Saturday, October 10, 2009

Rosalind Solomon's lecture as part of the Image Arts CONTACT Lecture Series 2009

Rock of the Devil/Poems will Come from This Day To see the Rock of the Devil, walk from the ruins of Chavin de Huantar, towards Machac. Look high up for a rock in the shape of a uterus and a vagina. They say that inside that rock, a candle washes blue light over the devil and his band. Snakes in the rock’s womb curl around the devil’s arms and legs. His 4-piece band whines and howls with the moaning ghosts of Chavin’s sacrificed virgins. Don’t listen. If you hear the band, the devil will pierce your heart.

Quince Julio, mil nove cientos noventa y cinco.
July 15, 1995 Chavin, Peru
5am –I wake up in the dark. No electricity at this hour. Use a flashlight and read two chapters of On the Road. Eat half a banana.

5:30, cocks crow. take the top off the toilet tank, pull up the bulb and flush away the night’s droppings. I look at the postcards I tacked on the wall for inspiration: Frida Kahlo. Rembrandt, Nadar and Picasso.

I take a sponge bath, dress and arrange my photo vest: 12 rolls of film, black plastic bag, insect repellent, anti-histamine, raisins, toilet tissue, kleenex, passport, water bottle, pencil, notebook, color coded dots, sunblock, film slide, small flashlight, money, lipstick, comb and light meter. In the courtyard, I watch a hired hand cut- up a slaughtered pig. Ricky, a guide at the Chavin ruins, who speaks a little German, but no English, arrives with La Rosa Palacio. La Rosa came from Lima for the week of the festival. He is a poet, but he’s studying law. He knows only a few English phrases, so we speak Spanish. He recites 3 poems and invites me to visit and photograph his Chavin relatives. At lunch his nephew, Javier, mentions the Pochac Inca burial ground at 12,000 feet above sea level. The trail begins behind the family house; you ride three-hours up a path of rocks. Horses and riders have slipped off the rocks and rolled down the mountain, but with a good horseman, you should be fine. I will hire horses and burros, and La Rosa, Javier, Ricky and I will ride to the burial ground the day after the fiesta.

July 16th –Fiesta: Celebration of Chavin’s Virgin Carmen. After the procession, people dance and feast into the night, but during this important occasion, I will photograph without any help and without the equipment I wanted to use, because the van driver and his son disappeared. They brought me to Chavin. They agreed to help on this date, all day and evening. They are abandoning me. I suppose they got drunk and sick last night. After 10:00 mass, a crowd makes way for the village saint outside the church and the procession begins. I leave the video cam and several lenses in my room, take my 2 1/4 camera and a strobe, and follow the band which plays a dirge behind the virgin. Twelve men strain carrying the statue on a flower-covered board. I move in-step with the funeral beat. The band stops. I run ahead and photograph the crowd, pontificating politicians, a chanting priest and the mayor duomo, the man who will provide a feast for the entire village this afternoon! The procession circles the plaza three times and then enters the church. The bearers put the virgin in her place: trumpets salute her, and everyone returns to the square. Mobs sweat in the sun. Bands play the Huayno, off-key and out- of- synch. No matter. The rhythm tantalizes. A one-eyed man, Crosby, La Rosa’s grandfather, takes my arm. A band encircles us and I stumble through the dance. La Rosa breaks through the circle and removes my dangling Hassleblad. He pulls me away from Crosby. Cups of chicha pass from mouth to mouth and then someone offers a bottle here gringa, take a swig you have to drink it gringa -- we march in time with music, stop at various houses while friends embrace. Men toss scarves around women’s necks and pull them closer. Everyone in good clothes, twirling white handkerchiefs… me in hiking boots, a photo vest and a canvas hat!....... Trumpets wobble, drums pulse. I am la Senora Rosalinda. Rosalinda, dancing the huayno!
July 17th 6:15am- Now Don Quixote Solomon, eager and ready to conquer the world, awaits her poet and her steeds. Ricky comes with Ramon, the horseman, who ties up a mule, 2 burros and 2 horses. These scrawny creatures are all between us and disaster. Ricky gives me a note I love you always and La Rosa’s grandfather loves you,too, and wants to dance with you again! (I am not on the sidelines here.) La Rosa and Javier arrive and we mount. …
Ricky on a mule, Javier on a burro, La Rosa on a grey and me on a white. Ramon, in the rear, carries a eucalyptus, twig-whip and hisses hasa, pisa, hasa pica, HASA! We dismount and he walks the animals over steep rock outcrops. Each time we stop, Ramon helps me off, and tries his best to get a feel of breast and crotch.
I gasp. Too little oxygen. Walking in slow motion, I haven’t enough breath to explore the graveyard! I manage some pictures of La Rosa. He strikes a variety of poses like Valentino in a silent movie. Rosalinda, please, I want a Polaroid kissing you on the cheek. I try to relax while Javier takes instant pictures. As Javier and Ricky watch, La Rosa leans over, frenches me and then says: poems will come from this day.
The cemetery caretaker brings some cooked potatoes which the people of Pochac sent for us. We eat them with our bananas, but soon the caretaker and Ramon argue in Quechua, the indigenous language, which only Javier and Ricky understand. He tells us that Ramon pastured the animals on communal land and the caretaker said move them now. Ramon says the villagers think we are cannibals and maybe they poisoned the potatoes. Ramon eyes the mountain across the valley and puts his hands above his shoulders, ready to cover his ears. He says I have heard the devil’s fiddlers on that mountain and I stopped grazing my herds there.

July 21st
The day of the Bullfight. Before sunrise, the dogs bark and cry. They smell blood in the air. In the plaza, Kiki, the pension mutt, raises her head. She sniffs the bulls crammed in corals. At the 10:00 o’clock mass, heads bow, por favor, please Virgin Carmen, our mother, keep us safe today.

At the Corrida, La Rosa’s nieces titter when he introduces me as his amiga. He wants a romantic tale. A 24 –year-old man in love with a 65-year-old woman is not unknown in Peru. Mario Vargas Llosa married his Aunt Julia!

The second bull jumps over the horizontal rails into the crowd. Chaos. Danger for spectators. Anything can cause a stampede. People jam against one another, gulping beer and liquor. No one knows where the next bull will land.

In the evening, La Rosa visits me. My room has no chair, so we sit on the bed. La Rosa reads his new poem, La aroma de tu pelo, The Aroma of Your Hair. And then, ohhhh…the slats under the mattress give way. We fall onto the floor. We laugh and then we whisper.

I dreamed and dreamed the same dream again and again,

I am dancing the Huayno with Crosby and La Rosa.
I am bigger than the men …
floating in mist over
Turquoise Lagoon,
The old man licks my breast
Grasps and
pleads for more but
I push him away.

La Rosa touches a nipple,
fist in my belly,
he nibbles and sucks,
toes combing my hair.
Above us
Huascaran Glacier,
Teeth bared


© Copyright Rosalind Solomon 2009

Please do not reproduce this text without the artist's consent.

The Image Arts CONTACT Lecture Series 2009 is presented by Ryerson University supported by KODAK.

1 comment:

Joanna Foster said...

The text of your Toronto Talk! What a wild ride it was for this reader, plunged into the sounds, smells, fear, and pleasure of your experiences in Peru. Of course you know that to read your journal extracts is to automatically SEE your photographs differently -- better, and deeper, I think. I am so glad I had the chance to read a selection and now I am pulling Chapalingas down from my shelf.

- Amy Rule, Chief Archivist at the Center for Creative Photography