Kawsay waqaychaqkuna at the Toronto Biennial of Art

In May 2022, several of our Kawsay waqaychaqkuna traveled to Toronto to participate in this year’s edition of the Biennial of Art: What the Water Knows, the Land Remembers. Kawsay waqaychaqkuna Alice Cheng, Tamryn McDermott, and Amanda Tobin Ripley – all current AAEP PhD students – attended through their participation in an AAEP research seminar focused on the Toronto Biennial of Art taught by Dr. Richard Fletcher.

Image: Kawsay waqaychaqkuna with classmates and guests at the site of Sámi artist Joar Nango‘s Ravine Screenings

The TBA presents an intentional biennial model grounded in the local, rather than just acting as a temporary visitor to a disconnected site like many biennials. To prepare for the inaugural biennial in 2019, therefore, the TBA commissioned artist Ange Loft (Kahnawà:ke Kanien’kehá:ka / Mohawk) to draft a Toronto Indigenous Context Brief. Loft expanded on the document for 2022, with a version included in the Water, Kinship, Belief exhibition catalogue, and just released a book version called The Treaty Guide for Torontonians. This living document, initially commissioned as an internal document intended to provide TBA staff and exhibiting artists with basic knowledge of the Indigenous history and cultures of the greater Toronto area, eventually became completely central to the TBA project at large. Now, the document exists in two publications and through ongoing engagement with Loft and her artistic practice, including work with The Jumblies Theatre.  

This long-term, intentional, and perpetually in revision approach to a land acknowledgement resonated with the Kawsay waqaychaqkuna in the class, and the ways in which we approach land acknowledgements for the Kawsay Ukhunchay Andean and Amazonian Indigenous Art and Cultural Artifacts Research Collection at The Ohio State University. The TBA also resonated in other respects as well: in the centering of Indigenous artists and ways of knowing, of promoting what Ange Loft described as a “strengths based approach to learning” (personal communication, May 11, 2022), in emphasizing polyphony and multiplicity in storytelling and exhibitions, and more.  

While in Toronto, we got to experience the work of Abel and Wilson Rodríguez (Wilson also goes by the name Aycoobo), who are father-son Nonuya artists from the Amazon region in Colombia. Abel began his artistic practice as a means of documenting his intricate knowledge of the Amazonian jungle after his training as a shaman was disrupted when the family had to flee violence and relocate to Bogotá. Art historian Quinn Latimer (2021) describes Abel’s work as “a form of botany, history, writing, memory, image-making, and resistance — of ancestral knowledge of the medicinal uses of the Indigenous plants of his region… reveal[ing] the Amazonian forest ecosystem to be both metabolic and historical, each form of life feeding into the next, a cyclical system of sustenance” (pp. 91-92). 

Abel & Wilson Rodríguez, La Montaña Altoy Firme (2022)

Aycoobo has followed in his father’s footsteps, embracing painting as a means of recording and sharing his experiences of the Amazon and its biodiversity, infusing his images with the more-than-visible he experiences through the use of medicinal and ritual plants to expand perception and connect to ancestral knowledge. The TBA had three works by each painter on view, alongside a new documentary about their lives and their return to their homeland, Mogaje Guihu, El nombrador de plantasMogaje Guihu, The plant namer (2022). Significantly, the TBA also commissioned three new paintings made by the two artists together, marking the first time they had collaborated in this way and making visible the Biennial’s commitment to intergenerational collaboration and connection. 

Aycoobo (Wilson Rodríguez), El Bastón (2019-2021), (detail)

Over the course of the week in Toronto, Kawsay waqaychaqkuna were able to deepen their engagement with global Indigenous artists and their expressions and experiences of connection, relationship, place, nonlinear time, imagination and worldmaking. Tamryn and Alice, shown together at the bottom of the post, attended a public program called “Asking the Wind Oracle,” in which experimental musicians Sara Constant and Naomi McCarroll-Butler facilitated a collective, participatory greeting to artist Eduardo Navarro’s sculpture Wind Oracle (2022). The whole group engaged with the artistic team behind the Toronto Landscape Observatory to examine how close observation engenders connections to place and history. Some got a chance to see work representing Indigenous Peruvian traditions, on view through the I am land exhibition at Toronto’s Union Station (not affiliated with the Toronto Biennial) — including the work below by Venuca Evanán Vivanco representing forms of Indigenous knowledge transference often discredited by Western educational systems. Others participated in artist Camille Turner’s performance/workshop “Following the Afronautic Trail,” in which group guidelines included the assertions that “Time is nonlinear” and “Imagination is a tool for worldmaking” — credos that align with our work with the Kawsay Ukhunchay. Importantly, the experience also provided the Kawsay waqaychaqkuna present to deepen their connections with one another as we encountered each other more fully through international travel and shared meals. The grounding question for the Toronto Biennial of Art — “What does it mean to be in relation (with one another, with art, with place, with the more-than-human, with…)?” — is an inquiry and practice shared by Kawsay Ukhunchay. 

