Tag Archives: lima

What Other Artists Are Doing

5 Sep
urban pole at the International Potato Center

urban pole at the International Potato Center

Dear ayllu,

In a few days, I’ll be flying back to Scotland and from what I’ve heard from my friends, the welcoming parties for the new students are already starting in full swing. The day after I land, I will be running to registration offices… attending the Freshers’ Fair, where our Circus Society will be telling the newbies what we’re all about… spending the afternoon at Give-It-a-Go, in which we’ll perform and give sporadic trapeze & silks workshops on the university lawn… and see all my friends again after a 3 month summer break.

I’ve had such a great time blogging more often. I hope you’ve enjoyed it too! As always, I don’t know how much I’ll be able to blog once I’m back in Scotland, but I’m optimistic (as usual) that since I now know what university’s about, I’ll be able to balance it better.

Today is my last day at the International Potato Center. I’m just finishing up my work. The two videos I worked on have been shown at several conferences and the feedback was very good, especially for the project trailer. The minute it’s up on the CIP website / YouTube page, I’ll publish the link. It will best explain the project I’ve been a part of this past month.

with my supervisor Veronique and my fellow crazy intern Kathleen

with my supervisor Veronique and my fellow crazy intern Kathleen

So before I leave the country, I wanted to leave you with some videos of artists who have been influencing me, and who I have cast a firm and fascinated eye on. If you follow me on Twitter or Tumblr, then you’ll already know most of this, but I did want to dedicate a blog to what other artists are doing.

Firstly, with love from Scotland, the man who was supposed to follow his father’s footsteps and take over the local fish and chips shop:


Who knows where the audio track in the middle of the song is from? Here’s a clue:


Secondly, a short report introducing a fantastic new band and Grammy nominee, with love from Lima, Peru:

Visit their Official Website to know how you can get their music!


This is a fascinating film, based on a true story, that I cannot wait to see. It might be in your local indie cinema at the moment, so please rush to see it if you can.

I spent this week reading the following memoir and, because I am superstitious, I’m raced to finish it before my flight. It’s the true story of Juliane Koepke, who, when she was 17, became the sole survivor of a plane crash en route to the jungle city Pucalpa. She fought her way through the Amazon rainforest for 11 days with fractured bones, eventually finding her way out and discovering that everyone else, including her mother, had perished in the accident. Approximately 50 years later, she published her memoirs.

Juliane Koepke

Juliane Koepke

As “chance” will have it, her book has just been translated into Spanish and in a few days times, Juliane Koepke will be arriving and signing this book in Lima. I, unfortunately, will have left by then, so I urge everyone who will be here to go to the event, meet her, and get a copy of her book. It is very very good.

Here is the official invitation:


If you happen to not be in Peru, you can console yourself with an excellent documentary about Juliane’s survival by German director Werner Herzog, entitled Wings Of Hope. As “chance” would have it, he was desperately trying to get on that fated flight as well, as he was in the middle of finding Aguirre in the Peruvian Amazon. The flight, however, was overbooked, and he and his film team couldn’t get on.

Scoot up, I’m trying to watch this too:

Well, my friends, I have to get some work done before the day is through. I hope you enjoyed this first round of What Other Artists Are Doing. I’ll keep you informed on good art I discover along the way. Until then, I leave you with something I have been doing… with you… MY BLURB.

Thank you to everyone who gave me such excellent feedback; who wasn’t annoyed at me for bugging them about it. This is it. Unless I change something else.

You’re a fool if you think we work the fields! The fields work us!”

This foreboding riddle could have led Damian to be more careful with the Earth, but not much makes sense when you have knots growing out of your head. The young traveller works at a circus of flying people. He learns how to help others with magical plants, but neglects opening his own knots.

When Damian thoroughly loses what is left of his balance, he falls over the horizon. He wakes up to find himself in a desolate desert where the Earth sees him as a seed that refuses to grow. Only by striking a friendship with a charming but cheeky potato and learning to look the Earth in the eye, can Damian hope to open his knots and return to his side of the horizon.

Rooted in Peruvian mythology, Qayqa is a novel about the living energy of the universe, a fairytale about finding yourself.

Got thoughts on it? Let me know what you think!

