Within Latin America, Peru stands out as a country bearing strong cultural resemblances to India. Both are cradles of civilisation, the earlier having seen the rise of the Norte Chico civilisation and the ancient city of Caral, the oldest in the Americas; while the latter saw the early settlement of Mehrgarh give rise to the Indus Valley Civilisation. Both had dozens, if not hundreds of different cultures that flourished on their soils, aided by the stark diversity of their geographies and climates. Both are as mystic and spiritual as they are modern; their ancient traditions being perfectly blended into the everyday life of their citizens.
It is said that the famous Indian poet and Nobel Prize winner Rabindranath Tagore was quite inspired by indigenous art and that the poetry of César Vallejo in Peru, inspired a movement of Indian anti-imperialist writers and poets in the 1940s. The development of cultural relations, while hindered by geographical distance and differences in language, managed to flourish and in all its domains, including sports, gastronomy and fine arts, if only to name a few.
It therefore is hardly surprising that cultural relations have been one of the cornerstones of the Peru – India bilateral relationship since its beginnings in 1963. Two years later, under the aegis of the Indian Council for Cultural Relations, Dr. Fernando Tola would present a dissertation on Peruvian Culture, which would pave the way for the many cultural manifestations that followed. The Cultural Agreement of 1987, which serves as legal framework for the development and cooperation of bilateral cultural relations, was the fourth agreement signed between our countries. Its early negotiation attests to the importance that both countries attach to culture as a medium of strengthening bilateral ties, a potential that needs to be exploited to its fullest extent.
In the years that followed, Peru and India have agreed upon two cultural exchange programmes, with a new one currently under negotiation. Likewise, cultural co-operation has benefitted from the conclusion of a letter of intent between the ministries of Culture in the fields of Museum Development, Conservation of Movable Cultural Property and Dissemination and Promotion of Cultural Heritage in 2013. This framework could be further strengthened with the early signature of the Agreement for the Protection, Preservation, Recovery and Restitution of Stolen, Illicitly Exported or Transferred Cultural Properties.
At the institutional level, many Indian and Peruvian entities have shown interest to work together for the development of stronger relations with their counterparts. Such is the case with the possibility of opening an Ayurveda academic chair in one of the oldest and most reputed campuses in Peru: the National University of San Marcos, thus tapping into the valuable insights that Indian traditional medicine has to offer to an equally ancient tradition in Peru. Similarly, the National Archives and the Academies of Fine Arts of both countries are currently negotiating inter-institutional agreements that will open new and interesting opportunities for joint work in cultural affairs.
More recently however, three developments have greatly spurred an unprecedented development in Peru-India cultural relations. The first of them was the establishment of the Centro Cultural India (India Cultural Centre) at the Embassy of India in Peru on December 15th, 2015. The Centre sponsors a number of regular activities such as dance and yoga classes, as well as Ayurveda workshops. Notably, through its Cultural Centre, the Embassy of India in Peru is now certifying professionals to teach yoga, a major step in disseminating Indian traditional knowledge in Peru.
The second pivotal development was the re-launch of the Indo–Peruvian Friendship Association (INPEFA), on April 3rd, 2017. INPEFA carries out its duties as an apolitical, non–religious, non–sectarian and a non–commercial organization, whose sole objective is to contribute to the development of warmer and closer cultural relations between India and Peru. Originally established on June 1st, 2007, INPEFA’s revival provided a common platform for the facilitation of cultural interactions amongst Indian nationals interested in the traditions and art of Peru, thereby bringing the two cultures together.
The resurgence of INPEFA is closely linked with the third recent milestone in Peru-India cultural relations: the opening of the Art Gallery of the Embassy of Peru in India on May 30th, 2017. With its 450 square meters of open space, which features both a permanent and a temporary exhibition, it is a fitting place to organise regular cultural events. Since its inauguration, the Gallery has been the venue of dozens of events, both organised by the Embassy and INPEFA, which carries out most of its activities within its premises.
In its fourteen months of operation, the Gallery has been graced with the presence of many senior officials, both Indian and international. It has twice been the venue for the celebration of the Peruvian National Day. It has provided a space to foster companionship among the Latin American and Caribbean countries and other regions of the world alike. It has given the opportunity to artists to show their mettle and to the younger generations to learn about new and different cultures.
The confluence of these three developments, coupled with an increased interest vis-à-vis foreign cultures in both Peru and India, have fuelled an upswing in the number of cultural events organised in our countries. It is in this context that the Embassy of Peru in India, in collaboration with the National Museum, New Delhi, organised the exhibition “Peru’s Fabulous Treasures”, a first-of-its-kind event in one of the most important museums in India, which ran between 16 October and 31 December 2018.