Foreign Ministry of Peru Defends Paracas National Cultural Heritage

Art pieces and textiles belonging to the old Paracas culture, illegally exported to Sweden, are being repatriated to their homeland Peru

February 28th, 2019
Elisa Vallette, News from Berlin
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In 2008, the Embassy of Peru in Sweden noticed the textiles from Ancient Peru Paracas culture during the exhibition titled “The Paracas collection: a stolen world” at the Museum of World Cultures of Gothenburg. Indeed, in 1935, Sven Karell, the Swedish consul to Lima, illegally exported Paracas textiles among other plundered goods to Sweden. These textiles art pieces were eventually donated to the Gothenburg Ethnographic Museum.

Following discussions between the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in coordination with the Ministry of Culture of Peru and the Municipality of Gothenburg, the Museum of World Cultures and the Swedish Ministry of Foreign Affairs, it was agreed to return the collection in three stages until 2021. This date is symbolic as Peru will celebrate in 2021 its bicentennial of independence from the Spanish empire.

The Paracas culture was an important Pre-Columbian and Pre-Inca civilization of ancient Peru that developed between the 7th Century BC and the 2nd Century AD in the Ica Region. It is considered as one of the oldest complex societies of South America.

The 2000 years old textiles are still in perfect condition without restoration, which reveals the high quality of the garment. Made of cotton and vicuña wool, the 89 textiles are mantles, tunics, and shawls. One of the mantle, defined as a "Ñañaca", was probably used during a funerary bundle of a high-ranking individual. Indeed, the Paracas practiced a method of enclosing a cadaver before burial. The valuable mantle measuring 53cm wide by 104cm long, was found in the 1930s in a cemetery of the Paracas known as “Arenas Blancas” (White Sands) located in the coastal area of the Ica region, about 260 kilometers south of Lima.

The embroideries show diverse animals and plants. These figures associated with the natural world seem to represent the 365 days of the solar calendar and the change of seasons. Experts are still decoding the decoration in order to gain more knowledge on prehistoric Andean religious beliefs.

Peru's National Museum of Archaeology, Anthropology and History in Lima will display the textiles which most of them are now back in their land of origin. This beautiful end to the story of a Swedish diplomat who smuggled Peruvian cultural objects proves that today cultural diplomacy can resolve peacefully long-dated issues thanks to intercultural dialogue, recognition and respect.


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