Squeezing the most out of life | An Aussie and a Colombian living life with a wandering spirit. Eight years together & over 60 countries up our sleeves, we're sharing the love |

All that glistens is Colombian Gold

Bogota is a crazy city, intense traffic, a turbulent history and full of hidden surprises. Spending time away from the Amazon couldn´t be more different than a stay in the capital. I found a place to escape the hustle, learn some history and be inspired by Prehispanic cosmology; the Museo del Oro or the Gold Museum. Newly renovated, it´s way more interesting than it sounds!

The main thing that has always interested me about art history is the reason behind the creation of artefacts. I wonder what´s going on politically, spiritually and socially, why people are inspired to express themselves in a particular way through the context of their life.

I found a lot of answers to what was happening in Colombia before the Spanish conquistadors arrived and pilfered most of the gold. A history that helps me understand better the people living in our Amazon community and where their beliefs originated.

Because of it´s colour, intense shine and unchangeability, gold was associated with the Sun. Gold ornaments where made to express the celestial origin of the ruler´s power. When the chieftain covered himself in gold he epitomised the creative powers of the sun. He was believed to embody on Earth the powers of a deity from the upper world. He was basically considered a God.

The lesser metals still had spiritual significance, but nothing could compete with the power of gold. Silver and copper where meant to be in harmony with the moon, the human embryo and cyclical changes in nature.

The metal workers of the time where revered in an almost priestly fashion because of their ability to alter and create with such important and precious materials. Meaning people thought the artisans could affect and influence the cosmos.

According to numerous cosmologies the Universe was made up of three worlds. Mankind lived in the intermediate world, whereas gods, ancestors and other super natural beings resided in the upper world or under world.

Birds symbolised the upper world. People, jaguars and deer personified the intermediate one, while the under world was represented by bats, caimans, snakes and other creatures that inhabitated openings in the Earth.
It´s a belief that resonates strongly in much of South America today through Pachamama. Some people viewed the Earth as a female being (Mama = Mother and Pacha = world) and through agriculture, men fertilised her with their seed. People today still worship Pachamama; making fertility offerings by burning llama fetuses, burying gold and planting seeds at appropriate times.

Most of the artwork in the Museo del Oro is of gold jewellery and dress ornaments. Sculpted delicately in precious metal, the early Colombians represented their strong nature and animal beliefs as a way of connecting better with the cosmos.

A person wearing jewellery or totems of animals therefore incorporated the names, abilities and characteristics of their animals. For example, a bird woman was believed to be able to move into other dimensions of the cosmos. Add to that a second skin of paint and costume, and people perceived the world through the eyes of a crocodile, humming bird, plant or ancestor.

Shamans and priests, some of them believed to be genuine bird men, made a magical flight through their universe. Their gold paraphenalia, with figures of birds, gave them the power to undertake long journeys. Especially when the Shaman was under the effect of plants that gave him power, he connected the three worlds and influenced the intermediate world.

Symmetry and balance in the shapes and design of objects was an expression of the concern to find balance in the forces of the universe. The shinier the object the more powerful it was meant to be; reflective qualities helped to communicate with spiritual worlds. Overall, I`m fascinated by the strong association prehispanic people had between art and nature, spirituality and creative expression.

After wandering through three foors of beautifully presented exhibits I feel I have a better understanding of an ancient part of Colombian history. A story that has strongly influenced how some people live today. It helps me contextualise the deep association with the earth, that the indigenous people we live with in the Amazon, live by. I find it beautiful.

You can look at the best of the artwork online and read a more detailed history at the Museo del Oro.


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