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Identity and Prestige in Mayan Textiles



Village Identity
Guatemala, Chimaltenango (chi-mal-te-<strong>non</strong>-go), Santa Apolonia (ah-poe-<strong>low</strong>-nee-ah)<br/> Tzute, (<strong>tsoo</strong>-tay) 20th century<br/> Cotton; supplementary weft patterning<br/> Minneapolis Institute of Arts<br/> Gift of Richard L. Simmons in memory of Roberta Grodberg Simmons
  Guatemala, Chimaltenango (chi-mal-te-non-go), Santa Apolonia (ah-poe-low-nee-ah)
Tzute, (tsoo-tay) 20th century
Cotton; supplementary weft patterning
Minneapolis Institute of Arts
Gift of Richard L. Simmons in memory of Roberta Grodberg Simmons

 

Each Maya village highlighted in this feature has a unique approach to weaving or embroidery. Villagers identify the origin of these textiles through their distinctive designs and colors.

The designs on many huipiles (we-peel-ays)—loose blouses worn by Mayan women—and other woven or embroidered Mayan textiles are symmetrical, or balanced, especially from side to side. By contrast, the weavings of the highland village of Santa Apolonia are recognizable by their asymmetry. The arrangement of shapes and colors in the Santa Apolonia designs appear more random.

The design on this tzute, a head covering or all-purpose carrying cloth, is asymmetrical whether viewed from side to side, or top to bottom. Notice the three bands of designs at the top of the wrap. Then see how a single band at the bottom repeats the shapes used in the first and third rows on the top. Between is an expanse of white space. By folding the tzute, the wearer could alter the garment's appearance. The woven shapes are distinctive and unusual. How would you describe these shapes?


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1. This huipil is from San Mateo Ixtatán, near the Mexican border, far away from other Guatemalan centers of textile production. The style of dense embroidery resembles that of Chiapas, Mexico. Guatemala, Huehuetenango, San Mateo Ixtatán, Huipil, 20th century, cotton, embroidery, Minneapolis Institute of Arts, Gift of Richard and Roberta Simmons
2. The textiles of the Guatemalan village of Almolonga (al-moe-loan-gah), located nine miles from the state capital of Quezaltenango (ket-zahl-te-non-go), are recognizable by their parallelogram or zigzag patterning and alternation of colors, designs that date back to the first half of 20th century. In this man's ceremonial tzute, or head covering, the repetition of orange, green, white, and purple parallelograms makes an eye-dazzling display that creates an optical illusion. Guatemala, Quetzaltenango, Almolonga, Man's Ceremonial Tzute, 20th century, cotton, rayon: jaspé (hahs-pay) ikat (ee-cot), and supplementary weft patterning, Minneapolis Institute of Arts, Gift of Richard L. Simmons in memory of Roberta Grodberg Simmons
3. A unique practice in the village of Nahuala (nah-wall-ah) intentionally allows the dye from silk threads bleed onto the white base fabric. In this cofradia huipil (co-fra-dee-a we-peel), the red from the expensive silk thread has bled onto the white fabric. By allowing the thread to bleed, the wearer is showing that she has an expensive item, woven with silk thread. Guatemala, Sololá, Nahuala, Woman's Cofradia Huipil, c. 1910–20, cotton, silk; supplementary weft patterning, Minneapolis Institute of Arts, Gift of Richard L. Simmons in memory of Roberta Grodberg Simmons

 

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September 2012