Venuca Evanán Vivanco, Venuca Evanán la maestra sin título (Venuca Evanan the Teacher without a Degree), 2019, digital reproduction of a drawing

Tamryn and Alice taking a selfie in front of Eduardo Navarro’s Wind Oracle


Latimer, Q. (2021). “Luminous in the sun: The cool botanical fervor of Abel Rodríguez.” In K. Botanova & Q. Latimer (Eds.), Amazonia: Anthology as Cosmology (pp. 90-101). CULTURESCAPES and Sternberg Press. 

Muyuchina Quechua Verb Wheel prototype in-progress!

Recently, through a connection to the industrial design department made possible through OSU’s STEAM Factory, we are one step closer to a full-scale muyuchina prototype! The Muyuchina project involves a Quechua verb wheel that enables users to explore the agglutinative nature of Quechua language by playing with suffixes to build meanings around a root verb. Our project has received funding from the Innovation Studio’s Design Competition to build a full-scale wheel in 180 Pomerene Hall.
Recent graduate, Micah Unzueta, and sophomore in Industrial Design, Easton Nguyen, are collaborating with the Innovation Studio to build this prototype.
This is what their first design may look like:

Victor Vimos interviews poet Arthur Sze

Last March, I visited Chinese-American poet Arthur Sze, who has lived in Santa Fe, New Mexico, for more than forty years. Sze is the owner of an extensive body of work that brings together more than a dozen poetry books, in which he has extensively explored different views of poetic experience, language, and the intersections that the poem has with the divinatory, the mystical, the experimental, the rhythmic.

Among his works, the book entitled QUIPU puts into dialogue his vision of the poetic experience with the Quipu, developed by the Incas and which has been widely explored as an object that, at the same time, allows different types of readings and references.

The objective of this travel was to develop, together with Arthur Sze, a conversation that would allow us to see how, from a poetic experience in another latitude, space, language, time, a dialogue can be put together with a cultural element from the Andean zone. In addition, Sze allowed me to get to know his work file on Quipu, and the ties that he makes in his research with similar devices used in China, showing that the bridges of cultural dialogue and poetic creation allow reconfiguring scenarios and expanding forms of reflection around different moments. historical and cultural.

Victor Vimos


Kawsay Ukhunchay Collaborates with S.T.E.A.M. Factory for “Stitching our Community Back Together” and “Doodles” Member Engagement Projects

This month the Kawsay Ukhunchay Andean and Amazonian Indigenous Art and Cultural Artifacts Research Collection partnered with STEAM Factory to bring two creative member engagement activities to STEAM members. Kawsay waqaychaqkuna (those who safeguard, keep and preserve with cariño and care) worked together to prepare 50 embroidery and doodle kits for engaging in Andean-inspired practices of making/doing while thinking/talking to shake up interactions during Zoom meetings.

Embroidery in the Andes dates back almost 10,000 years with some of the most elaborate examples of embroidery and textile techniques emerging from Paracas and Nasca cultures. Embroidery captures the notion of embodied experiences of learning by doing. Moreover, kawsay waqaychaqkuna observed that in the Andes, folks typically accompany any type of conversation, reflection or personal interaction with making or doing something with their hands, whether it be weaving, embroidering, shucking corn or sorting grains.

Claire McLean, graduating senior majoring in Spanish, spearheaded the project initiative drawing on this inspiration from Andean cultures which presents a way of mediating dialogue. Cameron Logar, undergraduate major in Biochemistry with minors in Spanish and Andean and Amazonian Studies, supported the project with in-depth research on embroidering traditions in the Andes, dying techniques, and color symbolism.

