MDF box with seeds: ceramic and acrylic paint.
MDF box with seeds: ceramic and acrylic paint. Photos: Patricia Rousseaux

ARTE!* – When did the idea to develop this project come about?

Ximena Garrido-Leca – In the year 2010 I visited the ruin of Pachacamc[1], near Lima.  Talking to the archaeologist, he learned that during the excavations they had found seeds of the Phaseolus Lunatus species, white and black, which were not common and had been lost. They were thinking of reinserting them into the culture. At that moment he gave me several seeds as a gift. 

From then on, I became very curious about the story, and started researching. In fact, these seeds, a species of beans, had been represented in various Peruvian, pre-Hispanic cultures in ceramics and textiles, especially in the Moche culture, the Mochica culture. Another archeologist, Rafael Arcofuego, at the beginning of century XX developed a theory where these representations would be a writing system. There are other theories refuting this idea, saying no, they would be games or part of an agrarian ritual, but I decided to focus on his theory. He maintains that each seed paillard represents an idea, not ideograms but a symbolic communication system.

Hydroponic structure and plants of the Phaseolus Lunatus species
Hydroponic structure and plants of the Phaseolus Lunatus species

There would have been 100 to 850 BC, and this would confirm the idea that there was, yes, another Peruvian scripture, ancient, pre-Inca. So, I decided to do more research and set up a project based on translating a colonial text, The extirpation of ideology in Peru, written by Pablo José de Arriaga in 1621, a kind of manual for the colony on how to eradicate indigenous customs.

I took a chapter, the Edict against ideology, which narrates customs, rituals and how to apply punishments. From there, I started assembling graphic groups with the seeds reproduced in ceramics. Constructing a new graphic text, from morphology and color sets.


[1] The city was built around 200 BC Its name is a reference to the “Pacha Kamaq”, god creator of the Earth according to the belief of the local pre-Inca population. Pachacamac was an important administrative and religious center for great pre-colonial civilizations in different periods, such as the Limas, the Huaris and, therefore,
final, mighty Incas; until it was completely looted and destroyed by the Spaniards. Today, 500 years later,
efforts to rebuild its countless pyramids, temples, plazas and houses are incessant.

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