Visual Art

Incas - the Original Hipsters?

This weekend the Dallas Museum of Art opens Inca: Conquests of the Andes. On the surface it's one of those historical art exhibitions filled with antique knick-knacks of which you can buy knockoffs on that adventure vacation you're planning with your super-rich-hipster-adventure husband. No, I'm not jealous of your imagined life at all. But I do have one observation about this array of old stuff on display in a surprisingly fabulous exhibition. And it's this: the Incas were drinking from growlers, wearing check board tunics, and hiking Machu Picchu centuries before the silly Americans appropriated these things for hipster culture. Sure they weren't rocking these hippie fashion trends to Woodstock or Coachella, but there isn't anything creative about that cloth purse you picked up at Whole Earth Provision Co. last week. In fact, this whole hipster thing is just knock off culture. But you already knew that, didn't you?

Now let's play a little game I just made up called, "Spot the Hipster."

One of these photos contains an actual Incan tunic worn by the Incan army from A.D. 1400-1600, which could take 6-9 miles of thread to weave and up to 6-9 months to create. One of these is the Google shopping search for "hipster poncho" filled with ponchos that will be threadbare after one trip to ACL and made in a Chinese sweatshop.

One of these photos contains several stirrup spout bottles used to transport corn beer. One of these photos is a shot of the growlers on the shelf at Craft & Growler in Exposition Park.

OK? These are obvious, but you get my point. Want to keep playing?

In one photo you'll see the Ear Ornaments worn by Incas that earned them the nickname, orejones, or "big ears," from Spaniards. In the other photo you'll see a native of the tribe "hipster" known for expanding their ears with a series of gauges.

In one photo you'll see the nose ornaments, or nariguerra, worn by the Inca. In another photo you'll see the metal inserted into the contemporary hipster nose.

Here, one photo contains a bag used by the Incas to transport the leaves of the cacao tree. In the other photo you'll see the results of a Google search for "hipster purse, tribal print," used similar to transport the leaves of the cannabis plant into music festivals.

Here in one photo you will see a hipster using their communication device known as a "smart phone," on which they document their life, send messages to friends, and participate in the cultural conversation. In the other you'll see a series of knotted cords, known as quipa, from A.D. 1400-1570, which the Inca used to record various things from daily life including census, taxes, and stored goods.

Finally, in spite of how amusing I find the similarities, I have one distinct, encouraging difference between hipsters and Incas. Thanks to a tip from a fellow journalist, I circled back around to discover these creepy, little guys. These miniature human figurines were used to accompany human sacrifices, particularly that of male and female juveniles in a ritual known as capacocha. See, hipsters ain't so bad. And though we've borrowed a lot from the Incas, it's probably good we haven't borrowed everything.

Inca: Conquests of the Andes remains on display through November 15, 2015. The $16 special exhibition fee admits you into both the Inca exhibit and the can't miss painting exhibition, Michaël Borremans: As sweet as it gets.