Diego Mánchez Raymondi (Cañete–Lima, 1988). Graduated from the specialty of sculpture from the National Superior Autonomous School of Fine Arts, where he is currently a professor of art. He participates in artistic shows in Peru and other South American countries. Several of this works adorn different Peruvian Embassies around the world.
Túcume, October 10, 2018:
Today is the day of my reunion with the visual artist Diego Mánchez Raymondi. Graduated from the National Autonomous School of Fine Arts in Lima, Diego is quickly making a name for himself in the world of Peruvian art due to his great sensitivity toward the preservation of our culture and, especially, that of the Peruvian Hairless Dog.
Lover of all dogs, he had his first Hairless Dog at 15 years old: his name was Negrito. Unfortunately, Negrito died shortly after, but this event was the trigger that guided his art towards the protection of the Peruvian Hairless Dog and, in general, of the Peruvian biodiversity and its endangered species. He currently has Samín, a 3 year old Peruvian Hairless Dog who, like Negrito, is his faithful friend and source of inspiration.
I met Diego in the year 2015, at the Peruvian National Library, while my first film on the Peruvian Hairless Dog was being projected in the context of my first Peruvian tour. It was then he showed me his art and I commissioned from him a sculpture inspired on the theme of my movie, which would adorn the small personal “museum” I have at home in Paris of objects pertaining to the Peruvian Hairless Dog. A few months later, I brought home a beautiful natural scale sculpture of a magnificent and proud dog that has, ever since, been the center of attention of all who visit.
I kept in tough with Diego and, shortly after, as I was traveling to the main seat of the Fédération Cynologique Internationale (FCI), in Thuin–Belgium, on the occasion of the official presentation ceremony for that same film at the FCI, we agreed we would present the seat with a statue of a Peruvian Hairless Dog created by him. I had visited the FCI in previous years and had seen how committees from different countries that went there left all kinds of presents that represented the dogs native to those countries. These presents were then exhibited in the small museum they keep there for just this purpose; in this way, they not only represented the visiting country, they also highlighted the existence of the breed they represented to all who visited the main seat of one of the more important cynlogical organizations in the world. However, Peru wasn’t being represented by a work of art of such importance. Thus, with much joy, this beautiful sculpture of a marvelous specimen of Peruvian Hairless Dog was received by the Executive Manager of the FCI, Mr. Yves De Clercq, and we unveiled it to the public, that splendid symbol of our country and of our national heritage, which, from that moment on, has held a very privileged place in said museum, announcing to all who come that the Peruvian Hairless Dog is a breed that must be well taken into account (*).
This time, Diego surprised me by letting me know he would travel to Lambayeque to meet me for the occasion of the ash-depositing ceremony for my two beloved dogs, Paucar and Killa, at the Cemetery for Peruvian Hairless Dogs of the Túcume Museum. As we meet by the main entrance to the museum I see he’s already become friends with Ñamla, the museum’s pet who’s named after the bird-god of Lambayeque, and with whom he’s already playing.
We say hello and he says to me: “I come from a long journey of over a week traveling between Cañete, Lima, La Paz, and Cuzco. In this last city I participated in the ‘Alternate Visions’ art show at the National Bank’s Art Gallery. There, I exhibited my painting ‘Jatun Allqu’. Nonetheless, I couldn’t miss the activities of the ‘Peruvian Hairless Dog’ in the ‘Mother Earth’ Tour in Lambayeque and be present at the ash-depositing ceremony for your dogs Paucar and Killa. So I recharged energies and set off to be here.”
He shows a big, wrapped object and adds: “I’ve brought a sculpture by me that’ll adorn [Paucar and Killa’s] mausoleum at the Cemetery for Peruvian Hairless Dogs of the Ecological Museum of Túcume.” Of course, this gesture gives me a very pleasant surprise and causes great emotion! And with that he unveils a beautiful sculpture worked in fiberglass and resin of my two adored dogs that will be honored at said museum ceremony.
He then adds: “This place is actually the birthplace of the Peruvian Hairless Dog… I feel like home. It’s curious and interesting to see this Cemetery for Peruvian Hairless Dog and its mausoleums… It’s a charming place! Also, seeing the mausoleums makes me nostalgic because it reminds me of the 3-year project I’m still working on with Samín, which one day will be completed… Although it may sound sad, to me it would an honor to make him a monument and honor my best friend after his passing.”
