Marisabel Rey ’19 is exploring the link between past and present in her native Peru this summer through an Emerson project that will examine the lingering oral storytelling tradition of the Peruvian highlands.
Rey often heard rich, descriptive stories told about the Inca culture during her childhood in Peru. “With gods like the mountains, the sun and the earth, the Inca culture’s philosophy, mythology and history have been shared from generation to generation through oral tradition,” she said. “They are folktales of the relation between the cosmos and the Andean world, including the creation of civilization and variations of historical events.”
After visiting Cusco a couple of years ago and hearing these stories, Rey said she felt a special connection with this expression of the past. “My interest in the Inca culture’s philosophy grew to the point that I started using them as inspiration for some art projects,” she remarked.
Advised by Professor Margaret Thickstun, the literature and art double concentrator hopes to respond creatively to these stories through poetry. Rey plans to accompany the poems with photographs and drawings. “In this way, I will create a written and visual record of something that has been transmitted orally for years and is ephemeral by nature,” she explained.
Rey is going right to the source for her research, spending several weeks in June in the highlands of Peru collecting these stories. “I’ll be hiking the Inca Trail and visiting some historical places, talking to people who live there,” she said. Rey appreciates that the interdisciplinary nature of this project will allow her to work not only as a writer and visual artist, but also as a translator and transcriber. “After gathering some stories, I’ll transcribe and translate them to English and use them as a prompt for creative writing while still respecting their nature.”
Rey is optimistic that her project “will serve as a link between the past and the present and my cultural heritage and the rest of the world. I hope to be able to share a central part of the Peruvian identity,” she said, “while at the same time develop my vision as an artist.”
This project, Rey hopes, will enable her to explore the theme of identity in relation to the past, a theme that she says has fascinated her for some time. “I’m drawn to discovering the extent to which the past affects the present though different forms of art. I hope having the opportunity to explore my identity in this way will allow me to create more freely,” she remarked.