When Artists Have Trouble Seeing – – Friends of Oaxacan Folk Art Offers Help

by Doris Friedensohn and Amy Mulvihill


In July, 2015 Maestro Carlomagno Pedro Martínez — Director of the Oaxaca State Museum of Folk Art and FOFA‘s long-time collaborator — hosted a meeting of women folk artists of the Central Valleys to address their common concerns. One group emphasized health issues that challenge the wellbeing of women whose crafts are visually challenging. Moved by their stories highlighting the absence of preventive care for what can develop into vexing visual problems, Maestro Carlomagno pledged to provide corrective lenses to 50 women especially in need of care. He asked FOFA to provide support and we gladly did so.


Silvia Xuana Fabián from the woodcarving village of San Martín Tilcajete paints fine designs on wooden sculptures. Day after day, as long as the light holds, she focuses on repeating a delicate, multi-colored design. There’s no room for error in this unforgiving work, as Silvia knows all too well. If the pattern isn’t perfectly maintained, the piece is worthless. She feels the strain in her back and hands. But the real problem is with Silvia’s eyes. The bright colors fight back; her eyes hurt whenever she works. The same is true for her mother, father and brothers who, like Silvia, are all folk artists.
Fortunately, Silvia and her family heard about Project Ita Tachii. Ita Tachii in Nahuatl (one of the many indigenous languages of the state of Oaxaca) means Flower of the Wind and is associated with creativity. The Project, conceived and led by Carlomagno Pedro Martínez provides glasses free of charge to artisan women who suffer from vision problems as a result of their craft. Among those commonly affected are women doing decorative painting, embroidery and woodworking; also those making gold and silver jewelry and working on backstrap looms.
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The Project offers free diagnostic exams by an optometrist at the Museum. Seventy artisans, including Silvia Xuana Fabián, her parents and two brothers have taken advantage of the opportunity. Following an examination, each was given a prescription and directed to the table where glasses of different strengths and styles were available. “We all needed these glasses so much, ” Silvia said. “Our eyes were really hurting. Now that I am used to my glasses,” she added, ” I can see very clearly.”
More testimonials
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Alba Noemí López Zárate (from the ceramic village of Ocotlán de Morelos) appreciates the help offered by FOFA because, from that day forward, the glasses provided to her enable her to tire much less rapidly when decoratively painting the ceramic figures she and her family create. “It is very important work which improves the quality of life of the elderly who wish to continue working.”
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Dulce Andrés Castillo, daughter of Irene Castillo (black ceramic pueblo of San Bartolo Coyotepec): “I really needed glasses. I have used glasses since I was very young. But my mother told me to go and have a new exam. At the appointment I learned I need a much stronger prescription than the one I have had. They took care of me and I feel much better working. It’s much easier for me to work now.”
Reprinted with permission from the Friends of Oaxacan Folk Art newsletter

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