Gallery - living-language-land



2022   12x12" shadow box

Chalay: The practice of barter and exchange

  • Language: Quechua
  • Region: Peruvian Andes
The practice of chalay (or chhalay) embodies the Andean concept and value of reciprocity. It represents an ancestral alternative economic system which values, people, land and the sacred nature of food. Reciprocity is found at the heart of all relations, such that there are exchanges between people and mother earth, the apus (sacred mountains), plants and animals. 

Historically in the Andes, non-monetary exchange has been linked to the ideals of economic and ecological complementarity, and contributed to self-sufficiency, not to economic gain. Although Andean farmers are now integrated into modern monetary economic relations, chalay continues to provide access to important goods and services without money. The farmers who practice chalay exchange foods, calculating the value of the products. In this case, value is not equivalent to the monetary value; rather it considers the time and effort for production, transportation, and takes into account the social relations between those doing the bartering, and the needs of the participants. The exchanges strengthen the relationships between family members and friends from different agricultural zones.

In this piece, we see corn and potatoes making up a large portion of the exchanges. They come in a riot of colours and shapes, each with their own particular use in cooking or animal husbandry.

For the full description, along with pronunciation, map and short video, click HERE.