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Huipil Attributed to Malinche Included in New Exhibition at National Museum of Anthropology
“The Flight of Images” is an “ample and plural vision about art of indigenous cultures that represent the most important treasure of Mexico. Photo: DMC.INAH.M MARAT.

MEXICO CITY.- Symbolism, use and presence of birds in ritual and daily life of contemporary indigenous cultures is displayed through more than 376 ethnographic pieces, among them, the huipil (dress) attributed to Malinche, at the exhibition “Wings of the Indigenous World”, which opened on May 9th 2011 at the National Museum of Anthropology (MNA).

Diana Magaloni, director of the National Museum of Anthropology (MNA), explained that the second part of the exhibition “The Flight of Images” is an “ample and plural vision about art of indigenous cultures that represent the most important treasure of Mexico; an exhibition related to the link between the birds and these societies, and the use of feathers in objects, myths and rituals”.

In this sense, the show presents art from 34 indigenous groups in Mexico, among them, Coras, Chichimecas, Raramuris, Totonacas, Tzeltales, Tzotziles, Yaquis and Zapotecas, informed Alejandro Gonzalez Villarruel, sub director of Ethnography at the museum, and anthropologists Catalina Rodriguez and Arturo Gomez, curators of the show.

“Wings of the Indigenous World” is organized by the National Institute of Anthropology and History (INAH) and the National Institute of Fine Arts (INBA), and among the pieces stands out a huipil that in prior decades was attributed to Malinche, the woman who translated to Spaniards during the Conquest. It is a cotton garment with feathers, made with back-strap loom, which design represents the two-headed eagle, mythic bird venerated by several indigenous groups.

“The huipil received this name because of its similarity with the one used by Malinche, according to illustrations of codices such as Lienzo de Tlaxcala and Florentine. Until studies conducted in 1999, it was considered to date from 16th century, but analyses determined it was created between 1770 and 1800 of the Common Era”, explained Catalina Rodriguez.

One third of pieces presented at “El Vuelo de las Imagenes” have never been exhibited, since they were recently acquired by the National Museum of Anthropology.

Among these items stands out “a white huipil embroiled with thread of different colors, from the Tzotzil community of Santa Maria Magdalena, Aldama, in Chiapas.

“Among Tzotzil people this garment is used by the wives of alferez, the person who presides acts during religious feasts. Designs are charged with symbolism, since they refer to the universe, the sky, the earth, the underworld, animals, plants, the water and the feathered serpent”, explained anthropologist Rodriguez.

Each garment has a space destined for data of the artisan who created it; they create simultaneously another huipil for the patron saint, Maria Magdalena, representing the wives’ request for protection.

The researcher commented that a Zapoteca shirt from San Bartolo Yautepec, Oaxaca is being exhibited for the first time, which is also used at religious ceremonies. It was confectioned with white cotton and is decorated with images of different birds and a feathered serpent.

An Amuzgo huipil from Ometepec, Guerrero, created in 1965 is also on display. “It was made out of brown cotton, only cultivated in some zones, and needed no dyeing. The main motive is the feathered serpent and there are hens depicted, a bird frequently represented in garments of Amuzgo women, mentioned the anthropologist.

Other objects of high symbolic value are presented, such as a Tzotzil headdress used by alferez to express their hierarchy. It is made out of felt and decorated with peacock feathers.

Objects used in traditional dances are present, such as the one known as dancing birds, where men in bird costumes dance with birdlike movements.

War dance is a representation between Prehispanic peoples and Spaniards. Headdresses, rattles, arrow cases (known as carcaj by Raramiris) and chimallis (Prehispanic shields) are elements used in this ritual.

Videos created by the INAH Direction of Communication Media, about rituals where birds are sacrificed to ask for rain, heal or to thank for good crops, are screened.

The first part of the exhibition “The Flight of Images” is on display in the National Museum of Art with the title “Featherwork in Mexico and Europe” until June 19th 2011. More than 170 Prehispanic and Colonial pieces account for development and transcendence in the world of the Prehispanic technique.

The National Museum of Anthropology is located in Paseo de la Reforma at Gandhi, in Chapultepec, Polanco, Mexico City. It is open Tuesday to Sunday from 9:00 to 19:00 hours. The admission fee is 51 MXP but children under 13, students and teachers with valid ID, and senior citizens do not pay. On Sunday entrance is free for Mexicans and residents with valid documents.

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