Huichol art is an artistic expression that encompasses traditional and current styles based on ancient religious devotion. Huichol art belongs to a specific cultural, religious practice and is seen in various objects and format paintings.
Huichol art in the form made with chaquiras (small beads) or with thread (stamen) is glued onto a surface covered with wild beeswax.
Chaquiras (small beads) or multicolored stamen threads are glued onto the wax according to the planned design, on different surfaces, such as wooden boards (mahogany, cedar, pine).
Each of the stamen boards and chaquira mosaics carries symbolic motifs, stories of the Huichol culture and Huichol legends of its cosmogony, portraying a panorama of Huichol tradition and society.
The color of Huichol art works is extraordinary with striking colors and designs. In large works more than 50 different tones are used, as the Huichols/Wixárika have a highly complex color management. The most popular motifs are sacred plants and animals, gods, and mythological scenes.
Stories and myths are told through Huichol art creations, and a part of life is depicted in each Huichol art piece. Essentially, Huichol art is an expression and transcription of the images visualized by shamans. Thus, Huichol art possesses an enigmatic beauty.
Contemporary Huichol art
Materials used today in Huichol art vary. Through time, the different designs have been transformed. Yet, there are some symbols that are still considered for their important meaning in Huichol beliefs, traditions, and communities.
Huichol art captivates and is recognized internationally.
Origin of Huichol Art
The origin of Huichol art lies in an ancestral tradition. Huichol art originated as a way to communicate to the messages of the divine to the Huichol community and all mankind, and as an offering to the gods.
Huichol shamans visualize the physical transcription of images. Their visualization is induced by the ingestion of peyote (hikuri), a sacred cactus, which allows the shaman to cross the threshold of the unknown and relate to the divine. Hikuri is the ritual drink, and it is connected to the emergence of the legends related to Huichol cosmogony. Fundamentally, the Huichol artistic process is linked to mystical sense based on experiences associated with this ritual drink. From this visualization connection emerge the colors, shapes and designs in Huichol art.
In the elaboration of traditional offerings, the stamen boards and chaquira mosaics were developed from a traditional technique.
Currently, the process remains the same.
Wixárikas (or Huichols in Spanish) are an ethnic group mostly located in the mountainous region Sierra Madre Occidental.
Huichols consider themselves descendants of the black dog, tsuku mauyusauye, who helped them during the great flood.
Huichols have lived for many centuries in the states of Nayarit and Jalisco in western central Mexico. Huichols established their roots in this area between 200 to 700 AD.
During the conquest by the Spaniards, Huichol survivors fled from destruction and escaped to the interior of the Sierra Madre Occidental. This is where they are now settled.
Huichols/Wirrárika inhabit the Sierra Madre Occidental where the states of Zacatecas, Durango, Jalisco and Nayarit converge. The places where they are most concentrated are: Mezquitic and Bolaños (north of the state of Jalisco), and Yesca and Nayar (the state of Nayarit).
The Huichol world is divided into three universes: mythologically, the Huichols maintain that life began in the ocean; in reference to corn, daily life and Huichol traditions take place, and in the mystical realm. The Huichol world and Huichol art rituals distinguish them and gives them identity.
The world possesses a sacred dimension to which the mara’akame (shaman) penetrates through sleep, establishing a connection between the world of the gods and the profane. The world exists thanks to this visionary experience and the effort to obtain the nierika (gift to see). In this manner, there is a cosmogenic dimension to myths. The visions that result from rituals stem from century-old designs and Huichol artists depict these in stamen.
For the Huichols, Huichol art takes humans along mythical paths, bringing us closer to the beginning of time.
Huichols/Wirrárika deeply preserve their beliefs, rituals, and traditions.
In Huichol mosaics, sacred plants and animals, gods, and mythological scenes are the most depicted.
Huichol music is very varied. Sones of xaweri and kanari (guitar and rabel) stand out.
A tzicuri (eye of God) is an artisanal item with a deep mystical meaning for Huichols/Wixárica.
Photo credit: Mexico Travel Channel
Huichol textiles have changed considerably over the past century.
Martín de la Cruz
Famous stamen artists: José Benítez Sánchez and Mariano Valadez
References and Sources
Arte Huichol 【 Arte Huichol 】 Para los fanáticos de esta cultura
Miguel Agüet, owner of Casa Agüet, an establishment specialized in Huichol crafts located in the center of Tepic, Nayarit.