Nazca "Flying Feline" Tunic
c.300 AD, Nazca culture, 150 x 80 cm
This uniquely Surrealistic tunic exemplifies the two most essential elements in the arts of Pre-Columbian people—the feline and the stepped motif. The central figures are four-winged felines rendered in a stylised geometric manner. The presence of dualism, as a principle that is widely observed in the political and societal arrangement of the Pre-Columbian art, is manifested through the mirroring image of feline placed in both sides of the central colour band. In similar shape and size, but with a mirroring colour scheme, the textile is an extraordinary example of what the sociologist Dr. Trion Avital termed “transformation conversion” in the Pre-Columbian world.
Pre-Columbian textiles represent a continuing textile tradition spanning from the from 5000 BC to the Colonial era and present day. Arid desert conditions along the coast of Peru have preserved dyed textiles dating as old as 6000 years. The textile arts are instrumental in military and utilitarian use, both as armour and as diplomatic tools and exchanged during inter-political negotiations. Textiles are also used as a medium of communication, indicating a person’s social status and regional affiliation.