Text by an Inca

October 17, 2006

I’ve recently been reading excerpts from Felipe Guamán Poma de Ayala’s book Nueva crónica y buen gobierno. The book is a collection of history, philosophy, advice to King Phillip III of Spain, and some absolutely spell-binding drawings, done by the author himself. Guamán Poma was the grandson of an Incan prince and a leader of people in his own right. His book is one of the earliest examples of American colonized people speaking to and back to their colonizers. The original manuscript of the book is in the Danish Royal Library; fortunately, much of it is available online.

There are hundreds of drawings, and each of them has a trove of information and suggestion. One that drew my attention as a preacher was this one:

The congregation has fallen asleep for the most part. The Holy Spirit in the form of a dove descends despite the haranguing preacher and his sleep-inducing words. The dove might be a nod to the Spanish Inquisition that would surely be revising Poma’s work, or it might have been an expression of some kind of sincere belief. In this drawing, Poma manages to insult the priest (an activity he is justly and frequently engaged in throughout the book) while at the same time creating a work of revealing perspective. The sleepy Incan masses seem to both bask in the light of the Spirit even as they present a solid shield to deflect the empty words of the Spanish priest.


One Response to “Text by an Inca”

  1. Alex Says:

    Reminds me of the last time I attended church at Guadalupe…

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