Love, Ritti


Flying Over the Andes

28 Aug

Every manual for writers encourages us to write as much and as often as possible. The idea is to become familiar with your word flow, your inner thesaurus, and to become masters at describing the most mundane of elements in everyday life. When you can successfully describe the poetry in the mundane; when you can linguistically re-create scenarios everyone knows from daily life – then you are exercising your writing muscle. It’s an exercise I love doing, and that I don’t do enough.

This is what I wrote in my diary as we flew from Lima to Cusco. This is the view that inspired me.

These are quick thoughts from which more descriptions and metaphors can be born – completely work-in-progress!!!

Photo 21-08-2014 16 19 49

I can see the beginning of the Andes. The sirus clouds that cover the city of Lima reach only to their knees, like white wave lapping brown ruffles. They become minor, unimportant. It thrills me Such brown desolation, sharp cuts. No one lives here. On the horizon I see white peaks rise, white towers coming closer. How awed we all must feel when flying over Peru!

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Oh but the white is a crown for the brown mountains that made is so high. An act of distinction. A mutation of height.

And now the clouds that inhabit the space over these mountains begin to manifest. Thicker, they hang over the brown ruffles with a view to their lower cousins, the one who blanket Lima and lap at the knees of the brown ruffles. Solitary bodies, these thicker clouds cast large solitary shadows over the brown plateaus. How they must smile fondly at the Lima blankets, covering a world they neither see nor care about.

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The horizon becomes more jagged, interesting. The ruffles have now calmed into a plateau; the height has been conquered. These mountains now cover the world; their high plateau is no white base of the world, the point of origin from whence all life begins. And indeed, between the valleys, in every benign ridge, sparkles of rooftops appear. Brown tin, as though its inhabitants were camouflaging from fearsome sky predators.

Tired of plateaus, the mountains now rise again, resume their wild jagged nature. Their shapes are obviously restless, the existence as plateaus has obviously bored them. They rise to meet the clouds which now become tangled in them. They want another crown, another mark of distinction. Plateaus and valleys only served to become populated. No, they want to be wild again.

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And where they sink, they fall into the sirus clouds again, and it looks like that is where the world ends: the cliff over which mountains fall. They disappear into the grey-blue smog, over which thick solitary clouds hang as though patrolling, seeking the mountains that had fallen in.

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At the edge of the sunken world stand the mountains looking black. White tufts of clouds hang onto their sides like children afraid to venture. The horizon is empty again. There is a valley here where mountains do not belong, cannot exist. We leave it, turn to look at the rest of the world.

The mountains have matured. They are no longer light brown ruffles in the world but dark brown, almost black, serious creatures. They have reached new heights, have broken the hymen of clouds and are now peaked in white. Almost deadly, they stand adjoined in fraternity. They have survived the sunken world into which mountains fall, they have matured, and looking over the peaks of lower mountains, they see one another.

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I am so close to them, I can almost touch them. I don’t. Something must remain holy.

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The valleys widen now. What mountains the Incas crossed to found Cusco! How easily we fly over them today.

We are descending. I have written for almost an hour and a half. We are descending to the landing strip I know so well because I used to live close to it. I watched planes arrive and leave all the time and was happy I was only watching. Now I am landing myself and in a few days, I will take off again and return to descend into the blanket over Lima.

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that’s not wine; it’s chicha

About My Book:

For reasons I understand, Mark is now inspired to paint more for Qayqa. I think it’s the fact that the pressure is off his shoulders. Now that he’s illustrated what we agreed, he feels more relaxed and can start creating again. Ironic, no? He sent me a few illustrations today, like this one I didn’t understand myself at first – and I wrote the damn book! Mark knows my images better than I do.


I’ve been struggling with the damn blurb for almost a week now. I decided to break all expectations and rules and go with what I like. I published my work-in-progress blurb on my Tumblr and asked for feedback. You can also give me feedback here! Tell me, does this sound like something you want to take home with you?

“You’re a fool if you think we work the fields. The fields work us!”

This foreboding riddle could have led Damian to be more careful with the earth, but not much makes sense when you have knots growing out of your head. As a young man on the road he finds work at a circus of flying people, learns about medicinal plants from the Obeah cook Ti, but continues not understanding his knots.

When Damian completely loses his balance and falls over the horizon, he lands in a desolate world where the Earth sees him as a seed that refuses to grow. Only by striking up a friendship with a charming but cheeky potato, battling the demons living within the Earth and digesting a storm of ghosts, can Damian hope to open his knots and return to his side of the horizon.

