Mayan textiles from Guatemala linking tradition and the global market
June 5 to September 13, 2015
An exhibition of the GRASSI Museum für Völkerkunde zu Leipzig
In Europe, clothing items from Central America are widely popular holiday souvenirs or exotic fashion adornments. Today, they have also become desirable and valuable collectors’ items. The huipile, a type of traditional Mayan women’s blouse, has mainly become famous by way of its Mexican counterparts as well as through photographs and self-portraits of Frida Kahlo, on which the artist presents herself proudly in traditional Indian clothes. The exhibition “Woven Time” presents a selection of huipiles, other textiles and photographs from Guatemala, thereby opening up new perspectives of the societal role of clothing in the Guatemalan Mayan’s life from 1900 up to the present time.
To this day, even after the fusion of Indian and Christian European elements in the country, the Mayan textile tradition retains its value in the religious and social life of Guatemala. During Guatemala’s varied and painful history, notably the subjugation of the indigenous population, dictatorship and civil war, clothing has become an important symbol of identity, self-assertion and resistance. Additionally, it has become a significant economic factor in the country’s tourism through which new financial and social opportunities, but also new dependencies emerge. The productions techniques and the designs of clothing items and fabrics provide also a living testimony of cultural exchange. The high artistic and aesthetic values of those items make a strong impression on the beholder.
The exhibition presents textiles from important donations: Hans-Jörk Wietfeldt’s and Horst Eichler’s collections from the 1960s and 70s, which were added to the museum’s collection during recent years. This inventory is completed by objects belonging to the Saxonian State Ethnographical Collections in Leipzig and Dresden dating from 1900 up until the current time. Together, these pieces paint a multifaceted picture of the textile production of Guatemala and give a glimpse of the many facets of their meanings.