Machu Picchu – a Silk Painting about a Magical Place

November 6, 2010

A few days ago I saw a great documentary on TV about the ancient city of Machu Picchu. It was fascinating but at the same time shocking to hear that this spiritual place has become an object of mass tourism.

While I fully understand that a poor country such as Peru needs the income from tourism badly it is again frustrating to hear how this is achieved. It is the same problem as everywhere in the world where survival of people clashes with the requirements for protecting the assets of a country as its natural environment and cultural heritage.

Machu Picchu was inscribed to the status of Worlds Heritage by the UNESCO in 1983. Being in danger to be trampelled down by tourists the UNESCO org now requires now that the daily visitors should be constraint to 500 people. The ministry of tourism in Peru though plans to admit a number of 10.000 people per day which would be even a higher risk to the sacred place than currently, where the culmination is 4.000 visitors per day – as you can imagine. A huge dilemma.

From the website of the World Heritage Center:

“To be included on the World Heritage List, sites must be of outstanding universal value and meet at least one out of ten selection criteria. These criteria are explained in the Operational Guidelines for the Implementation of the World Heritage Convention which, besides the text of the Convention, is the main working tool on World Heritage.”

One of these criteria currently says and which may apply to Machu Picchu:

“to bear a unique or at least exceptional testimony to a cultural tradition or to a civilization which is living or which has disappeared” (read more)

The tragedy is that the income from tourism probably will not make any difference on the poverty of the people in general, only a few will have jobs and benefit from this income. And additionally there is a huge cultural discrimination between the visitors and the native people: it was mentioned in an interview with the locals that the indigenous people may visit their sacred places only once a month for free – paying the entry fees would be unattainable for them.

It will probably not be likely for myself to see Machu Picchu in reality for various reasons although I wished I could. So for me the only alternative is to look at pictures and videos about this magical place. And I have something other people might not have – the urge to paint this place as I see it in my dreams and talk about it. This at least will not add to the damage of this ancient site. The first result was a silk painting – Machu Picchu as part of the Magical Symbols series.

I painted this in warm colours – just the right thing to warm up your room when the temperatures start to go down again at this time of the year.
Machu Picchu is truly a magical place, an archeological site which still holds many secrets. Although the trip may not be as exhausting as 20 years ago it is still not easy to reach this place as it is hidden high in the mountains of the Andes which is good for the place. The plans of the Peruvian government though may change this dramatically. As I already said above the site is in danger to be simply trampelled down by thousands of tourists.

“Most archaeologists believe that Machu Picchu was built as an estate for the Inca emperor Pachacuti (1438–1472). Often referred to as “The Lost City of the Incas”, it is perhaps the most familiar icon of the Inca World.
The Incas started building the estate around AD 1400 but it was abandoned as an official site for the Inca rulers a century later at the time of the Spanish conquest of the Inca Empire. Although known locally, it was unknown to the outside world before being brought to international attention in 1911 by the American historian Hiram Bingham. Since then, Machu Picchu has become an important tourist attraction.
Machu Picchu was declared a Peruvian Historical Sanctuary in 1981 and a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1983. Since it was not plundered by the Spanish when they conquered the Incas, it is especially important as a cultural site and is considered a sacred place.” (from wikipedia)”

Whatever might turn out to be the real purpose of Machu Picchu – there is no doubt that this is a place full of magic and an incredible aura. Until today artefacts are found at this site and may lead to new discoveries.

“Machu Picchu”
(from the Magic Symbols Series)
40″ x 13″, silk
©Petra Voegtle

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The golden ornaments that I included in this painting/Collage certainly add a special touch to the historical city and the dreams about the lost treasures of the Inca people. And although much has been written about Machu Picchu the spell and mystic aura of this place is not lost yet and the cultural objects and symbols, the textile art and ceramics that have been found are a huge treasure and inspiration for our dreams and fantasies.
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