Rooted in Peruvian mythology, Qayqa is a novel about the living energy of the universe, a fairytale about finding yourself.

Until we meet again, I hope you enjoyed the thought-jumbles from the plane.

always on a plane

always on a plane

Love, Ritti

The Making Of Of Qayqa

11 Aug

photo 2

Work at the institute is going well. I finished a rough cut of the final material and ran into the weekend feeling I had accomplished something. But the city of Lima is driving me nuts and with Peru being so large, it’s hard to get very far with only a weekend to escape. So I complain to friends who raise their eyebrows and snigger: “Ritti, that’s the life we’ve been having for years. It’s what life is like if you’ve got a normal job.”

I did not know that.

The most normal job I’ve had is working at regional television with spontaneous working hours… And cafes / bars. I’ve never done a 9-5. Currently I’m doing a 7:30-4:30 job. In Peru’s winter. What the hell was I thinking.


The Making Of… Of… Qayqa

Last week I requested on Twitter for people to send me questions about Qayqa and my life / work as a writer. The reason for this is that I’m currently preparing a Qayqa Making Of book: a side-project which is designed to keep me sane (and motivated) while I walk Qayqa through the last steps of her birth. I got some excellent questions from a friend and stayed up way past my working-hours-bedtime having fun answering them. I found them to be so insightful and delicious. Here are 3 that made me snigger with delight:

We know that your life at the circus inspired elements of Qayqa, such as the Flying People, but how did your work on Qayqa have an influence on your work as an aerial artist?

Are there elements of Qayqa that you wrote knowing they would give away a lot of yourself, and if so, how did you manage to trust your readers and your audience enough to open up to them like this?

Many people are looking forward to learn more about The Flying People, do you feel like the great interest of people on THEIR story is somehow betraying Damian’s journey and HIS story?

Insightful, ey?

Some people will be receiving the Making Of book as their reward for supporting the crowd funding project. I’m going to print a limited edition and sell the rest during my book tour. So grab ’em while they’re out!

Chatting with a friend in Lima, I mentioned that I couldn’t think of a good title for the book. “I can’t really call it: the making of of Qayqa, can I?” He stared at me and immediately gave me the best idea. It’s brilliant because it’s to short, explanatory… and references X Men. I love X Men. This is how much I love X Men:

at Universal Studios in 2008

at Universal Studios in 2008

at the "Days of Future Past" premiere in Aberdeen

at the “Days of Future Past” premiere in 2013

I’ll be calling the making of book QAYQA: ORIGINS.

Get it?


My friend was amazed that I hadn’t thought of it myself.

I’ve sent Mark some questions for the book as well. I’m hoping it will give you an insight into the thought processes, the stories, the coincidences that all came together to make my first novel. And perhaps a sneak-peak into Munay, the sequel.

I spent the weekend finding my ideal café where I could write and go over Mark’s illustrations.

by Mark Klawikowski

by Mark Klawikowski

I also wrote for Munay. I realised (again) that she is much more done than I had thought. I’m connecting her dots and it’s so much fun to re-read all the old sections I wrote, knowing where I was in my life at that time, and where I was traveling too.

While I was seeping through, I discovered a passage that I’m not so sure will stay in Munay any more. I wrote it in Cusco two years ago, after a lovers quarrel, and now I realise it’s out of place in Munay. I may change my mind, but until then, what to do with it?

Put it in the blog, I thought.



“How Women Argue” by Ritti Soncco 

Allow me to generalise without apology: the trouble is that women are not as accustomed to sidestepping, not as accustomed to waiting with the patience of cavaliers. We do not harbour as little judgment as men who seem born with the knowledge that we must accept what is given and never demand more because “woman are fundamentally different, my son”. Instead, we are creatures of passion whose cries of strength and cries of insecurity sound identical. Who want “everything is fine” to mean “stay here and talk to me because nothing is alright”.

And so we fall into the dilemma of being a woman. A dilemma we ourselves do not approve of. We do not want to stand in a corner overcrowded with clichés. We despise the confrontation of man versus woman; the one which ends with the evolutionary argument that we are fundamentally different. What rubbish. We prefer the school of thought “everything is only as complicated as you make it”. We insist that we are not complicated.

