We traveled to Peru on several occasions; twice we went as alpaca breeders, attending International Camelid Conferences. There were rare opportunities for side trips to the Colca valley, several fabric mills, and to participate in the chaccu, a ritual vicuña herding and shearing ceremony that happens once every 3 years in the Peruvian high plain (Altiplano).
Most of the vicuña photos were taken at the first conference we attended, which was also the first time a group of novice outsiders were allowed to participate in the chaccu. It was a surreal experience, partly because of oxygen deprivation at 15,000 feet, but also because of the event itself. It was truly an indigenous fertility ritual, with Q'ero shamans assembling despachos (ritual medicine bundles) and drawing drops of blood from a female vicuña. And because of the political realities there, we there were always armed Peruvian troops with AK-47s hanging around. Quite a juxtaposition.
When we went back again several years alter, there was a chaccu, but it was a staged event (it wasn't the third year), and it had a commercialized festival atmosphere with vendors and nonstop performers and such. Didn't get many photos that time. On another occasion, we traveled with a group of American shamans, visiting sacred sites from Cusco to Arequipa, attending rituals with the local shamans, and generally getting a huge dose of Q'ero culture.
We have a great fondness for this place.
Images of Peru by Mark Dodge
Alpaca Sorting Woman
At a fabric mill in Arequipa, alpaca fiber is sorted by hand into stacks of colors.
2003 Peru Photo Installation at the Mountlake Terrace Library
Alpaca Sorting Woman 2
These women sort warehouses full of alpaca fiber for processing.
The handweavers of Chinchero, Peru preserve their rich culture through motifs and techniques in textiles.
Chinchero Weaver 2
Handweaving narrow items can be done on simple backstrap looms like this one.
Chinchero Weaver 3
Residents of each village can be identified by their hats.
Many-Colored Rush Tyrant - Lake Titicaca
Many-colored thanks to Sheila Pera for figuring out the name of this bird, shot pre-sunrise on the lake Titicaca shore.
Nilda Callañaupa origanized the Chinchero weavers, and is a well-known activist seeking to preserve Peruvian culture. This is her mom.
This is how most of the farming has been done on the altiplano for hundreds of years.
Peruvian Extended Family - As seen on the streets of Cusco.
The Q'ero are the direct descendants of the Incas. This phto was taken at the International Camelid Conference in Arequipa, Peru.
These Q'ero performers were at the International Camelid Conference in Arequipa, Peru.
Santa Catalina Blue Arches
Santa Catalina is a large monastery in Arequipa.
Santa Catalina Blue Door
Santa Catalina Red Door
Santa Catalina White Arches
Santa Catalina Window Cactus
Sentinel - Yanque, Peru
The Sorcerer - Machu Picchu
Before shearing the rest of the vicuñas, shamans capture a female vicuña and perform a fertility ritual.
Vicuña Ceremony 2
Vicuña Ceremony 3
Vicuña Ceremony 4
Vicuña Ceremony 5
Vicuña Chaccu - Human Chain
This is how you coerce the herd into the catch pen - a very long line of people with a rope of "used-car-lot" flags.
The ritual herding and shearing of vicuñas, called a chaccu, occurs every three years in Peru.
(Multiple prize winning photo)
This is the catch-pen at the end of a mile-long fish-net fence, stretched across the altiplano.
A lone wild vicuña, keeping an eye on the horizon (and on me).
In the catch pen, waiting for shearing. By law, you can only capture them long enough to shear them, then you must release them.
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