They Say The Moche Made A Warrior’s Promise
…but did they really?
We went to the ballet!
Rather the ballet, opera, folkloria performance. The opportunity to have a ‘cultural night with Miro was a partial payback for getting dragged to teen-targeted-adrenaline-thrill-seeking movies. “Mom, you can pick the next one,” he always says, then begs for the latest release, and I always give in. So it’s the trade off. When I saw we could get the balcony, (or as I explained to Miro, the ‘nose-bleed’ section) for 15 soles a ticket (roughly $5) I snapped them up before he had the chance to say but ‘Jack Black isn’t in this one’!
Kicking and screaming (not really) we got dressed up on a Tuesday night, and set out.
The performance was called “Akas Kas: The Warrior’s Promise” which was the first big show at the National Grand Theater of Peru. And a grand performance space it was.
From this web site and translated into English:
“Akas Kas: The Warrior’s Promise” is a work specially commissioned for the opening of this new cultural space.The task falls on the Nile Velarde, Peruvian composer who composed recognized earlier in 2011 the ballet “Rasu Niti” commissioned by the Ministry of Culture.Together with playwright Celeste Viale, gave life to this play in two acts and lasts two hours. The composition of Velarde shows from the early stages a music descriptive and melodic, which also uses sounds and instruments native to embrace the ancient environment in which is based the work, an inspiration of the Moche culture.
The performance was a grand production, utilizing the talents of several groups, including National Ballet, National Symphony Orchestra, the National Choir, the National Folk Ensemble and the National Children’s Choir, plus costumes, lighting, direction, etc. It was obvious to see all of the effort that went into this production. And being the first performance at this grand new theater, it was destined to be a national success.
But was it really?
I love the theater. I absolutely love ballet (even wanted to be a prima ballerina when I was much younger, but it didn’t actually work out that way). But, I don’t necessarily love opera, but can tolerate it for an evening. But the opera singing by itself wasn’t the biggest annoyance for me. The story was. Great care was taken to produce a theater piece that glorified one of Peru’s national treasures, the rich history of the ancient cultures prior to the arrival of the Spanish.
This story took place during the age of the Moche, a culture that lived in the northern coastal regions of Peru from about 100 AD to 800 AD. This culture was well known for their pottery, gold work and ruins left behind. Miro and I were blessed to visit the Huaca de la Luna and Sol (temple of the Sun and Moon), which has remained largely intact with its many colorful murals with complex iconography, and the Mummy of Cao, which Miro and I visited earlier last year. Fascinated by the culture, I read as much as I could, devoured the artifacts as a tool to learn. Not being expert in any thing archeological, simply a lover of these cultures, I’ve been able to get a sense of the traditions and practices.
The ritual contexts seem to indicate that human sacrifice played a significant part in Moche religious practices. These rites appear to have involved the elite as key actors in a spectacle of costumed participants, monumental settings and possibly the ritual consumption of blood. While some scholars argue that the sacrificial victims were the losers of ritual battles among local elites, others suggest that the sacrificial victims were warriors captured in territorial battles between the Moche and other nearby societies.
The story line of the play was written and performed rather Romeo and Juliet style. In essence, the beautiful maiden for the village was chosen by the operatic singing Priests and Priestess to be sacrificed to assure greater harvest, hunt and fishing for the village. The chosen one’s true love, the great warrior of the Moche village also happened to be the apple of the female Priestess’ eye, therefore a greater betrayal was in play. The Priestess confronted the fair maiden, then ended up killing her before the sacrifice out of anger with a spondylous shell. Then after realizing her mistake, took her own life. Then the warrior was killed by the Priest, and he proceeded to kill every woman in the Moche town to try to appease the Gods after the mistake. Then, in the final scene, the ghost of the fair maiden and the great warrior were finally together. (Hollywood ending?)
Ok, granted, it was just a story, likely wasn’t meant to be historically accurate, but I felt the inner disgust at the portrayal of this culture as heathen savages. Were they really? I am not sure. But a lot of people involved in this production thought it would make great theater. And I question whether a story of this nature off-puts the general public from appreciating the true richness these ancient cultures offer. There is much history in this country to discover and appreciate including the Moche, Chimu, Inca, Paracas, Nazca, Wari, Chincha cultures to name a few.
I can only hope this type of sensationalized story does not prevent others from appreciating the amazing accomplishments and contributions this culture has added to humanity’s history.