And so we find ourselves increasingly demanding a sphere of our own. Why should the ionosphere be as unarguable as this and have all the fun? Where is our world where the rules of gravity and air agree that we are in the right? One sphere to call our own, into which the world can enter and understand what we meant when we said _______________; understand why we needed that hug to last longer or those extra words of praise. Understand that we weren’t being needy, we weren’t feeding a cliché; we will not be branded and used as an example of Venus.

Breathe the air of our sphere and you’ll know how a woman feels. Fly around in our wind and you’ll understand why we fall so hard in love, why it makes us feel insecure, perfect, insufficient, and divine. I tell you if we could have a sphere of our own we would never be cornered with clichés again. We’d be an aerial fact, something to be measured. Rational minds would agree on the degrees of feminine passion, the knots of feminine insecurity and the average speed of feminine stability.

Was my anger in our last fight a moderate gale or a deep depression? I meant it to scatter the clouds but I fear it called forth a storm instead. In my passion, as analysed by the Beaufort Scale and therefore measured by observed conditions on land or sea (you choose), we are now flying over the India of my love and experiencing a moderate tropical storm. According to the anemometers this is the average wind speed for a monsoon. You know what to do.

A sphere for our emotional weather, where women can remain as understandable and elusive as the clouds of every other sphere.


If you have any questions you would like me to include in QAYQA: ORIGINS (snigger), write me! I’m here for ya.

“Your Children Are Not Your Children”

5 Aug


Books, my ayllu, are fascinating creatures. How many of us know the phenomenon of buying a book only to not be able to read it? It’s as though it just won’t open itself up to us. And years later, having perhaps learnt new things and changed, suddenly, the book we had forgotten all about will suddenly attract us from the bookshelf, and we devour it within days.

This quite importantly happened to me when I bought The Prophet by Khalil Gibran in Lebanon. I was there visiting friends, who, as part of my short tour of Lebanon, took me to see his house. I was 16 and had no concept of Gibran. I bought the book because I loved his house and his paintings, and I felt buying the book was something I should do whilst in Lebanon. Yet that book kept me no company during my wait at Beirut Airport. I was bored to tears with it; I simply couldn’t access it. Then, when I was 20, it suddenly shone on the bookshelf. I took it down and inhaled it. I recommend it to everyone. I try to live by it. Seriously, if you don’t have it, get it right now. Your bookshelf – your life – needs it:

Click here if you’re in the UK.

Click here if you’re in Germany.


So in a way, it should barely have surprised me that Qayqa is doing what she’s doing. And I can only thank you all for being so amazingly understanding. I was in Germany for 3 days and I want to say THANK YOU to the people I bumped into who were so supportive about Qayqa‘s book tour being postponed.

The greatest thing I was told was:

Don’t worry about anything. You just organise the tour and whenever it happens, I’ll be there. You don’t even have to tell me when & where: that’s MY part.

It’s amazing you should feel that way!!!

Qayqa, perhaps, is like a wine that matures with time. Or perhaps she’s just a little bitch. Sometimes I feel like I’m dragging a heavy horse up the Andes, and I don’t understand why I feel that way. I think of Emily Dickinson who, after a few publication rejections, stuffed her poems into her cupboard. (They weren’t discovered and subsequently celebrated until after her death.) Am I doing the same thing?

Or is a book-pregnancy just a big big birth to give?

Is Qayqa also biding her time to open up to me?

Equally, as most of you will know, I have been working on the sequel, Munay, for over two years now. I have had the skeleton of the story in my mind since her initial conception, but it was connecting the dots that proved the hardest. I know where the main character, Anahata, has to go, but I don’t know how to get her there. And no amount of living my life, reading books or speaking about it to people was helping.

Yesterday I finished reading –

by Stephan Talty

(a fun historical read; I recommend it)

– and suddenly it all made sense. I needed to make Anahata crawl through the earth and now I finally know how to get her down there. As always, it’s a question of wind. So thank you, Stephan Talty, for including 17th century philosophies on the origins of earthquakes in your excellent book. I now know how to connect the final dots in Munay and perhaps even finish her. After waiting 2 years, my own book opened up to me.

I am the mother of two. Qayqa, who I am trying to wobble into the world, and Munay, who is expanding in my belly. I have flushes of excitement with Munay – and I am terribly afraid and nervous with Qayqa. That’s just how it is to give birth, I suppose.



