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Identity and Prestige in Mayan Textiles



Wearing a Work of Art
Mexico, Chiapas (chee-<strong>ah</strong>-pas), Magdalena (mag-da-<strong>lay</strong>-na)<br/> Man's Hat, c. 1990<br/> Palm fibers, satin, acrylic<br/> Minneapolis Institute of Arts<br/> Gift of Richard L. Simmons in memory of Roberta Grodberg Simmons<br/>
  Mexico, Chiapas (chee-ah-pas), Magdalena (mag-da-lay-na)
Man's Hat, c. 1990
Palm fibers, satin, acrylic
Minneapolis Institute of Arts
Gift of Richard L. Simmons in memory of Roberta Grodberg Simmons

 

The ancient art of textile weaving is thought to originate in the even more ancient art of basket-making. Both employ the primary technique of a base fiber (the warp) intertwined with a working fiber (the weft). Hats such as this one from Chiapas are woven using the same concept as basket-weaving.

Weaving is a time-consuming art, and this hat would have taken many days to make. First, the artist gathered the palm fibers and prepared them for weaving. While weaving, he would have shaped the fibers into the form of a human head. The huipiles and other clothing in this feature would have taken six to eight weeks to make, woven on a portable back-strap loom.

Think about your favorite outfit. Where did it come from? How do you think it was made? How long do you think it took to make? How do you feel when you wear it? Do you think it is a work of art?

This jaunty hat, with its shiny ribbons, would bounce as the wearer walked, calling attention to the rest of his outfit. Its main purpose was to guard from the sun's rays, but the artist has added a colorful pompom and streaming ribbons for a festive touch. Wearing this hat, the owner probably felt proud and confident.


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1. Many huipiles show the rays of the sun around the collar. When worn, the woman's head is surrounded by sunrays, putting her at the center of her universe. Guatemala, El Quiché, Santo Tomás Chichicastenango, Woman's Everyday Huipil, c. 1965, cotton, silk, synthetic; supplementary weft patterning, embroidery, appliqué, Minneapolis Institute of Arts, Gift of Richard L. Simmons in memory of Roberta Grodberg Simmons
2. This woven skirt goes with the huipil in the image above. The complicated weaving technique of jaspé (or ikat) requires great skill to determine the design's placement in the finished fabric. The yarn is first tied, then dyed and woven. Guatemala, El Quiché, Santo Tomás Chichicastenango, Skirt, from a complete costume, c. 1965, Cotton, silk; jaspé (ikat), Minneapolis Institute of Arts, Gift of Richard L. Simmons in memory of Roberta Grodberg Simmons
3. This sash completes the outfit in these related images. The bright orange, pink, and blue triangles on one side contrast with the black and beige stripes of the other. The many tassels on the ends would bob and sway as the wearer moved. Guatemala, El Quiché, Santo Tomás Chichicastenango, Sash, c. 1965, silk, cotton; embroidery, Minneapolis Institute of Arts, Gift of Richard L. Simmons in memory of Roberta Grodberg Simmons

 

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September 2012