Date of Visit: March 29 2014
If your much anticipated hiking trip to Peru is cancelled what would you do? Well, Bestie and I made a road trip to Canberra to gawk at the exotic Inca treasures of the ancient Peruvian civilisation at the National Gallery of Art in Canberra – aptly called ‘Gold and The Incas: Lost World of Peru” (here).
The exhibition is a key component of Canberra’s centenary celebrations in 2013 and also significant in that it marks the 50th anniversary of Australian-Peruvian diplomatic relations, and is organised in co-operation with the Peruvian Ministry of Culture. As such, the works of art are lent by the Museo Nacional de Arqueología, Antropología e Historia del Perú and its fraternal collections, the Fundacion Museo Amano, the Museo Larco and the Museo Oro del Perú – museums that were on our trip’s agenda - as well as the collection of the National Gallery of Australia.
Would it surprise you that the Inca Empire lasted only 100 years? This is a very short time for such a vast and famous enterprise!
In a nutshell:
“The Incas conquered all of Peru and much of Chile, Bolivia, Argentina and Ecuador. The state governed from the capital city of Cuzco by a system of duties, taxes and rewards. 20,000km of roads enabled efficient and speedy communication.
The Emperor was The Son of The Sun God and the pinnacle of an extremely hierarchical society. The Inca state region demanded scarifices, human and animal – even textiles were burnt as offerings to the Gods. Architecture, e.g. the famous World Heritage Site Machu Picchu, was the glory of the Inca culture (and still is!). Temples, palaces, terraces and fortifications of huge stone blocks were fitted together, mostly without masonry.
Sadly, our knowledge of Inca society is filtered through the world view of Spanish chroniclers. The Inca state of at least 12 million people fell very rapidly, due to superior European military technology, civil war and new diseases, especially smallpox. Perhaps 90% of the native population, more than 10 million people, was killed or died of disease and famine after the conquest.
Almost every artefact that survives – what we see at the exhibition today – was buried with their owners. As the cult of the dead infers, both noble and common people were interred in different ways according to tiers of importance – from ruling lords, priests, military leaders and retainers – as exemplified by their respective accoutrements and placements in their graves.
A rather kooky rite is that adorned mummified Inca elites form part of annual postmortem ceremonies where their corpses were paraded around the city of Cuzco.”
In summary, this is a well-curated exhibition with over 200 objects showcasing exemplary artefact from each period of the Peruvian civilisation from gold regalia, intricate jewellery and striking vessels to elaborate embroidered and woven cloths. So, don’t miss out!
It is only appropriate to round up our excursion by having a Peruvian themed lunch at the Sculptural Garden Restaurant.
Finding it needed a bit of detective work as it is located outside the gallery, tucked away to the side of the garden and in a tent by the Marsh Pond.
In the Marsh Pond (part of the sculpture garden) is a powerful work by Dadang Christanto, an Indonesian artist based in Darwin. The pond is filled with bronze heads with extra eeriness supported by the mist-maker. His works speaks of victims of oppression and social injustice. If I remember correctly, this piece, “Heads from the north’, is about the genocide in East Timor.
(PS: Would I want to hold a reception in the restaurant by a pond filled with heads? Probably not!😰)
For this special occasion in conjunction with the exhibition, the interior of the restaurant is styled by designer Megan Morton to play up combinations of colour, good times and of course, corn – to accentuate the joy of food and family that the Peruvian culture delights in!
Only Set Lunch is served in the restaurant.
What we got for our 2-course Set Lunch at $35 per person…
Presented on a wooden paddle pan as is very fashionable now, we have Ceviche of Salmon with Lime, Jumbo White Corn and Coriander.
Sometimes, it is best not to heed recommendation of a fellow diner who you don’t know…
This is a plate of disappointment of sorts: The beef was dry - yet full of fat! The most obvious explanation is that it is not a good cut of meat which has been pre-(over)cooked and reheated thus rendering it very beef-jerky-like in texture. The exotic sounding ‘huancaina’ is basically a spicy cream which is otherwise ‘meh’.
Check out my leftover plate of fat!
Not a very satisfying lunch, so a Diet Coke at the Gallery Cafe is in order…