Centro Internacional de la Papa

Centro Internacional de la Papa

So I am in Peru now, working on an anthropological-film internship. I have been hired by the International Potato Center in Lima-Peru, who is working, among others, in collaboration with the HoPe Foundation and Chirapaq Ñan on a project they have loving called the Las Papitas de mi Comunidad (the Little Potatoes in my Community). Together with several NGOs in the Andes, they have collected a vast array of film material about potatoes. Yes!

The material includes myths, rituals, songs about potatoes, as well as potato diseases, cooking methods and Andean agricultural farming methods. I have been given all this material and am now spending my hours at the institute going through it all to familiarise myself with it. My job will be to edit it into a series of trailers for a DVD. Teachers in the Andes will then be given this DVD / USB to reinforce their teaching in Andean communities.

at the office

at the office

I will, of course, show you the trailer once it’s done so that you can observe what I’ve been up to. In the mean time here are some pictures around my working space.

potato art around the institute

potato art around the institute

expansion routes

potato expansion routes

different types of potatoes

different types of potatoes

So far it’s incredible to be here. The working atmosphere is relaxed, so friendly, and everyone has been kind and welcoming. The institute emphasises the importance of sports, so there is a volleyball and a football court, as well as a gym with table tennis and zoomba possibilities. During my coffee break, I walk around the greenhouses, press my nose against the panes and ask the scientists inside to tell me about their plant experiments.

I am using the fact that I’m on holiday to read as much as possible. Today marks my first week of being in Lima. Once my routine has set and I’ve kicked my jetlag, I will continue sorting Qayqa out.

I’m still living 3 lives: the writer, the anthropology student, the aerialist. That’s just how it’s going to be from now on, because I could not imagine giving any of those lives up.

If books come to readers at the right time in their lives – when you need them the most, when you are ready for them – perhaps that means they didn’t leave the writer until it was the right time either. Perhaps.




The Absence of the Author

27 Dec



In the months that have passed since my last post to you, I think we all knew the regularity of my posts could decrease somewhat. But I never expected it to decrease so much.

Ofcourse I have plans to change that. University life caught up with me. My courses are demanding, so I demand to give my private time the equal amount of dedication and energy as I do my courses.

I founded an acrobatics group within the Juggling Society at uni, and after a few months of teaching, we now have a firm group of amazing people who show up every single week, play the games I suggest enthusiastically, push their bodies beyond what they thought was possible for them, and are gaining strength and flexibility. So much that they have begun demanding acrobatics lessons twice a week… and I am only too happy to oblige!

I give my acrobatics lessons all my energy

I give my acrobatics lessons all my energy



taking credit

taking credit

Then I traveled to Martinique for 10 days, because one of my oldest friends from Nigeria, who lives on Martinique, was getting married. Martinique was astounding, beautiful, and steeped in literature. I discovered Aimé Césaire, a Martinique poet whose words can be found on panels all around the island.

2013-11-23 14.18.07

an impression of Martinique

The first poem I ever read by Aimé Césaire was a poem that hung from the ceiling at the airport. I spotted it while I was waiting for my luggage, and it has been haunting me ever since. Ayllu, this is where you either get out Google Translate or ignite your passion for French because I cannot translate beauty. I can only recount it.

2013-11-25 13.22.16

J’habite une blessure sacrée

J’habite des ancêtres imaginaires

J’habite un vouloir obscur

J’habite un long silence

J’habite une soif irrémédiable

J’habite un voyage de mille ans

(extract from Moi, Laminaire)

2013-11-25 16.48.04

During my first days on Martinique, I kept asking myself: What have I done to deserve such beauty around me? Is this beautiful, bountiful planet really just for our taking, for our pleasure? Of course we must assume responsibility for it – that goes without saying. But – really, so much beauty, just like that? 

Then why do we choose to live elsewhere – when paradise is right here, on a little island in the Caribbean? Forget colder climates, forget stronger economies. When you have this . . . 

2013-11-25 17.18.35

. . . Why are we elsewhere? 

Is there a subconscious pact among us that we feel we don’t deserve to live in paradise? Is this a very Christian thought?

As I sat on Banane Beach, I scribbled furiously in my notebook: Will I somehow have to pay for this one day? And why do I even think like this??!

Because it’s just so goddamn beautiful.

