The drawings of the Incas—in the Peruvian
highlands near Nazca—puzzled scholars
ever since they were first discovered: who
created theses images on the ground,
some of them measuring hundreds of meters?
They were several hundreds years
old, in a semi-abstract way, they seemed
to represent gods, grotesque faces, or
monumental bodies with numerous arms.
When the fist aerial photographs were
taken of them, cryptologists, conspiracy
theorists, and pseudo-scholarly books
claimed that these signs were made by
extraterrestrials, some higher intelligence
that directed the pre-Columbian peoples
either from spaceships or through
telepathic signals. Or did humans—using
secret knowledge now lost—send visual
messages to their counterparts in space?
We meet Wara Wara, whose real name is
Juanita Taillansier, in the studio that she
has rented for one summer in Europe.
There is canvas on the floor. Most of the
pieces are divided by a bar in the middle,
some of them mirror the same abstract
pattern on each side: clear simple shades
in definite contours, a lot remains white.
In the middle of the room, a pole rises,
it supports itself on a piece of black
cardboard cut in a strange way. Maybe a
sculpture? “When I see my sketches and
paintings lying about here,” she says in a
watchful tone, “I almost wait for a dancer
to come through the door, somebody who
understands that this here is a completely
Wara Wara will return to South America.
And she will continue her work there.
And this is certain: this time, no camera
will be allowed to record in photographs
or films what her plans there are. Maybe
people will speak about it. Maybe traces
will be found.
Only a few years ago, archaeologists
found a new explanation that seems
convincing: the broad lines are, they suggest,
actually paths used by thousands
of people during ritual assemblies or performances,
during early mass spectacles
honoring gods or rulers, processions,
dance performances. The precision of the
lines remains fascinating, even if in large
areas we can now mark points in the
large areas where priests, leaders, or choreographers
directed the masses. It was
thus a question of perspective: the aerial
photographs had read something from
these traces that the many thousands of
feet had never wanted to leave behind.
She is stubborn. Wara Wara is from an
old Inca dynasty, one can tell at first sight,
since she wears a simple white cotton
dress, which is adorned at the hem with
coarse luminous patterns, gold bracelets,
and a headscarf woven out of thick
colorful lama wool, which spreads on her
back like a broad striped cloak. Whoever
speaks with her knows that she is serious.
Even though she stresses that she is” herself
hardly aware” of what she is wreaking
here. At issue here are broad lines of cultural
history. And the attempt to take them
back up again, to let something develop
from them, out of a deep understanding
for what was sacred to her ancestors.