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 Post subject: Colorful Huipil
PostPosted: Sun Feb 26, 2006 2:56 pm 
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Joined: Sun Feb 26, 2006 2:37 pm
Posts: 1
Location: Oaxaca, Mexico
We are in the process of organizing a museum for Oaxacan textiles and would like to share this one, of many textiles from our collection, to encourage interest and possible information from others on the rich textile heritage of this region.

Chinantec huipil from San Felipe Usila, Oaxaca, ca. 1960

The Chinantec are an ethnic group of over 100,000 people living in the northern part of the state of Oaxaca in southern Mexico. They inhabit a mountainous territory covered with cloud forest and tropical moist forest, where they cultivate maize and other subsistence crops, along with coffee as the major commercial product. The Chinantec people speak a number of closely related but mutually unintelligible languages belonging to the Otomanguean family, which is noteworthy in the Americas for the prevalence of tonal distinctions, as in Chinese and Thai. According to researchers from the Summer Institute of Linguistics, there are fourteen Chinantec languages, one of which is spoken in Usila exclusively (see www.ethnologue.com ).

The huipil is the most salient garment worn by indigenous women in Mesoamerica. This particular piece is composed of three webs woven on the backstrap loom. The warp and weft are of industrially spun cotton thread. The supplementary weft is of mercerized cotton and rayon. Sections of plain, weft-faced weave alternate with sections of gauze and supplementary weft weave (“brocade”). After weaving, the plain weave sections, woven with red wefts, were smeared over with fuchsine, a synthetic purple dye, and the gauze weave sections, woven with white wefts, were lightly stained with indigo (see a description and photo of this process in Usila in “Mexican Indian Costumes”, by Donald and Dorothy Cordry, 1968, University of Texas Press).

The huipil was worn traditionally with a red cotton skirt woven on treadle looms in the City of Oaxaca, and a headcloth woven on the backstrap loom in Usila, decorated with multicolored warp and weft stripes and supplementary weft designs. The huipil is now worn only by elderly women in Usila. Chinantec weavers speak eloquently about the rich symbolism of several designs on the huipil, especially the large lozenge below the neck on the central web:

“Huipiles have a special design on the chest that is called ’uo. This name has no meaning in our language today, but its origin is probably [a word for] ‘dawn.’ The ’uo is the rhombus figure [on the huipil], at its center there is a snail that symbolizes the sun: it represents the life force, it is through this snail that the soul has its exit to fly to the sun at the last breath…”
(Irma García Isidro, researcher and weaver from Usila)

“The ’uo is like a door, it’s closed to protect the soul. When you die, the door opens and the soul leaves through it.”
(María del Socorro Agustín García, weaver from Usila)

To read more about symbolism in Chinantec textiles, see “Weavings that protect the soul”, by Alejandro de Ávila, 2004, in “The crafts of Mexico”, Smithsonian Books; and “Threads of diversity: Oaxaca textiles in context”, by the same author, 1997, in “The unbroken thread, conserving the textile traditions of Oaxaca”, Getty Conservation
Institute.


Contributed by Alejandro de Ávila, February 2006


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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Mon Feb 27, 2006 11:35 am 
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Joined: Sun Jun 29, 2003 1:42 pm
Posts: 1989
Location: Canterbury, UK
Dear Alejandro

A big welcome to the forum community!

Thank you so much for sharing some of your information on both technique and sympolism in Oaxacan textiles. I had no idea of the techniques of smearing on the finished weave that you mention:
Quote:
The huipil is the most salient garment worn by indigenous women in Mesoamerica. This particular piece is composed of three webs woven on the backstrap loom. The warp and weft are of industrially spun cotton thread. The supplementary weft is of mercerized cotton and rayon. Sections of plain, weft-faced weave alternate with sections of gauze and supplementary weft weave (“brocade”). After weaving, the plain weave sections, woven with red wefts, were smeared over with fuchsine, a synthetic purple dye, and the gauze weave sections, woven with white wefts, were lightly stained with indigo (see a description and photo of this process in Usila in “Mexican Indian Costumes”, by Donald and Dorothy Cordry, 1968, University of Texas Press).

The information on the symbolism embodied in the weaving is fascinating and, I think, should appeal to those members who are always seeking the 'meanings' embodied in the textiles that we look at and share.

I have a very small smattering of information and a few books about the textiles of Mexico built on a visit nearly 30 years ago to the Yucatan peninsular when I was living in the Cayman islands (I can't believe it was that long ago). I know that Bill Hornaday has a collection of textiles from Guatemala which, I would think, would have some affinity with the Oaxacan textiles.

Although much of our focus to date has been on the textiles of south east Asia I would encourage anyone with information or questions on textiles of Central America to contribute here and widen our discourse.

Very best wishes,

_________________
Pamela

http://www.tribaltextiles.info
on-line tribal textiles resource


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