Type of paper: Essay

Topic: Peru, Art, Culture, Agriculture, Display, Museum, Sierra Leone, Gold

Pages: 4

Words: 1100

Published: 2021/01/28

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The Metropolitan Museum and its exhibition and interpretation of fine art is arguably among the best in the world (Karp & Lavine 7). The Metropolitan Museum has combined most of the non-Western materials in a single wing named the arts of Africa, Oceania and the Americas. The exhibit is stunning with a wide variety of beautiful and quite large objects. Monumental wooden objects from Africa and New Guinea fill the display space. The museum balances the use of both traditional and modern exhibit forms to present the cultures of societies. Examples include reenactment, period setting, dioramas, photography, audio and video tapes.
In 1882, the Metropolitan Museum acquired its first group of Peruvian antiquities (Young 113). The artifacts display a strong Asian and African influence. There are exquisite and elaborate textiles, pottery and sculptures. Most of the art displayed focused on the religious subjects. The art and artifacts from Peru have an element of eclecticism in them. The have borrowed from European and Amerindian traditions. The art currents that have shaped Peruvian art are both local and foreign. Most of the artifacts are made of gold, silver, stone, wood and mud which were and some are still part of the daily living in Peru. The contemporary woven items are of high quality and display a strong Spanish ancestral heritage. Silver filigree, tapestries, carved gourds, wood carvings, feather works, pottery or ceramics and weaving comprise majority of the display. The presentation of art from Peru shows me the similarities and differences their culture has to my own culture. The museum presents the Peruvian art and artifacts by interpreting the basic needs and values that motivate their customs. The presentation in the museums shows how these art and artifacts were used in celebrations, adornment, daily chores, rites of passage, storytelling, and etcetera. They give the viewer a hint of the Peruvian taboos, wildlife, and means of living: handwork and agricultural activities and rituals.
In Peru there is no official cast system although the population is strongly divided into enforced grouping by race and ethnicity. The racial hierarchy in Peru is a vestige of its colonial past. There are five ethnic groups: Indians, Whites, Blacks, Asians and mestizo communities. The whites are at the highest rung of the racial hierarchy while the rest of the population occupies their positions depending on their skin color and inferred cultural status. For centuries Indians faced ethnical discrimination and genocidal practices. They are considered inferior and backwards and perform the hardest and least paid jobs. They face cultural extinction due to the agricultural production, oil exploration and mining colonizing activities. The black community has also faced racial and cultural discrimination. They reside in the coastal parts and perform domestic and rural work. Class plays an important part in the social structure and aggravates the skewed racial hierarchy in Peru. In Peru, Whites hold the highest positions and have the best schooling. However the class system is more fluid and has allowed for individuals to hold high positions in the arts and politics. For instance, José María Arguedas and César Vallejo are of Indian ancestry and are well recognized writers. Afro-Peruvians are good in athletics and are renowned national sports heroes.
In Peru, the most important symbols of social stratification that infer caste or class are language and dress. Indigenous languages such as Quechua, Aymara and others are spoken by Native Americans. Many Indian communities have maintained some form of traditional dress. In contemporary Peru, knowing English or other foreign languages, new and costly clothing, cars and appliances confers an elite status.
For centuries, Peru has considered Agricultural enterprises more valuable than handwork enterprises. This is due to the many favorable climates and geographical zones. Agricultural exports are highly appreciated and supported by the government. They include mangoes, peppers, grapes, sugarcane, artichokes, organic coffee, avocados and premium-quality cotton. Peru has a productive fishing and mining (gold, copper, silver, zinc and lead) industry. It has a medium developed manufacturing sector. The White and Mestizo elite in society hold prestigious high-level financial positions in political, manufacturing and health sectors. For example they are doctors, engineers, professors and architects. Those in the lowest social status do most of the menial and handwork such as weaving, construction, and domestic work.
The Peruvian society is arguably patriarchal. In most aspects of Peruvian society, men are preferentially treated as possessing the primary power. Male children are preferred over the female children. Men have more freedom and theoretically expected to get married and provide for their families. It is a common social practice in Peru for men to be polygamous. Women are burdened with many family obligations and household chores. However, in many Peruvian households, mothers have to solely provide for their families. Traditionally, women did the weaving and limited agricultural activities while men were involved in farming, road construction and military obligations. However, in contemporary Peru, increased level of education and local and international migration has led to women taking up most the work in the home and society. Women are taking care of family obligations, house hold chores and still working to provide for their families.
