repeated across the town with entry from anything from s/ 10-70 per person.

There is a combination ticket, but at s/ 130 per person to enter lots of ancient sites and museums you are forced to pay for something you are very unlikely to fully utilise. The reason for this is simple: the sites on the tickets are not priced with visiting each place individually in mind. One museum we went to had s/ 70 as an entrance fee… or you could by the ticket! It’s a false choice, and not one which comes off well.

Now whilst I respect the need to make the local economy work for local people, the more you charge tourists the less of them are likely to pay. To buy two Tourist Passes doesn’t feel so much like a deal as an imposition designed to extract every last bit of cash possible. In summary, you feel ripped off.

Frankly, the best course of action would be to keep the Tourist Pass but at the same time lower individual entrance fees. I only want to see 3 of the things on the ticket, if they were s/ 2o each I would go, but sadly instead I will be visiting the more reasonably priced and free things because I can’t justify spending $100 for a lot of sites the two of us won’t go to.

Rant over: here’s why you should go and see the Museum.

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I couldn’t take my eyes off this Moche duck beaker. It looks like something you could buy in one of the tourist stores around town today.

The gold and silver items (which I’ll be posting on Instagram) were in the first room I wandered into in this unusual museum. Exquisitely crafted by the Inca some of these pieces were beautifully delicate and showed a really fine eye for crafting animal figures.

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Big fan of these chilli bowls. It’s easy to forget that Indian, Thai and other cuisines didn’t have chillies, tomatoes or potatoes until after the Colombian Exchange.

Undoubtedly though, the pottery is the star of the show. Many of the pieces in the museum are painted extremely vividly, and look like they could have been painted yesterday. The collection spans a time period from 3000 years ago, up to 1500CE.

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Having seen the Nazca lines around 10 days ago, it was very powerful to see their artwork looking almost freshly painted today.

What made much of the work so striking was it’s simplicity. The bold colours and broad brush strokes showed a people confident to show their inner thoughts and spirituality to the world, and represent themselves in their work.

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These Inca ceramics designed to look like sea-shells were especially stunning. The shaping and paint work was clearly pain-staking. Beautiful.

Over all, this museum is certainly worth a visit. Whilst the gold and silver is interesting (if not incredible) the pottery is superb. Time and again as I moved from one culture to another I could see the parallels which flow through these works. The animals who appear time and again, the staring eyes with bright whites.

It all makes a very arresting display. Check it out next time you are in Cusco!

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