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Not even places that have been overloaded with humans could lose their beauty to that.

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Not even a tiny bit.

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Well, okay, maybe just a bit…

But then who would have taken this picture!!! . . .

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. . . Followed by the obligatory selfie that says: hell yea I took this picture.

vanity strikes hard

(I am only human)

It didn’t take long to acknowledge that these questions of “do I deserve this beauty” and “will I somehow have to pay for the pleasure of this beauty” were that, yes, I felt undeserving of so much paradise. I was humbled. Every day was an exhibition of beauty. What a miracle to be living on such a spectacular planet, just there for the taking, for the breathing and living. Just there. 

2013-11-26 16.47.39

And after 10 days, I was equally happy to be back in Scotland because this is my life. And, during my Literature in a World Context classes, was (ironically) encouraged to ask myself what is left of a text when the author is absent. Ironic, because it echoes my absence from my blog. What happened while I was away? What did you get up to? Did you re-visit the blog, re-read old posts? Did you wonder about Qayqa? Did you travel, make love, get annoyed, read books, take naps in odd places, get someone pregnant?

The Literature in a World Context classes fry my brain. Our tutor is very good: ridiculously knowledgable, charismatic… and frighteningly knowledgable. We all leave the tutorials feeling stupid. We don’t understand everything he says. We’re over-enthusiastic when we understand anything. 

how we feel at university

how we feel at university

We are being trained to consider the author’s motivation in writing a certain text; and how, in his absence, he cannot defend himself. The text could be an attempt to redress a wrong – so how efficient is it in redressing when he is away? 

In the tutorials it became obvious: a text is a good piece of writing if it will withstand the absence of the author.

This, of course, begs the question: Can Qayqa withstand my absence? 

from the exquisite Ti Son Son restaurant in Saint-Luce, Martinique

from the exquisite Ti Son Son restaurant in Saint-Luce, Martinique

Before I moved to Scotland, I gave a series of “last readings” in Ulm as part of the Kulturnacht 2013 in the book shop Eichhorn. Manfred Eichhorn, owner of the book shop, friend and writer, was kind enough to read my manuscript of Qayqa. He attended the readings and afterwards sat me down with some tea and we spoke about my book.

His primary concern was the absence of the writer. (His secondary concern was that Damian should be female. This suggestion almost gave Mark a heart attack.)

“How strong is Qayqa without you?” he began. “When you read it, yes, I am there with you. I close my eyes and I feel the world you have created. But when you’re not around, what will motivate your readers to continue turning the pages?” He paused – but he had promised me to direct. “I fear there may occasionally not be enough to keep them turning pages.”

This, people, is fantastic feedback.

I just finished reading The Hunger Games trilogy. (Literally: just. I was too hyper to go to sleep so I settled into bed with my computer) I was slightly disappointed with the end (J.K Rowling has ruined ends for me) but The Hunger Games is a page-turner. I practically inhaled those books: I finished the 2nd and 3rd books in 5 days. I recommend it. I’m going to see the film tomorrow.

The Hunger Games is powerful in the absence of the author.

Is Qayqa?

Can she . . .

power of books

Take you  hostage .  . .


Transport you . . .

become someone else 4

Like she did to me?

There’s one way to find out. (And this is also a way to re-active my blogging duties during university hours)

Dear ayllu, once again I need your help. Are we still a community? I believe we are. You showed it to me over & over again, and I would be terrible to even doubt it. I need your help again. No: I would be honoured to have your advice. 

Originally I planned to publish a bit of Qayqa as a Christmas present of sorts, from me to you. I’m taking it a step further.

In order to find out if Qayqa withstands the absence of the author, I will, over the upcoming weeks, publish extracts of Qayqa for your reading pleasure. I won’t read the extracts out to you, obviously, as it defeats the purpose.

What I ask from you is your honest feedback and your valuable advice: Was it boring? How did you feel while you were reading it? Did it make any sense at all? What questions arose? What bothered you? What delighted you? What made you itch for more? 

And did you wish I was reading it to you instead . . . ?

As always, write me in the comments, email me at rittisoncco@gmail.com, tweet me @rittisoncco

Good idea? Bad idea?


Another sleepless night blogging. I’m in Perú, on my parents’ sofa in Lima. Outside the window is a sunrise-tainted fog. I can hear the ocean; I cannot see it. All I can see is a monotone the vague colour of an approaching sunrise. A wall of vague. Goodnight. It’s brilliant to be writing to you again.

