If you thought Peruvian culture was mostly about its amazing cuisine, historical monuments and archaeological sites, think again. The country is home to some of the most important contemporary artists of the world. In a series of blogs, I shall be introducing you to Peruvian art and artists, of which, this could be thought of as a post that introduces the Wari (Huari) art.
The Wari were a civilization in south-central Andes and coastal Peru, and were a Middle Horizon civilization. Their civilization lasted from 500 AD to 1000 AD. Their capital was located around 11 kilometers from the modern city or Ayacucho.
This civilization produced a lot of art, which Susan E. Bergh, an art historian, describes as “one of the ancient Americas’ most aesthetically and technically accomplished corpuses of artworks”. This civilization produced fine ceramic art, objects made from stone, wood, shell, feathers and other material. It was only in mid-20th century that the city of Wari was excavated. Now, it is common knowledge among archaeologists and art historians that Wari constituted one of the most important civilizations of the Americas.
There is not a lot known about Wari because they did not have a written language. However, artifacts point toward the fact that this civilization used iconography and symbols very often in their art. The only way to understand the Wari culture is by studying the pieces of artifacts that they have left behind. The four-cornered hat, which was created between 65 AD and 1000 AD, is one of the most enduring figures of the Wari culture. Today, you can find this piece of art in the Brooklyn Museum. This four-cornered hat reveals an aesthetic sense that is more advanced that most people imagined existed in ancient Peru.
Similarly, a lot of earthenware has been excavated from the fields where Wari once ploughed and flourished. This Huari earthenware pot has an intricate painting etched on to it and as probably created between 650 AD and 800 CE. The facial features of the figure in the painting reveals the physical features of the Wari ethnicity.
To understand Wari further, you might want to take a look at the Wari Tunic above. This tunic was put together using 120 separate pieces of clothe, all of which were individually tie dyed. Paintings on ceramic objects reveal that very high-status men wore these tunics. This was probably created between 750 AD and 950 AD.
Peru is one of the most complex countries in the world, and its culture goes back to the ancient times. To understand this society better, you will probably have to observe and learn more about its art as well. Oxford Bibliographies has a number of articles which are a good place to begin understanding the art history of Peru.
Image 1: By Fer121 – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=18845361
Image 2: By A. Augustus Healy Fund – Brooklyn Museum, No restrictions, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=34010249
Image 3: By Anonymous (Huari) – Walters Art Museum: Home page Info about artwork, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=18824327
Image 4: By Unknown. Uploaded 26 December 2008 to the English language Wikipedia by Tillman (log). – The Textile Museum see http://www.textilemuseum.org/, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=5600017