Just kidding about the bid; this one isn’t up for auction, however if you know of any indigenous peruvian people living in town I’d consider giving it to them.

In 1991 in Cuzco Peru I met a man named Walter, who made a living as a travel agent, taxi driver, and middleman connecting tourists with hotels and with hiking guides for the Inca Trail. Near the end of my stay there he told me that a relative of his had been building a foundation for a house and came across something special: an artifact. I didn’t believe him, but I said I’d look at it. In South America there are lots of crafts that replicate things from the past, and when I saw this I assumed it was a reproduction. I did like it though, so I traded him my tent for it, and  also paid him 200 somethings… I forget what the money was called. Anyway it felt exorbitant, for a reproduction. It survived several plane trips in my luggage, made it home okay, and it’s been living on my bookshelf ever since.

Today I figured I’d put it up for auction with all the other stuff: I’d make the LVB $20, tell the story and play with the possibility that it might be real. I thought I’d better do a little bit of research first, so I poked around online, and um… guys, I think it might actually be a real Chimú vessel! For one thing these artifacts seem to be surprisingly common; you can buy one from a dealer for a few hundred dollars. For another it’s definitely hand-made, and matches the colour and texture of real ones perfectly. I’ve sent an email to the Museum of Anthropology to see what they think I should do.

The Chimu people lived on the North coast in Peru from 900AD until 1470AD when they were conquered by the Incas. So my bric-a-brac might be anywhere between 500 and a thousand years old!!!

Getting rid of ‘everything’ is such an interesting process. I go through layers of feeling attached to objects because of memories they evoke, the monetary value they should have (or the replacement value), what they say about me. Each time I let go I feel light, and then along comes another challenge. Of course, if this thing turns out to actually be a Chimú vessel then it probably doesn’t belong to me, so I still need to let it go. It’s enough, I think, that I’ve played a part in its story, and that it’s played a part in mine.

To be totally honest though, I’m not letting go 100%; this auction is serving to disburse all these objects, but the blog is also serving to capture their memory. This winter when what’s with me in the van will be all I possess, or even years from now when I’m all wrinkly, thinking back on my former lives, I’ll still be able to come here and see their images. In that sense they’ll always be mine.

chimu vessel

UPDATE: The MOA never got back to me, but an antique restorer did… he said he couldn’t be sure from the photograph but thought that it certainly could be real. He had nothing to say about the fact that I may have smuggled a (perhaps stolen) historical artifact from its country of origin or how best to rectify that.