Diego confirms that no doubt the idea of being able to create such a piece destined to immortalize two dogs that were very much loved by their owner, as were Paucar and Killa, attracted him so. As did, back then, the idea of creating a piece that would represent Peru before the FCI.
He tells me his first artistic inspiration was an adobe sculpture called “Guardían Viringo”, which served as an investigation project into this dog breed in pre-Colombian cultures. From then on, and with this sole and unswerving goal, he’s been dedicated to this since 2012.
“Viringo, Eleven Seconds in Time” is one of his most celebrated projects. It is an installation set up in 2014, partly in his studio in Cañete, where he lives, and partly at the School of Fine Arts in Lima. The installation has 11 pieces of around 25 kilograms each made using a technique of assembling iron and concrete. About it he tells me: “In this project I wanted to recreate this dog in a surrealist way: coming from the earth, then, flying into the skies and, finally, returning to the earth, as if to say: The dog is born from the earth and to it it must return, you know? I wanted to do it with slightly faceted proportions and for this dog to have a new proposal within the sculpture, and that it be exhibited as a spatial work in an artistic installation.”
Talking on the subject, Diego tells me: “Why not? All of this came together: what I personally lived with my dog and, now, my historical, archaeological and general investigation of the Peruvian Dog. The new piece, “Paucar and Killa”, was executed with this vision in mind and, now, it’ll remain at the Cemetery for Peruvian Hairless Dogs of the Túcume National Museum. It’s the first time I make a sculpture on a pedestal in honor of two deceased dogs. I wanted to make a small memorial for them because they were part of a family; that way I can highlight their social role in the Peru of today. Moreover, these two dogs participated as promoters of their breed through an audiovisual work that has traveled through many cities of the world; it was only natural I honor them. It’s definitely a new proposal for me.”
Currently, Diego continues his work developing with greater fidelity the realistic side of the dog: its expression and physical demeanor. About it he tells me: “I had to tweak some details. In this case, I worked from photographs and a painting of the same dogs I made three years ago.”
Diego is perhaps the first modern Peruvian artist who’s in exploring this kind of work. He tells me: “I feel happy to be able to contribute a grain of sand toward the preservation of this Peruvian dog and, above all, to do so in an archaeological center as is Túcume. This little dog is part of our tradition and we can find him in the art of the peoples who lived in this place during pre-Colombian times.”
Today, Diego is laying out a proposal in forged metal. He tells me about it: “I will continue working on installations, iconographies, and I’m thinking of developing a proposal that is more adverse, bringing to light the cultural importance of the Peruvian Hairless Dog within my art.”
In the journey that has been rearing and studying the Peruvian Hairless Dog and, then, promoting it throughout the world by means of the specimens I’ve had and still have and, lately, through the audiovisual body of work I produce, I’ve met a great many people who enthusiastically dedicate their time to the preservation and promotion of this wonderful ancient breed. At a notable place in this list of people one finds this young artist from Cañete, who with his splendid naturalist sculptures of the Peruvian Hairless Dog is populating homes, embassies, museums and, now, mausoleums with worthy representatives of this breed, Peruvian Cultural Heritage.
I’ve had the opportunity of traveling to several countries taking, for one reason or another, a specimen of his art and I’ve been witness to the astonishment and profound interest it produces in all who observe it. I’ve seen how people who have never seen a Peruvian Hairless Dog, as well as breeders and experts on this breed, have remained spellbound before the natural beauty of his sculptures and the fidelity of the grace and the expression of these beautiful dogs. Nonetheless, it’s important to underscore that beyond that elegant and subtle expression of the beauty that radiates from the Peruvian Hairless Dog, the art of Diego Mánchez Raymondi also reflects the desire to protect a living heritage, conserving, at the same time, its aesthetic. It’s because of this that his work no doubt offers a great motivation and is feedback for all of us who want a conservation of the Peruvian Hairless Dog.
Few places inspire belonging in me. This is one of them. It’s as if you walked for hours before finding a place that brings you tranquility and good vibes; you want to remain there, as in an oasis that offers solace.
I traveled to the North of Peru for the first time in the 70s. I was very young back then. When you’re young you always feel like you’re off to discover the Egypt of the old travelers and chroniclers, the Egypt of Lord Carnarvon and the discovery of King Tut, so the experiences you live and the things you see mark you in a more permanent way. I’ve had the opportunity to come back to this region several times in my life without really being able to explain why.