The Stitching Our Community Back Together project invites STEAM Factory members to engage in this making/doing while thinking/talking activity using a patch of cloth from something meaningful to them during the pandemic shutdown (a pair of jeans or sweatpants worn during COVID isolation, a special blanket, a favorite t-shirt) for the backdrop. In autumn 2022 we will gather everyone’s embroidery pieces and patch them together in a collective quilt as a celebration of our togetherness during our time apart!

For those looking for a slightly more accessible engagement opportunity, we proposed our Doodles project. Alice Cheng, doctoral student in Arts Administration, Education and Policy, conceived of the activity as a series of doodle prompts that folks could continue working off of to keep the body active and the mind creatively engaged while we dialogue on Zoom meetings.

As we contend with disembodied talking heads in Zoom squares, this low stakes and easy access doodling activity emphasizes movement as embodied knowledge and connects to Andean practices of doing/making while thinking/talking. Most importantly, doodling expresses joy, imagination, play, fun! It potentially helps us focus on conversations, keeps us from checking our email! and provides conversations starters as we bridge the online distance until we meet together in person again.

As we collaborated on this activity, kawsay waqaychaqkuna reflected on the significance of lines and patterns as “pathways of knowledge” among Indigenous communities in the Andes and Amazonia. (It is the mythic rainbow-colored anaconda, an embodiment of Sungui the first shaman, that passes to humans their ability to make designs. All possible designs exist virtually in the skin of the anaconda. These designs in turn provide the structure and conditions for generating all conceivable forms). As with the embroidery project, we plan to collect doodles and stitch them together in the form of a collective piece for display at the STEAM Factory.

Our interdisciplinary team of researchers worked together to present these kits at the March STEAM Exchange. Kawsay waqaychaqkuna will follow up with a tutorial on embroidering, concepts of preciousness in the Andes, and making/thinking models for STEAM Factory members in April!

Celebrating our student curators!

Each semester, the Kawsay Ukhunchay: Andean & Amazonian Indigenous Art & Cultural Artifacts Research Collection is supported by the hard work and scholarship of an interdisciplinary cohort of undergraduate and graduate student curators. These students’ efforts are recognized with the Whitten Andean & Amazonian Studies Scholarship, a $500 award made possible by a generous donation from Dr. Norm Whitten.

CLAS is proud to announce the Spring 2022 recipients of this award:

  • Alice Cheng
  • Hallie Fried
  • Cameron Logar
  • Tamryn McDermott
  • Claire McLean
  • Amanda Tobin Ripley
  • Micah Unzueta
  • Victor Vimos Vimos

These kawsay waqaychaqkuna (those who safeguard, keep, and preserve with care), work under the guidance of Professor Michelle Wibbelsman to maintain the collection, develop outreach programs, and conduct original research on the artifacts.

Learn more about the collection and read full curator bios here. For questions about the collection, contact Prof. Wibbelsman (wibbelsman.1@osu.edu)


Sutiy Micah Unzueta. Kawsay Ukhunchaypi epistemología Quechua ñisqawanpis simiwanpis llamk’ayta munarini. Primavera 2021mantapacha Kawsay Ukhunchaymanta waqaychaqkunawan llamk’achkanipis. Achka jinapis sumaq iñikunata ukhunchachkayku. Ñuqapaq, sumaq kanman sichus  Quechuantinta epistemología andina ñisqamanta kawsaynintapis ukhunchayta munani.

Kaypi chawpi llamk’ayniy proyectoy kachkan:

Jinapis, Quechua linguisticsninmantata Quechua kawsanamantapis yachayta munayman.



Quechua Pom-poms + Tassels Workshop with Centro de Textiles Tradicionales del Cusco

Several of us attended an online Quechua Pom-pom + Tassel workshop yesterday organized by the Smithsonian Folklife Festival in collaboration with Centro de Textiles Tradicionales del Cusco. Indigenous Peruvian weavers Yessica Sallo Auccacusi and Rosa Pumayalli Quispe led us in the process of creating multi-colored tassels and pom-poms.