The Peruvian symbols of state, position and rank do pervade the art work, art objects and archaeological site in Peru. Peruvian symbols of state include Vicuña (animal), Andean Cock-of-the-Rock (bird), cantata (flower), flag of Peru and coat of arms (central shield that is divided into three sections: the Vicuña, Cinchona trees and cornucopia full of coins). Most art works and objects in the Metropolitan Museum (met) that come from Peru have the Peruvian flags. Examples include Peru, from Flags of All Nations, Series 1 (N9) for Allen & Ginter Cigar. The Deer Vessel on display embodies the Vicuña (animal). The Earflare, Condor has an engraved bird that looks much like the Andean Cock-of-the-Rock.
Peru ranks in fifth position in the world for production of gold. The American Museum of Natural History has a permanent exhibit object in the Harry-Frank Guggenheim hall of minerals and mineral forming environments called gold (#10), which is a placer mineral that was formed in sedimentary environment. Most of the art works and objects from Peru are made of gold, silver and copper. This only goes to show the rank Peru holds in the world of mining. The cornucopia full of coins which represent the mineral prosperity of Peru further illustrates this fact. Jewelry made of gold such as the Nose Ornament with Intertwined Serpents found in met are symbols of position, they are for the elite in society.
The four countries of my choice are Peru, Sierra Leone, Thailand and Tunisia. The Peruvian art reflects the development, culture and history of the people in Peru. The art from Peru reflects their long and rich Spanish history. Archaeological remains like Machu Picchu are the most remarkable images symbolic of Peruvian culture. The drum and other musical instruments show the type of music Peruvians enjoy. The animals engraved in the art show the wildlife that is partly indigenous to Peru. Art from Peru is made of gold, copper and silver. From an economic sense this shows that Peru has a rich deposit of these minerals and mining contributes to its revenue. The pictures, painting and dioramas of Peru show farmers, farming and food products. There are also digging tools on display. This goes to illustrate that agricultural activities are an integral part of their economy. The weaving, pottery, sculpture and feather works illustrate that these are the major forms of handworks in Peru. The diverse weaving works depict the establishment of a textile industry. The naming of certain art works like Braided Head Cord or Fillet hint of a fishing background.
Sierra Leone has an intense appreciation of music as shown by the various displays of musical instruments such as Obah, horn, Angkongtho or Ebuke, drum, Koumdyeh at met. Most of the displays from Sierra Leone are made of ivory thus showing the presence of wildlife and poaching. Wildlife is a tourist attraction thus the art work makes one assume that Sierra Leone benefits by gaining foreign currency. Most of the carvings are done using wood and stone showing its significance in the ceremonial life of the Sierra Leone community. There is enormous weave works done on cotton media. This illustrates that agriculture is an important source of revenue. The integration of both male and female figures depicts a contemporary appreciation of different gender roles and positions. The use of hide and leather illustrates a long history in animal husbandry and hunting game. The Hunter's Cap and bow in met further emphasizes this point. The use of bamboo in some of its artifacts such as in Angkongtho or Ebuke suggests that Sierra Leone may have a tropical climate. Handicrafts in Sierra Leone are mainly carvings and sculptures. The dependence on agriculture, handicrafts and tourism show that Sierra Leone is a developing country with a developing economy.
One of the strongest first impression that one gets viewing art work from Thailand is the great influence by religion specifically Buddhism. Religion is integrated into their everyday lifestyle. For instance met has head of Buddha and Buddha attended by Bodhisattvas Avalokiteshvara and Maitreya. The Thailand culture is intensely influenced by China and India as displayed in its art works and objects. There are various musical instruments on display such as Chakhe (horn), Saw Duang (string instrument) and Pi Nai (aerophone). Sculptures such as Head of a Male Figure suggest that Thailand has a patriarchal society. Most of the art objects are made of porcelain, copper and bronze depicting that Thailand does mine copper and bronze. The hooks on display create an impression of Thailand having a long history in fishing. The artifacts made of porcelain are beautifully and delicately crafted and show the mastery Thailand people have with ceramics or porcelain. This mastery is translated into crockery that earns them income.
The majority of art works from Tunisia include paintings and beautiful and intricate cloth designs. This shows the viewer that Tunisia is invested in manufacturing and textile industries. Most of the art works are made of silk, wool and cotton. These are some of the products found in the agricultural sector. Tunisia practices both plant and animal husbandry. Agriculture provides significant returns for Tunisia. Handworks include weaving, for example baskets. Silver is used to make certain artifacts thus Tunisia also derives economic benefits mining. Leather is used to make mostly exquisite shoes, this further goes to support presence of animal husbandry in Tunisia. Tunisia is mainly a Muslim nation. This is derived from paintings and artifacts such as Head covering, Hammamet with Its Mosque and Folio from the "Blue Qur'an" found at met. This also shows a strong Arabic influence. Tunisians value the wedding ceremony. The various elaborate wedding tunics prove this point.

Work cited

Karp, Ivan and Lavine, Stephen. ed. Exhibiting Cultures: The Poetics and Politics of Museum Display. Washington, DC: Smithsonian Institution Press, 1991. Print.
Young, Bernard, ed. Art Culture and Ethnicity. Reston, VA: National Art Education Association, 1990. Print.

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