Casually, in Túcume one day, I ask myself this very thing; I say: What attracts me so much to this place? Perhaps it’s that feeling of belonging. Or maybe it’s due to those indelible experiences I carry with me from my youth. Or it could be because, in a certain way, the North of Peru is a place very much like the Egypt of the 19th Century and early 20th: with its pre-Hispanic temples, its mummies, and its sandy dunes riddled with objects of the past.
Then, the moment of introspection ends and I return to reality: we’re in Peru, not Egypt… here there’s still so much to be done! And that young adventure-seeker of the 70s out to discover the world comes back to me, that feeling of potential and possibility, but matured, changed into that of a man with experience who can now transform wish into concrete actions and obtain results.
Thus we arrive at that which we’ve lovingly baptized “The Mother Earth Tour”.
“The Mother Earth Tour”:
To wonder the world today isn’t—as it was in the early 20th Century and before—only the desire of a young adventurer who roams until he has to return home because his last penny saved has run out and because he has duties—both self-imposed and imposed by society—he must fulfill. Today, we travel for work, economy and climate, too. The practice of moving almost effortlessly from one place to another has allowed us to turn traveling into something common and unimportant. Nonetheless, this doesn’t preclude the possibility of making something useful out of the values and cultural baggage we take with us.
In my capacity as a promoter of my country’s cultural values and, in particular, a promoter of the Peruvian Hairless Dog, I learned of the existence of the Peruvian Hairless Dog Cemetery of the Túcume on-site museum. I therefore decided to take advantage of this place to bring the ashes of two of my beloved dogs who died in 2012, Pau and Kiki, so that they may permanently rest there. In doing this, I joined the cause of the architect of this brilliant initiative that seeks to revalue this dog in Peruvian society.
I’m talking about the archaeologist Bernarda Delgado Elías, director of the aforementioned museum, and a woman of great sensibility toward the national heritage, animals and, in particular, the Peruvian Hairless Dog.
I had the opportunity of visiting the place a couple of times and I immediately felt—as I’ve always felt about Túcume in general—that this cemetery is a place of tranquility and good vibes, of well-deserved rest for our adored Peruvian Hairless Dog. I said to myself that this was the ideal dwelling for my Pau and Kiki and, indeed, for all Peruvian Hairless Dogs that have touched the lives of their humans.
Encounter with Bernarda Delgado Elías (Director of the Túcume On-site Museum) at the Peruvian Hairless Dog Cemetery:
“It all started in 1997,” says Bernarda, “with Chisca Primera, Chilalo and Pucky. They were brought to me as puppies in a potato sack but I could only buy two of them. So I called my sister, who bought Pucky. That way I wouldn’t be sad to think of what would become of Pucky.”.
Holding back the tears, she explains it to me with that great emotion that reveals a true and deep sensibility for the subject. Speaking with her is like a return to the past: her love and veneration for Peruvian Dogs makes me relive the customs of our ancestors as something that is still transmitted through time from generation to generation.
I say to myself that it’s a very natural feeling in Bernarda’s case, for she is from Lambayeque, born and raised in the city of Monsefú, festive town of farmers and artisans known as the “city of flowers”. In her childhood she and her family were surrounded by beloved pets: she tells us about her parents’ first Hairless Dog, called Nat King Cole (after the famous jazz singer), and Waro, another Hairless pup, that she had when she was very young. Currently, one of her great companions is Celeste, a little Hairless Dog with blue eyes (an eye color quite unique for this dog breed). Beside Celeste, she also has Manchas and Ñamla (after the “bird of the sea” god of the legend of Lambayeque)—both, Hairless Dogs born to Celeste.
Her love for her dogs has also had her face rather sad times. But thanks to her strength of spirit she keeps on going, raising new dogs, actively contributing to the preservation of this breed in Lambayeque Bernarda says: “I adore them because they’re playful and energetic little dogs, and very affectionate.”
Her bond with her pets is admirable. Not only because she adopts them with open hands and brings them to live with her, but also because she has provided them with a special place to rest after their deaths. “Chilalo died young,” she tells me, “and we buried him here. But there was no cemetery back then. Chisca Primera was a very good little dog. She had 4 litters of puppies. She was the one who inspired me to build this cemetery for Peruvian Hairless Dogs. They’ll be our guardian angels for the rest of our lives.”
