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Protest Art

Three folk art forms became media for protest during the 1980’s and early 1990’s in Ayacucho, Peru and among fleeing refugees in Lima, Peru, in Santiago, Chile and in Miami, Florida.

Pictures here are examples of:


Retablos are wooden boxes filled with brightly colored figures that portray the history, traditions, and everyday events important to the Quechua people of Peru.

For a detailed history of Retablos, see the doctoral dissertation of Maria Eugenia Ulfe, George Washington University 2005.

image of Retablo showing two battles (ISB_00917)

Retablo showing two battles (ISB_00917)

View Retablos Group


The tabla, originally a three- or four-foot-tall rectangular picture painted on wood and plaster to commemorate familial rituals, is from Sarhua, a community located across the Pampas River from Chuschi, in Victor Fajardo Province. When a marriage is depicted, the tabla represents a kind of pictorial genealogy and is displayed prominently in the home of the newlyweds after the wedding (Araujo 1993). During the 1980s and 1990s, displaced tablistas in Lima painted scenes of violence with captions explaining the picture to the viewer, usually a foreigner.

eimage of Maldecidos (ISB_00624)

Maldecidos (ISB_00624)

View Tablas Group


Arpilleras is an art form that women refugees from the violence in Ayacucho learned from women in Santiago, Chile. The Catholic Church in Santiago gave Peruvian women sanctuary during the 1980's and these women brought the art form back to refugee settlements in Lima where NGO's sponsored the production of the art form as a political histories of the war.

image of Enfrentamiento (ISB_00635)

Enfrentamiento (ISB_00635)

View Arpilleras Group

Protest Music

These Quechua protest songs were recorded in Chuschi in 1992 by the musical group Chukitukus. The woman singing is Carmen Rosa Nina. The songs are constructed as imaginary dialogues with power, and commemorate those "disappeared" during the political tumult of the 1980's and 1990's.

View Protest Music Group


Isbell, Billie Jean. "Violence in Peru: Performances and Dialogues." American Anthropologist 100:2 (1998): 283-292. URL: