Arresting Andean Images

Arresting Andean Images: Guaman Poma & Visual Editorialization

Background on Illustrated Letter and Author:

Felipe Guaman Poma de Ayala's illustrated chronicle Nueva Corónica y Buen Gobierno (also referred to as El primer nueva corónica y buen gobierno).

This book, or rather long letter composed of 1,189 pages, was written between 1600 and 1615, and addressed to King Philip III of Spain. On a theoretical and cultural studies level, what is so fascinating about the letter is that it is truly a critique of colonialism, from an indigenous perspective, because it outlines how the Spanish were foreigners in Peru. Put simply, Nueva Corónica seeks to draw attention to injustices in the Peruvian region via a historical account that spans a sense of biblical and indigenous history from the earliest human beings to the Incas and a unique focus on the history of the Spanish conquest. The manner in which it accomplishes this early colonial critique is through: (1) 398 full-page drawings; (2) the interjection of Quechua words and phrases throughout his letter; and (3) supposedly Guaman Poma was not from a noble family in Cuzco (the ancient capital of the Incas) but rather from a noble family in the Southern province of Peru, on the margins of the ancient Inca empire.

As to the manuscript/letter itself, as a material object, it was discovered in the Royal Danish Library in Copenhagen in 1908 by Richard Pietschmann. Some scholars believe that the manuscript arrived in Denmark via the library of Count Duke of Olivares in Spain when it was bought by Cornelius Pedersen Lerche, ambassador of Denmark in Spain. A heavily retouched facsimile was produced in 1936 by Paul Rivet, and a critical transcription was published by John Murra and Rolena Adorno (with contributions by Jorge Urioste) in 1980 ( a Mexican publication I believe). Today, high-quality digital facsimile of the original manuscript was published online in 2001 by the Danish Royal Library, with Rolena Adorno as scholarly editor. [ ]

Project Description:

Arresting Andean Images is a literary architecture and cartography project grounded in Visual Studies. Through a study of images, history, architecture, and language, this interdisciplinary project will examine the portrayal of the Inca as well as draw attention to the injustices in the Peruvian region via its historical account of the Spanish conquest. Scholars in the fields of Hispanic Studies, Art History, Comparative Literature, History, and visual studies, museum studies, and cultural studies will benefit from this project because it will serve as a model for cross-disciplinary work that examines the symbiotic relationship between texts and materials objects in the New World.

Students will have an opportunity to do cultural, literary, and visual work on Colonial Peru through the digital documentation, digital production, and geographic virtual mapping.

Objectives and Goals:

Arresting Andean Images has four specific DHi objectives that pertain to digital research & documentation and geographic virtual mapping, and that involve interdisciplinary work in literature, history, and art history:

(1)    Development of an interactive map that traces the postal journey of the Guaman Poma’s Nueva Corónica y Buen Gobierno from Peru to the Royal Danish Library in Copenhagen where it was discovered in 1908.

(2)    Development of an interactive map of the Peruvian locations described, illustrated, and mentioned in Guaman Poma’s Nueva Corónica y Buen Gobierno superimposed over the known Incan ruins today.

(3)    Creation of a website on the history of Colonial Peruvian illustration and print culture (with special attention to the analysis of Guaman Poma’s illustrations), and their relationship to Spanish and European art and print culture.

(4)    Digital & Virtual Realities: Creation and Development of a (i) 2D animation of the illustrations and (ii) an interactive 3D Virtual recreation of an Inca village from Guaman Poma’s Nueva Corónica y Buen Gobierno.

Research Questions:

Arresting Andean Images centers on complex interdisciplinary humanities questions in the domain of Visual Studies and Colonial Latin America. For example, some of the questions we will be pursuing are: What were Guaman Poma’s European and Peruvian visual references? Which artists and/or woodblocks inform his artistry? How is Guaman Poma using his illustrations to convey daily Peruvian life in the 1600s? How is Andean mythology visually juxtaposed to the biblical stories? And to what end? How is the moment of the Conquest of the New World & Peru presented not just as a historical account but as an emotionally-packed, sympathetic, and critical personal memoir? Consequently, the overall aims of Arresting Andean Images are to create a visual genealogy of Guaman’s antecedents (both Peruvian and European) and demonstrate that the representations of this Andean writer and illustrator editorialize and (de)form the historical inscription of the European in 1600s Peru.

Student Research

Storymap: "Felipe Guaman Poma de Ayala" by Jessie Dromsky-Reed

Storymap: "Blender: Translating Guaman Poma into 3D Images" by Jessie Dromsky-Reed

Storymap: "The Long Lost Letter" by Lindsey Song

Project Directors

Student Assistants

Collection Development Team