The National Handicrafts and Handlooms Museum, commonly known as National Crafts Museum, is one of the popular haunts for art lovers. This place displays art, crafts and textile items from various parts of India and other countries. With its rural setting, it aims to preserve cultural tradition and heritage of the country. 

But it is in an international context that the Crafts Museum is hosting Textiles of Chiapas, an exhibition that includes 44 pieces woven by indigenous women from southern Mexico. 

This month-long exhibition features the works of indigenous communities from the state of Chiapas, on the southern tip of Mexico. The display is part of the activities to commemorate Mexico’s 206th Day of Independence, marked on 16 September. 

“Mexicans must be proud of this heritage and the beautiful work of these women” said H.E. Melba Pria, Mexican Ambassador to India, who inaugurated the exhibition on 13 September. “India also has an outstanding textile tradition and we want Indian people to come and see these pieces, not only because of their beauty, but for them to realise the similarities between the cultural expressions of Mexico and India.” 

In the southern tip of Mexico, sharing borders with Guatemala, is the state of Chiapas, which has diverse geography. It is a state with magnificent traces of the Mayan and other important Mesoamerican cultures. A great variety of textiles originate from this part of the world, with 12 ethnic groups living here, whose identity is recreated in the symbolism of their designs and continue to preserve their ancestor’s traditions and languages. The many varieties of textiles are due to different ethnic groups living in over 122 villages located here, making clothes according to the tradition, techniques, fashion and materials. Each region has its own traditional dress, which locals wear in special celebrations, religious ceremonies or family parties. Mexican indigenous roots are at the base of the identity of each village. This identity is created in the symbolism of the designs and ornaments. 

Hosted at the Crafts Museum in Delhi, Textiles of Chiapas is a month-long exhibition where some 44 pieces woven by indigenous women from southern Mexico are being showcased. 

The cultural richness of Mexico is characterised by the kaleidoscope of colours reflected in the vast diversity in the form of dressing, depending on the region and occasion. To know about the clothing of Mexico is synonymous to learning a little more about different regions, culture and ethnic groups. Since ancient times, their attire is representative of their identity, and of their relationship with nature. 

The moment one enters the gallery space at the Crafts Museum, one finds colourful designs and patterns with unique colour combinations. Each Mexican region has its own traditional dress, which displays their ancient heritage in colourful patterns. The dress defines the culture and tradition of the state of Chiapas. These dresses are always accompanied by different shawls, shoes, jewellery etc.  The pictures displayed on the walls also reflect the spirit of Mexico as weaving and embroidery is a knowledge passed on from one generation to another. The interesting part of the exhibition is that the background of Chiapas culture and traditions are displayed for the visitors who wish to know how Mexican ethnic groups work on these designs. 

Weaving and embroidery artists from the state of Chiapas. The beauty of these textiles is that they are woven on backstrap looms and their fabrics are made of plant fibres or natural wool, dyed with vegetable colours or extracted minerals. Beautiful, colourful skirts are on display. These skirts are wrapped around and secured with a fagero or cloth belt. The abstract drawings and patterns in weaving and embroidery symbolise the language of dreams, desires, geology and transformations of nature and cosmos. 

The artisans have infused ancient learning in their designs, reaffirming the deep roots despite centuries of colonial influences. This is reflected both in the making of textiles and in the meaning of their designs and embroideries. It also reflects the transculturation, which has been incorporated from the Spanish, the Arabs, the Asian and the African communities among others. 

Some of the designs in Textiles of Chiapas are even reminiscent of embroidery traditions of India like the Phulkari work of Punjab, the Kutchi embroidery of Gujarat or Kashmiri embroidery.

In a seamless blend of the unique creativity of 11 Chiapas communities, the textiles featured in the exhibition give us a peek into the kaleidoscope of colours and traditions that the state of Chiapas harbours. 

The exhibition is on till 13 October. 

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