Manville 2009 Installation and sculptures, Gallery Lombardi, Austin Texas
The Llamerret Show 2007, Darkroom Gallery, Austin Texas, Concept group show created and curated by Andy Rihn.
The Inca was the strongest and largest of the pre-columbian South American civilizations. Their empire stretched from Columbia in the north to Chile in the south and from the shores of the Pacific Ocean to the banks of the mighty Amazon River. The Incas were the wealthiest dynasty ever in the Native Americas and their riches were legendary. The most sacred of all possessions in this most powerful nation was not plush, golden temples or a sip of milk from the breast of Pacha Mama that would insure everlasting friendship, no, the grandest thing one could have in this world was a famed Incan llamerret.
The Incan llamerret was an animal bred in the care of the highest shaman of the Incas. It was by far the most royal and precious animal in all the land. The Incas did not have a written language, but they did have a strong oral tradition that recreates an image of an animal so soft and so joy-filled that it was beyond belief. Only the shaman and the children of the king were able to come in contact with the llamerret for it was so pure spiritually and physically that not even the king himself could touch one. It was stated that the purity of the animal would be preserved for eternity if it never came in contact with anything that had touched evil.
The legend of the llamerret was robust in the times of the Incas, because of its’ mythical and guarded existence. The llamerret is an animal that is theoried to be the ultimate union of an Andean ferret and a Peruvian llama. A magnificent creature. Definitely only the mighty Incans could have achieved in creating such a wonder. After years of dedicated research on the subject, here is the first documented evidence of this extraordinary animal.
Started in the days of Pachacuti’s rule, the king demanded that an animal be fabricated to keep his children warm and entertained. The breeding of the llamerret became the task of a specialized medicine man Topchi, who was gifted with an aptitude for animals. He took a spiritual trek to the sacred waters of Lake Titicaca to ask Pacha Mama, the earth mother, for a sign. Standing on the shore of the birthplace of the Incan people, the vision came within minutes to the shaman. The misty form of a llama and a ferret floating upon a golden raft in the act of passionate mating appeared only meters away from Topchi on the lake. The visionary creatures stopped their breeding coitus, looked over to the shaman, and warned him to keep the miracle of the llamerret only in the company of children and the shaman and away from anything that has come in contact with evil.
With the image secure in his mind, the extremely short-legged Topchi journeyed back to Pachacuti in Cuzco to tell of his findings. The king gave the shaman a room in the main temple to use as “the mating quarters”. Then ordered that all the best specimens of llamas and ferrets from throughout the land be captured and brought to the room for the shaman’s approval. Many were sacrificed. Only the most fertile and jovial animals were kept and used for breeding.
After years of constant tweeking, the shaman had bred the llamerret to be the perfect companion to the king’s children. All the favorable traits of the ferret and llama were melded flawlessly and the undesirable factors like the spitting and stinking were extinguished. The fur was the softest of any animal, it is said that it would almost melt “to the touch”, much like petting a cloud. Thellamerret’s body temperature was raised to highly comfort the children in winter and the body temperature would lower in the summer and yield a cooling effect. A combination of the llama’s soothing hum/orgle and the ferret’s soft chuckle produced a luscious bellow that would calm the children at all times in almost a tranquilizing manner. The female animals produced a sugary milk that the children could suckle on between meals. The teeth were bred out of the llamerret to ensure there would never be biting, but fleshy fluid-filled sacs grew in the mouth that were sometimes used to give a sweet breathed massage. An alarm-type whooping sound would be produced, by the animal, if they sensed danger. The children were immune from illnesses when in the
company of the llamerret, as well.
The llamerret was the envy of every adult and child in all the Incan Empire. Even the king and queen themselves could not come in contact with the animals for fear there was evil hiding. When a llamerret would die, it would become immortalized. First, the Incan Nation would have a day of silent mourning to reflect on the animal’s beauty. Then there was an enormous ceremony that lasted 3colorful days to remember the gentle life of the creature. The corpse of the llamerret would be taken by the shaman and fed to the sacred condors of Colca, as to deliver its body to the heavens and back to Pacha Papa.
The selective overbreeding of the llamerret produced an animal that was the softest, kindest, warmest, most entertaining, and ideal creature known in the entire Incan world. Although the llamerret was an immaculate animal, there were eventual setbacks to its’ existence. There are two theories on the books to explain this tragedy.
First, the physical explanation: due to the extensive amount and “quality of fur” that the llamerret was bred to have, did lead to hair misgrowths. It is hypothesized that the animal began to grow soft, thick fur into its throat, which completely lined the inside of the animal’s upper larynx, trachea and esophagus. The fur totally inhibited the ability to swallow food and possibly suffocated the creature. The shaman could not “breed out” the hair in the throat and this led to the breed’s steady and eventual agonizing extinction.
Second, the spiritual explanation: the llamerrets were deeply sensitive beings and the gods gave them the purest soul of any animal. So when the llamerrets sensed the Spaniards coming, they all started alarm-whooping and did not stop. The frightened animals alarm could be heard throughout the land. They continued calling, without food or water, for days to warn the Incan people of the impending danger. One by one all the llamerrets passed away, whooping until their last breath.
The legend of the llamerret, no matter how tragic, needs to be respected and remembered. The nobility of the mighty Incan peopleto keep such a treasured secret should be honored. The Inca’s precious gold was called “the sweat of the sun” and this equally important animal was referred to as the “the ecstasy of the children” and served a high place in their culture. The myth of the llamerret should live on, not only in spirit, but in life.
Director of Incan Studies
University of Peru at Cuzco
Boxing and Kangaroos Go Together Like Popcorn and Butter 2010, Live Performance, Installation, Sculpture and Drawings, With Paintings by Mike Parsons, Okay Mountain, Austin Texas