Thursday, July 23, 2015

A Cultural Co-op

A Cultural Co-op 

The "Last Supper" made by members of Ichimay Wari

The "Ezimngo Fellow Supper" made by members of Ichimay Wari

Learning to fly in Peru has a way of working up quite the appetite.  We hike up and soar down the sand dunes on Para-gliders.  We each cheer loudly as the Fellow’s feet lift off the ground and they take flight. Para-gliding is an eco-friendly way of seeing Peru. If you feel like flying in Peru,  flyadventure Peru offers safe, fun, and affordable eco-friendly tours.

Luckily for us, a special Peruvian meal, Pachamanca, cooks underground while we soar through the air. Our host removes layers of cloth, and hot rocks, from a hole in the earth. As the rocks are removed, chicken, pork, beef, corn, peas, and two types of potatoes are uncovered. Peruivians are well-known for cultivating over 4,000 types of potatoes. The food cooked in the ground for hours and now a wonderful aroma fills the air, signaling the completion of the cooking process.  We feast on Pachamanca and reminisce about how this cultural cuisine has passed generation to generation and is now arousing our taste buds, filling our bellies, and satisfying our hunger.The meal is only our first taste of culture during the day.

Our hosts are also a part of a cultural cooperative (society of artisans) that emphasize preserving traditional arts and crafts. The group is as known as Ichimay Wari, after the native god of the Lurin Valley. By hand, they craft, paint, and bring to the market a variety of ceramic figurines. Many of the figurines are heavily influenced by Catholic religion given Peru was colonized by the Spanish conquistador Francisco Pizzaro in 1533. Among the line up are Mary, Joseph, baby Jesus, the Last Supper scene, the nativity set, and a slew of angels playing various instruments. Other figures include children circling the world, women with children, and small to medium sized boxes with campesinos playing instruments in them. The artists fire the figurines in special ovens, carefully paint them, and let them dry.  Members of the co-op have workshops and points-of-sale at various locations, however, they band together as a community-based co-operative and reach the market with more power than they would be able to as individuals.  

Our host for the day, kindly allows the Fellows to try their hand at creating a figurine from the clay and hand-crafted mold. In trying to create a small girl holding a drum, a deep appreciation is gained from realizing just how much detail is needed to obtain the smooth curves of the flawless pieces that are on display. We thank our hosts for the authentic experience and part with a customary kiss on the cheek.

To learn more about Ichimay Wari, visit: or find them on Facebook!

Audriana Stark
NexGen Fellow
Peru, 2015

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