A Message at Pachacámac

17 Dec

Last week, I went to see the ruins of Pachacámac just 40 km outside of Lima. According to Andean cosmology, each person has an „itu“ or energetic portal with the world; a place of energetic transmission which is physically closest to one’s place of birth. I calculated that, according to this, Pachacámac would be my „itu“ and so I was quite excited to visit the ruins, poke around and see how it felt to be there. Pachacámac has, unfortunately, become a rather strict place to visit and I left the ruins feeling somewhat disappointed. Over the following few days, I tied myself up in knots wondering what exactly to take away from this experience – and what to write about it. Finally, after a tangled few days, came the following story . . .  

Once was a temple guarded by early Lima cultures, by Huari, by Inkas. Created by men who sought to mimick landscapes with an architecture meant to complement the desert – so perfectly that, when two millenia passed, men could no longer distinguish temple from hill, pyramid from mountain. She was a place of worship pretending to be a hill of sand. Until bricks of adobe and fragments of pottery began to seep out of her sand and glitter in the sun. A dig in the earth lead to an incredible shout: „Ruins! There are ruins here!“

Once again in Perú, appearances are illusions. A hill is not a hill. Those who claim: „I have nothing to say“ have the most secrets waiting. The desert points to its colourful past – to its canyons of secrets – to footsteps that walked silently past us in the sand and disappeared into a mirage… A hill is not a hill. Not here. Not today.

Still is a temple but „my guards never left me“. In the years when the sand covered her face and the people forgot that their eyes couldn’t tell them everything, there was no need to protect her. Sand and time created a vacuum of oblivion and she rested quietly, only disturbed by dogs digging up pottery or children pissing in the sand. As soon as the excavations began, the guards returned to her side. Once dressed in golden headgear, elaborate nose ornaments and wooden spears, they changed their uniform to match the new era. Now they have guns and whistles which they blow at tourists. They are as kind and friendly, as burnt by the sun, as they ever were.

They tell her they came because the government wants to preserve the ruins of their cultural heritage, but she knows they are the same guards from 3000 years before. They are returning because she is returning. Soon all her temples will be above ground and she will buzz with energy once more. The ruins are rising . . . the guards are returning . . . and soon, so will her worshippers.

photograph by Ritti Soncco

Or are they already here? She has always attracted pilgrims from all over the world. They come to marvel – and to feed her mighty temples with their enthusiasm, their appreciation and a universal struggle to understand: who is she? 

„My visitors are treated strictly.“ Everything is forbidden, everything else is closely monitored. The guards blow sharp whistles at every suspicious move: standing too close, photographing too long – even asking stubborn questions. „We are going to be kicked out,“ her visitors think. The strictness of the guards is suffocating and constricting – especially in comparison to the otherwise relaxed Peruvian attitude. „It’s neccessary,“ a guard explained. „Too many walls were damaged, too many lovers had midnight trysts and left their refuse among the ruins. For now, you must make due with walking around the ruins and not through them.“

The workers uncover her. She says: “You think you’re preserving me but you’re actually restoring.” Restoring her to the minds of the people, who will awake in the morning and be astounded to see a familiar temple has risen from the sand. And one by one they come to her in the desert, touch her gently and say: „I think I remember your name, mamacita.“

photograph by Ritti Soncco

She knows it was a prophecy: a new dawn of the Inka returning. A new era of consciousness, a return to living in balance with nature. All over Perú, the sands move aside and old temples reveal themselves. The old ways, who found refuge in the sand when civilisation became materialistic, now re-emerge from the literal desert. When we feel the change and wonder how live with it, we realise our museums can be our teachers, and our ruins can be our temples. 

This is the part of the Andean prophecy that is currently being fulfilled: the temples are not being restored; they are being prepared for the return of the Inka.

I later discovered that I had misunderstood something important about the word “itu”: it isn’t a man-made place of worshop but normally refers to a natural formation, ergo a mountain, lagoon, or the ocean. Rather obvious, actually, considering that Andean cosmology is all about returning to nature!

In my writing, I base much of my knowledge on and therefore wish to thank the following books and their authors: “Initiation” by Elizabeth B Jenkins and “Masters of the Living Energy” by Joan Parisi Wilcox.