America to me is in the first place the country of the Indian culture, just like Africa is of African culture.
In spite of the fact that bearers of ancient cultures of the American continents are practically exterminated, they have left to us the most valuable cultural heritage. Nationalism in all form, as well as any discrimination based on color of skin, age, land, caste belonging, always offended me deep in my soul. All my work is aimed to make people a little bit closer to each other, to stir up in the person deep memory of the world brotherhood, that all we have grown from the same grains of spirit, from the common roots.
The “Empyrean people” Zapotecs were living at the territory of contemporary Mexica in first millennium BC. They possessed unique knowledge in various areas of science and art.
Unfortunately there are only ruins left from their main cities, but those are enough to set their civilization at the same level with egyptian. Medicine, astronomy, melioration where they were pioneers in usage of dambs and channels, and unique writing system and poetry – that is the investment of Zapotecs to the culture of pre-colombian America. Magical practices of this ancient nation are also interesting, they are partially described in the books by Carlos Castaneda.
Zapotecs were peaceful people praying to the natural forces and animals, in their sculpture and painting you could encounter numerous images of jaguars, american lions. I have imagined that Zapotec priests travelled to contemporary to them Egypt, I have combined image of sphynx with elements of their classical culture.
Jaguars and pumas always were respected by the Indians, the white jaguar was the symbol of the sun at many Indian tribes and of king’s power at all developed Indian civilizations. One of the rulers of Chichen Itza, the capital of Maya country, had several white jaguars, when hunters happened to notice white jaguar, they used to caught him and brought alive to the king’s palace. Afterwards, the jaguars were feed with officials caught stealing. They believed that if the God of the Sun accepted the sacrifice, then the official is forgiven and God would not curse all his family. There were not many officials willing to steal though. Oh, those old good traditions… Indians consider death not like we at all, they have no doubt that would continue to live in the other world. Often it was the honor to be sacrificed to the God. For it was uncertain whether you could gain respect of gods during lifetime, but if you are sacrificed, you immediately arrive to the escort of the God. The symbolyzm of the sacrifices is also interesting, to achieve integrity of the spirit, the person must win over his body, but human is too weak for this, so it is much simpler to let your destiny to the priests. Puma was respected by Incas, their capital Cusco was built in the form of puma. Its head contained temple of Saksauman – “king’s house of Sun”. The belly was for houses of rich men, and pawns for traders and craftmen. Impressively precise plan of Cusco is even more amazing as they could not see it from above.
In North America, Michibichi was honored, the jaguar living in the water and patronizing fishermen. They also brought sacrifices to him, not human though. They threw dog to the water, if he drowns then the fishing was going to be succesful, if not – go back home. Poor dogs probably did not know that they were supposed to escort the God after he eats their bodies. Many images of jaguar you could encounter at all Indian tribes of the both Americas, for certain it was special animal always taking major place among other deified animals.
The image depicts larva of the tiger ambistoma, Axolotl and was inspired with short story by Julio Cortasar with same title. I encountered fantastic axolotl in person in 1989 when started to work in Moscow Zoological museum as a laborant assistant. There was enormous collection of dead and alive amphibias. Amazing beauty of axolotl forced me to start every morning watching impressive change of his lazy slowness and lightning shots. His hands with pretty golden nails and precise moves touching the glass, were so human that it seemed that he in reality is our ancestor or our future. “My” axolotl was albino, very handsome, I called him Axel, don’t know what he thought of me but seemed like he cheered when I used to place his bowl on the table and drew his portraits. In a year after this, when I already left the museum, I read story by Cortasar and understood that I was in danger of situation similar to the hero of the story. At least, I already had indeed half-narcotic dependence on watching of axolotl. You want to know what it could lead to? Just read the story by Cortasar.
The play of leather ball emerged in the counry of ancient Maya is a prototype of all sport games with ball. It was a ritual from the beginning, the losing team was sacrificed to various gods as required. If there was drought, then to God of rain Chak-mool, if they waited for the harvest then to the Goddess of fertility Tlasolteoatl, and the God of war Huitzilopochtli took his during war. The winners were respected as gods, they installed monuments in their honor, so it was worth to play. For pok-ta-pok they constructed intricate stadiums, for example one of them the place of ruler was equipped with complicated system of resonators and when he spoke his voice sounded arounded the stadium like thunder.
North American Indians Kaiowa believe that they came to this world through the body of the tree. On the way they met their ritual doll Tai-me, it told them how to live in the endless prairie, observing Manitu rules and not to disturb the balance in the Nature. So Kaiowa for many centuries carve Tai-me from the wood and pray to it as a symbol of all deities and spirits inhabiting the Earth as per their assumption.
Every Indian tribe has its own story of human origin, often even separate kins have their own legends about this. Many Indian tribes descend from various animals, which transformed to the human being for many generations. The animal – ancestor became a totem. They often carve totem image from the wood, it depicts all the ancestors of the kin, starting from the animal and ending with the first human chief. The first ancestor – animal is always carved first, if it is an eagle – on the top, if jaguar or beaver – down below. All stages of transformation are depicted in details for descendants do not forget who were their ancestors. Most often you could encounter strong animals as ancestors: eagles, jaguars, bears; but there are tribes and kins descended from weak but smart animals. There are honored tribes and kins descending from beaver or hare, squirrell or bat.
You could meet statues of Chac-mool throughout ancient cities of Aztec and Maya. The images on the walls are based on the paintings of Maya. Although soviet linguist Knorozov deciphered Maya writings, the real meaning of it is still unknown for us.
The Inca civilization started to develop in the highland valley of Cusco around 12th century AD and reached its climax by 15th century. They had high level of architecture, medicine and various arts. Pachacuti Inca Yupanki founded the empire by integration of several adjoining countries. Incas prayed to the Sun as supreme deity, and the ruler of the empire, the Great Inca, was considered to be the direct descendant of the Sun, and he was the only person who was allowed to wear the golden mask of Sun.
America I love