Art of the Huichol People

21 November, 2019

There’s still time to see the incredible exhibit of Wixárika (Huichol) at the Instituto Cultural Cabañas in Guadalajara. A quick trip over the mountains during the holidays is a good idea, when the beaches are crowded with nationals on winter break. Grandes Maestros del Arte Wixárika (Grand Masters of Wixárika Art) is showing until December and then the pieces will go back to places like Harvard University and the Museum of Natural History in New York, from whence they have been borrowed. There are about fifty pieces of these amazing yarn paintings that are created in a manner of pressing the yarn of brightly colored dyed pieces into a beeswax and pine resin base.

The artistic creations of the Huicholes, which have found a market throughout Mexico, consist mainly of colorful yarn paintings and clay objects, gourds, jewelry, and clothing.

They’re sold through distribution in museums, boutique shops, airport souvenir stores and directly from the artisans. Made with a foundation of thin layers of wax and resin into which the yarn is meticulously pressed, nierikas or votive paintings are the result of dreams and journeys.

Tiny glass beads, imbedded in the same type of base work, magically cover gourds, vases, and clay objects in such shapes as deer, reptiles, jaguar heads, skulls and masks. Older works of art contain seeds, coral, semi-precious gems, and tiny shells.

The Huichol art was a well-kept secret until the early 1960’s when it began to make an appearance in art galleries in Guadalajara. Interest caught on quickly and what were once left as offerings to gods in caves and the hills of the high desert, became highly desired collectors’ pieces, some fetching none too altruistic prices.

The Huicholes symbolism has serious significance and is the groundwork of the culture. Tatewari, the god of fire and Tayaupa, the sun, are the grandparents and the source of all life. The Blue Deer, Kauyumari, the guardian spirit, leads the shamans in their peyote dreams. The deer give their life to the Huichol so they might sustain theirs and when a deer is sacrificed, an elaborate purifying ceremony follows to make sure the animal is properly acknowledged and thanked. Arrows represent departed family; Birds are messengers to and from the gods; Turtles are responsible for all forms of water; Snakes are direct instructors to shamans. The Scorpion is represented as a repellent of bad luck and evil, thought to be very dangerous and yet held in great esteem. Candles are very prominent in ceremonies and characterize the illumination of the human spirit.

Traditionally, colors in yarn paintings were limited to White (cloud spirits), Red (fire and masculinity), Blue (water, ocean, rain, femininity), Green (earth, heaven, healing, heart, grandfather, growth), Orange (the sacred land where the peyote grows) and Yellow, often thought to represent corn, the basic sustenance of all ancient Mexico, but used primarily as ceremonial face paint.

Que es cómo es.

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