Arts Picks: Camina el Autor: The New Chronicle and Good Government by Guaman Poma de Ayala

03 April 2020
The Straits Times

As part of its Arts Picks segment, The Straits Times featured Camina el Autor: The New Chronicle and Good Government. The exhibition showcases many vivid hand-drawn images created by Felipe Guaman Poma de Ayala for his seminal book Nueva coronica y buen gobierno (New Chronicle And Good Government). This 16th century tome, comprising 39 chapters over some 1,200 pages and illustrated with 398 full-page drawings, tells the story of Spain's conquest of the Andes, the end of the Inca empire and the mistreatment of indigenous people under Spanish rule. The exhibition displays 32 panels of high resolution reproductions of the images from Guaman Poma de Ayala's book. Each panel contains between eight and 12 images from different chapters, and are an astounding visual representation of 16th to 17th century Andes society.

Guaman Poma de Ayala was born to an Incan elite class, spoke Quechua as well as a few other local languages, and was educated in Spanish. His art was a fusion of Indian aesthetics, with its flattened perspectives, and colonial influences, with spiritual content drawn from Catholic teachings and a style inspired by mediaeval manuscript illuminations. This work, which took him 30 years to complete, is a rare example of a contemporaneous, indigenous record of the early years of Spanish colonisation of South America. Its vivid naif style also makes it instantly accessible to modern sensibilities familiar with graphic novels. While the images are lacking in detailed captions, most are simple enough so that its message comes across without the need for language. In fact, the lack of linguistic detail combined with the awful specificity of some images gives them a visceral power that is quite impressive. This exhibition is organised by the Embassy of Peru in Singapore, with the support of the Nanyang Academy Of Fine Arts, to commemorate the 40th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic ties between Peru and Singapore.

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