About the Artisans – Yessica Sallo Auccacusi and Rosa Pumayalli Quispe work with the Center for Traditional Textiles of Cusco in Peru. The Center works to practice, sustain, and revive ancestral weaving styles, natural dye techniques, and textile designs. The nonprofit organization works with ten weaving communities from the Cusco region: Accha Alta, Acopia, Chahuaytire, Chinchero, Mahuaypampa, Huacatinco, Patabamba, Pitumarca, Santa Cruz de Sallac, and Santo Tomas (Smithsonian Folklife Festival website).

Two full-body portraits of women in traditional Peruvian wool dress: black skirts, woven vests and shawls, red wide-brimmed hats, all adorned with colorful yarn pom-poms and tassels.

Photo courtesy of the Center for Traditional Textiles of Cusco

Below is a peek into our experience with Yessica and Rosa!


Department of Spanish and Portuguese Chair’s office

There is a new display of art and cultural artifacts from the Kawsay Ukhunchay collection in the Department of Spanish and Portuguese interim chair’s office!

Database development is underway

Our Graduate Research Associate, Tamryn McDermott, is developing a comprehensive and searchable database for our Kawsay Ukhunchay research collection. Tamryn has been photographing the objects, assembling information, and cataloging objects, books, music, and instruments. The database is being built using Airtable, one of the database systems used at The Ohio State University.

Below is a snapshot of what the database looks like. Each record can be clicked on to find more information on each object. This system allows us to save multiple images of each object, additional documents relating to the object, and add searchable key words and geographic locations. Our student research is being integrated into the database. Students will also have access to the database as a resource for future work with the collection.


Below are some examples of the photographs:

Congratulations To Our Autumn 2021 Whitten Scholarship Awardees!

Congratulations To Our Autumn 2021 Whitten Scholarship Awardees!

Each semester the exceptional work and research that student curators undertake with the newly renamed Kawsay Ukhunchay: Andean and Amazonian Indigenous Art and Cultural Artifacts Collection is recognized by way of the Whitten Andean & Amazonian Studies Scholarship.

This semester’s awardees, who work under the guidance of Faculty Curator Michelle Wibbelsman, are:

  • Cameron Logar (Major: Biochemistry; Minors: Spanish, Andean & Amazonian Studies)
  • Anna Freeman (Ph.D. Student in Arts Admin., Education and Policy)
  • Amanda Tobin Ripley (Ph.D. Student in Arts Admin., Education and Policy)
  • Hallie Fried (Majors: International Studies, Spanish; Minor: Public Policy)
  • Tamryn McDermott (Ph.D. Student in Arts Admin., Education and Policy)
  • Emily Brokamp (MA student in History)
  • Micah Unzueta (Major: Spanish; Minors: Andean & Amazonian Studies, Education, International Studies)

Recent alumna Kelly Tobin (Majors: English, Spanish; not pictured above) has also continued to work with the collection after graduation.

Professor Wibbelsman and the curators engage in a unique combination of research, teaching, and outreach. The team’s hard work and expertise were on full display at the October 5th Tukuypaq Open House, where they demonstrated their training as kawsay waqaychaqkuna by guiding attendees through the collection, offering Quechua language and Andean weaving workshops, and leading interactive community activities. Throughout the event, attendees were encouraged to decolonize their thinking about art and to consider the Indigenous approaches to knowledge that the student curators have been learning and adopting throughout the semester.

Cameron Logar describes the curatorial experience as one that shaped his worldview in important ways:

Through the collection, my eyes have been opened to a wealth of new perspectives towards concepts I once considered definitive. Ideas of time and space, nature and culture, and the spiritual and the material have all been subjects that I have gained new views on. I have had the fortune of discovering fields of study I had never heard of, and yet resonate perfectly with my interests.

Hallie Fried’s experience was also transformative, and her learning is ongoing:

[I have been] collaborating with other curators across varying disciplines to learn about not just Andean art, but South American culture, museum curation, Quechua, and indigenous worldviews […] From this, I was inspired to continue having dialogues with indigenous artists, educators, and activists. I became fascinated with the idea of decolonizing education and teaching through art.

Congratulations once again to our student curators!

The Andean and Amazonian Indigenous Art and Cultural Artifacts Collection is permanently housed in the Department of Spanish and Portuguese in Hagerty Hall 255 and supported by the Department of Spanish and Portuguese, the Center for Latin American Studies, and a generous private donation from Dr. Norman Whitten. To learn more about the collection please visit the AAAC website and the K’acha Willaykuna main website.