For two days in June, Casa Chapi school kids focus on the arts in all its forms. Children from schools in the region are invited to participate in two days of workshops that include painting, handicrafts, declamation poetry, dance and theater. Prizes are awarded, soccer games are played and the children become acquainted with other children in their remote Colca Valley.
The arts are an important part of life in the highlands. Handcrafts provide a significant portion of income for Quechua families, festivals of dance and song relieve the relentless grind of work, and poetry declamation retains the oral traditions of Quechua legends and language. Weaving and embroidery in bright hues of red, blue, yellow and green adorn clothing and blankets, providing unique identities for each community.
Through the annual art camp, our students can share the providence of living at Casa Chapi with children from less fortunate communities. This year 25 children from Chalhuanca, an extremely isolated village at the end of a long, rough dirt road, traveled three hours to attend the camp at Casa Chapi. These are children who rarely, if ever, leave their village, so the trip itself was an adventure, not to mention sleeping overnight with the 70 kids housed at the school.
The theme for Art Camp IV was honoring Pachamama, or Mother Earth. A local shaman performed the traditional Pachamama ceremony that included gifts of earth’s largesse around a bonfire. Everyone chewed three coca leaves, breathed three times on alpaca lard, and offered three sips of wine to Mother Earth. Aromatic herbs wafted up from the fire as the shaman chanted the many blessings of Pachamama.
Over the next two days of workshops, the children created a theater performance of Pachamama legends, learned traditional dance, poetry and songs, created paintings of Mother Earth, and made traditional cornhusk dolls.
Competitions are highly regarded in Peru, and rivalry is passionate and expected. The children put in all-out effort to make their performances exuberant and fun. At the end of the camp, prizes were given out for best performances and artwork. Chalhuanca went home tired and happy with new backpacks, a bicycle, and Pachamama tokens for everyone. They vowed to host their own art camp for Casa Chapi in the coming year.