Handcrafts and biodiversity in central Mexico

The Museo de Arte Popular (Folk Art Museum, or MAP) in the historic center of Mexico City is one, if not most, innovative museums of its kind. While it covers the basics of permanent and temporary of classic Mexican handcrafts and folk art, it is also interested in exploring themes which often do not get the attention they deserve.

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Bruished ceramic pot from Tonalá, Jalisco

One of these is a series of three exhibitons related the development of regional handcraft traditions, with an emphasis on the role played by local environments. On April 2, the exhibition El Centro, su materia y su artesanía (The Center, its materials and handcrafts), the second of three exhibitions which began last year (and before this blog) with an exhibition on the biodiversity and handcrafts of the North.

elec_centro_inauThe region that MAP chose for this exhibtion extends nearly perfectly west to east across the center of the country including the states of Colina, Nayarit, Jalisco, Guanajuato, Michoacán, Querétaro, Hidalgo, Mexico City, Morelos, Puebla, Tlaxcala and Veracruz. This area encompasses the former Aztec and Purhepecha Empires, which had well-developed handcrafts and trades before the arrival of the Spanish. It is also where the Spanish first introduced European techniques for known crafts such as pottery and textiles, as well as techniques and materials for the making of completely new products such as those of iron and leather.

DSC_0360From the colonial period to the present, the area also accounts for most of Mexico’s economic activity and cultural development. Add that the region’s biodiversity ranges from semi-desert to rainforest, seashore to high mountain forests. All this and more translates to a daunting task for covering the traditions of the zone. Just some of these are lacquered products from Michoacán, ceramics from Tonalá, Puebla (Talavera) and Metepec, rebozos and other clothing, etc. Natural resources represented include wood, cotton, clay, gourds, animal horn, reeds and other stiff plant fibers, metals, paper, feathers and glass.

The aim of this exhibition is to not only show how the natural world affects cultural development, but also raise awareness about over exploitation of resources, which can even occur in the handcraft world. The exhibition series is parcially sponsored by Pro Natura, a Mexican environmental non-profit organization.

The exhibition extends from 2 April to 3 July 2016.

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Lto R: Walther Boesterly of MAP, artisan Betzabel Romero and Adolfo Alaníz of Pro Natura
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