Without a doubt, Túcume has a wealth of folklore that is a source of inspiration for artists. The appreciation for the deceased is reflected in the chapels and little roadside chapels designed by their own inhabitants. Bernarda, as a good Lambayecan, has designed the chapels for her dogs. She tells us: “Every dog that’s buried in this cemetery has been much loved.
Calac was born of Chisca Primera’s last litter. He was one of the bigger dogs and he looked the least like the rest. He was noble and detached. He adopted Samín, who was more territorial.”
Richie, who accompanied Bernarda for 15 years, had a very close bond with her. Bernarda consecrated a very special epitaph for him:
“My Richie, so loved, sweet, tender and so obedient…
15 years with me, and now you will certainly accompany me from wherever you are, my dear old dog. Rest in peace, my faithful and only friend…”
It’s clear that her relationship with her little dogs has been very close
She, and the rest of the Museum staff, collect some money among themselves in order to feed and vaccinate the dogs, as well care for them, because the Museum itself has no budget for that. This way alone can they keep them healthy and happy in life. Some staff members also help in the building of the mausoleums. Bernarda says: “They’re multi-skilled people; some of the models are even products of their own inspiration. The materials we use are adobe, canes and carob branches. Now, with the climate changes, we reinforce the bases with some cement and the roofs with tiles. The pain is special, and it undergoes maintenance. Because the cemetery is located in a rural environment I wanted it to have a strong presence.”
And a strong presence is exactly what it has. The colors used for the mausoleums are typical of the region and we find them in the artifacts and objects used by the pre-Hispanic cultures that inhabited that place. They’re tones of ocher (red and yellow), turquoise, emerald, malachite, lapis lazuli, etc. In addition, each mausoleum is decorated with beautiful flowers that are white with different shades of pink, called “Chavelita” (Catharanthus roseus). Lastly, each one has a framed portrait of the little dog that is buried inside. Each little dog has his epitaph and his description, which highlight his virtues and talents. In this way, they’ll always be present in both Bernarda’s and the staff’s daily life.
When she tells me about each mausoleum I feel as if I’m listening to the tale depicted in the funeral ceremonial pottery made by our Lambayecan ancestors (in a time without written language). It’s impressive to see how the art and the worship of our dogs is reinvented and reborn in such a natural way through the times.
“We would like to give room to all people who love this dog breed, so that their little dogs may have final resting place in this cemetery,” she tells me. “Túcume has over 221 hectares and room to grow, and the costs involved in building the mausoleums are very low.”
The affection and peace that radiate from the place have turned it, nowadays, into the inescapable touristic circuit of the Museum and, moreover, a reason of admiration for its visitors, which naturally makes Bernarda, her collaborators, and the inhabitants of Túcume very proud.
Mother Earth: “From you we are born and to you we return”:
Fate brought together me and my great friends, Pau and Kiki, and in this way we ventured in this great adventure of touring Europe to raise awareness about their breed in dog shows After their death in 2012, I decided to keep their ashes with a sense of belonging, as an unbreakable bond that deserves much appreciation and care. But my dreams to continue raising awareness about their breed weren’t paralyzed: they’re still alive. Thus, my return to reality: We’re in Peru and there’s still so much to be done!
As a traveler in these modern times who seeks to discover pre-Hispanic Peru, I think nowadays one also travels in order to make something useful of our cultural values. Undoubtedly, Túcume is the ideal resting place for my adored Pau and Kiki, because together with the little dogs of this city they’ll contribute to the preservation of their breed and the perpetuation of the cultural values it symbolizes. Therefore, in many ways, I believe this specific adventure I started with my dear Pau and Kiki closes a circle today with them becoming permanent part of this great initiative to revalue the Peruvian Hairless Dog that is the Peruvian Hairless Dog Cemetery of Túcume. I feel I’ve been true to my dear friends, who would be proud to continue representing their great ancient breed in this way. And I feel that now I have one more thing that links me to this beautiful place; one more excuse to find my way back here soon.
When Bernada is proud of the admiration of the visitors to the site, I can’t help feeling proud, too: of her initiative and the initiative of her collaborators, of the role that my dear Pau and Kiki will play in it from now on, and, above all, of the great progress that we are achieving, together, those of us throughout the world who love the Peruvian Hairless Dog, this ancient Peruvian breed, cultural heritage of our nation. The road we must travel is still very long, but with wonderful people like Bernarda Delgado Elías and her team of collaborators on our side, traveling it is very gratifying.