260. Twelve Stones

The Monte Region of Argentina
Size: 7 to 10 cm

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These mysterious stones come from the collection of Ricardo and Belen Paz, friends of long standing, from whom I had other marvellous things for the exhibition in 2015. The story of their efforts to revive and preserve a large tract of land in the Monte, the great subtropical dry forests in the Argentine province of Santiago del Estero, is inspiring. Their understanding of the indigenous cultures of Argentina, from Patagonia to the Atacama, is profound, and I can’t do better than paraphrase what they have written about these stones: ‘The first thing that visitors to the Monte notice is that it is a landscape without stones. The men make everything from wood, while the women weave. So these stones are brought from distant hills and mountains, vestiges of an era long past, and kept in chests, not for use but to be treasured for their feel, for the feelings they provoke. Their identity is no longer connected to their original function, which sometimes can be guessed, and instead they have been transformed into objects of power, with no other history attached. They fill the hand and challenge us to feel, and if possible not imagine.’