Unlikely Art: Ferrenafe Cemetary, Peru
Ferrenafe is not the town you imagined yourself visiting in Peru. Far from the Andes and the Amazon, on the northern desert coast, Ferrenafe is a small provincial town with one tourist draw, the Museo Nacional Sican, where elaborate gold funerary masks, pristine ceramics, impossibly pink Spondylus shells and jewelry of semi-precious stones from the pre-Colombian Sican culture are on display. Archaeologists continue to discover burial sites full of gold at the nearby Batan Grande dig site.
Most visitors view the museum and simply leave Ferrenafe. Spend another hour or two to gain some insight on more modern rural Peruvian funerary practices. Located a ten minute walk from the Sican Museum, the Ferrenafe Cemetery is a free attraction that will leave an impression.
The cemetery is made up of hundreds of outdoor stacked brick sarcophagi, plastered and painted turquoise and white. Each features an alcove dedicated to the departed. The alcoves are precious jewel box art pieces, with original paintings, dolls, decorative gates, and fresh and plastic flowers (mostly in plastic Inca Kola bottles). Older sarcophagi have crumbled into piles of bricks, while some newer alcoves sit waiting to be decorated, with new cement with a name scratched into it.
To reach the cemetery from the Museo Nacional Sican, walk towards the cathedral and plaza on calle Batan Grande. The unmissable white cemetery gate will be on your left. Be sure to bring your camera!