The Gods and Men of Mystical Peru
Peruvian photographer, Prin Rodriguez delves into an ancient indigenous manuscript, delivering a haunting contemporary portrait of her nation, all framed in a stream of light and colour.
Pariacaca is one of the oldest forms of mysticism in the Andean region. The story is found in one of the most important texts compiled in the 'Gods and Men of Huarochirí' manuscript from the late 16th century, which describes myths, religious notions and traditions of the local Indian population. It is believed that their children have travelled vast roads in Peru, passing through cities in the country that were once occupied by ancient indigenous communities.
Los Hijos de Pariacaca is a dreamlike project comprised of a series of portraits where the photographer has artistically captured her friends’ carnal and masculine bodies, all against the beat of a fictitious city that seems to ignore their presence. The colours and lights appear as passages to this magical world that Prin Rodriguez has created so uniquely.
The title of your project, Los Hijos de Pariacaca (The Children of Pariacaca) references sons or children yet you have photographed your friends - why do you consider them Pariacaca's children?
The title in Spanish and Quechua "Los Hijos de Pariacaca" and "Pariacacapa churinkuna" refers to the link between father and son and not to a particular age or if they are still children. Pariacaca is an "apu", a divinity embodied in a mountain, located geographically between the mountains of Lima and Junin. I first read about it in the book "Gods and Men of Huarochiri", a book written in Quechua language collected from the oral traditions of the mountains of Lima in the 16th Century after the invasion of the Spanish, a historical period called "Extirpación de idolatrías" [The removal of idolatries].
Pariacaca is a primal divinity, and in the stories that speak of him, it is said that he came to have influence in other geographical spaces and other divinities. This information inspired me to think about his legacy as a dynasty spread through various territories united by a language and its ability to continue expanding from a myth. For me, the children of Pariacaca are the young people of contemporary Peru who inhabit cities no longer related to the idyllic and intangible nature of the past. They are people who, like me, are children or grandchildren of people who had to migrate to big cities and from there try to reconnect with their roots and understand them better.
How did you become interested in the Pariacaca mysticism?
My first introduction to Pariacaca was the Quechua language. I wanted to try to read about him and his stories in the language in which they were told, and then compiled in writing. I had the opportunity to share the text with my mother, and both of us were impacted by the figure of his power and greatness. The text and the myths managed to transmit his divinity to the present - he connected us with a root that wrapped us and was still alive.
In your series, the subjects of your photographs are all men. Why is that so?
In Peru, there are still many flaws in our own representation and our idea of beauty. These canons are extended to women and men, and there is still much latent racism towards people who come from the interior of the country and speak native languages. For me this was a questioning period and a starting point to re-evaluate our beauty and power and look for new ways of representing ourselves.
The Pariacaca divinity and its energy are associated with the masculine. I want to contribute my vision, from the feminine, to open and expand representation and approaches towards the masculine, transcending gender stereotypes and also exploring the representation of the divine.
In your statement, you talk about an artificial city - to what do you refer? Are you creating a city within your photographic narrative? Did this idea of an artificial city impact the way you created/composed your images?
Peru does not necessarily have many spaces with large buildings: these are usually concentrated in particular areas, but we and the rest of the places share internally a mental image of what a "big city" is, how it should look now, and how it will possibly look in the future.
For this series, it is crucial to work on the idea of a city, a city that may have nuances from my country but that it can also be a great city for all, and that is the city where the children of Pariacaca now live.
Prin Rodríguez is a Peruvian photographer interested in the representation of identity and family legacy. Most recently, her work was selected for the VII MasterClass in Poland. Follow her on PHmuseum and Instagram.
Verónica Sanchis Bencomo is a Venezuelan photographer and curator based in Hong Kong. In 2014, she founded Foto Féminas, a platform that promotes the works of female Latin American and Caribbean photographers. Follow her on Twitter and Instagram.
This article is part of In Focus: Latin American Female Photographers, a monthly series curated by Verónica Sanchis Bencomo focusing on the works of female visual storytellers working and living in Latin America.