Textile Society of America


Date of this Version



In Approaching Textiles, Varying Viewpoints: Proceedings of the Seventh Biennial Symposium of the Textile Society of America, Santa Fe, New Mexico, 2000


Copyright © 2000 by the author(s).


Tokapu are geometric designs that were woven into Inca tapestry garments. They were also used in the design of lacquered wooden cups, although perhaps not before the time of the Spanish arrival in the Andes in the mid-sixteenth century. During the time of Spanish colonial rule a richly narrative style of representation developed that depicted people and objects in a variety of scenes. Tokapu appear as abstract geometric motifs on cups that have narrative scenes in other registers. They also continue to be used on men's and women's garments, as they had in the prehispanic period.1 Students of Andean art of the sixteenth century have argued that the new narrative style was a result of contact with European styles of representation--that Andean art did not use a narrative format.2 All of the objects on which the new style appear are portable and do not tend to survive in archaeological contexts, making a study of any Inca antecedents extremely diffult. The body of materials that can be dated, even by stylistic arguments, are from the 17th and 18th centuries.3 Regardless of how the narrative style developed, tokapu designs themselves clearly evolved from an Inca and not a Spanish stylistic tradition.