13.02.12 - Gods, rites and crafts of the prehispanic Mexico

"Gods, rites and crafts of the prehispanic Mexico": Until February 21

On October 15, Fundación Proa will present Gods, rites and crafts of the prehispanic Mexico. This unprecedented exhibition features over 150 archeological pieces from an array of cultures that inhabited the Gulf of Mexico, what is now the Veracruz region. The exhibition is organized by the Mexican Embassy in Argentina and sponsored by Tenaris/Organización Techint.


Through a selection of works from the holdings of a number of institutions and museums under the authority of the Instituto Nacional de Antropología e Historia de México (INAH) and the Museo de Antropología de Xalapa, this exhibition, which is curated by David Morales Gómez, offers the Argentine public an unprecedented overview of the range of symbolic universes that these societies produced.

Gods, rites and crafts of the prehispanic Mexico emphasizes the role of gods and the rituals that revolved around them. It also reviews the range of trades performed by the inhabitants of the region before the Spanish conquest.

The exhibition opens with the ruling gods of these societies, gods common to all the Mesoamerican cultures. These supreme and immortal deities were conceived in the image and likeness of human being, and hence represented as old and young human figures. Between fear, benevolence, punishment and malice, the gods of fertility, which were associated with water, wind and the cycle of birth, reproduction and death, are featured. Tlaloc, for instance, was a god of fertility, and the figure of Xipe Totec, a symbol of the change in vegetation on earth, represented here in a sculpture almost two-meter high. The exhibition also includes a figure associated with the cult of the diving bird. Wearing the classic headdress with the figure of a descending bird, this image was associated with burial; it first appeared in circa 100 B.C.

The exhibition goes on to feature “festivities and accouterments of the gods,” with Tlaloc once again, along with his servers, who are represented in stone sculptures, clay statutes and vessels. The exhibition encompasses the cult to Xipe Totec, god of goldsmiths, and the representation of sacrifices in his name: stone and clay sculptures with rings and pectorals, and a face made of gold. The monumentality, sophistication and symbolic power of this group of never-before-seen pieces is striking

Gods, rites and crafts of the prehispanic Mexico  addresses the trades of these pre-Hispanic cultures, featuring the work of two important groups. Potters, whose remarkable vessels were used for everyday and religious purposes. These craftsmen made extraordinary figures of gods for temples and homes, as well as musical instruments, impressive water piping systems, and an array of decorative objects. The second major trade was lapidaries, who worked in stone to make instruments for domestic and ritual use, and for hunting and fishing. They also made accessories like earrings, labrets, nose rings, pectorals and elements used in rituals like yokes, axes and palm leaves. The exhibition’s novel approach renders these ancient objects efficacious and effective in these times.

The exhibition also features the production of those who worked with indispensable sea materials like conch and snail shells to make bracelets, rings and armbands. It includes fragments of mural paintings, which are crucial to grasping the vital, sacred and profane orders of these cultures.

Gods, rites and crafts of the prehispanic Mexico also stages the ritual of the ball. It provides a wealth of educational information that makes it possible to delve into this historic period and the conceptual frameworks that resonated in these cultures’ varied worldviews. The exhibition contains extremely important historical photographs from the archives of the Fototeca Nacional of INAH, located in Pachuca, Hidalgo.

A major catalogue with a detailed reproduction of each piece in the exhibition as well as texts by specialists in the field makes it possible to accurately recreate and delve into the specific aesthetic experience inherent to each piece.

Gods, rites and crafts of the prehispanic Mexico is organized by the Embassy of Mexico in Argentina, the Instituto Nacional de Antropología e Historia de México (INAH), the Consejo Nacional para la Cultura y las Artes, the Fototeca Nacional del INAH, the Museo de Antropología de Xalapa and the Universidad Veracruzana have all contributed to its production.

Gods, rites and crafts of the prehispanic Mexico is made possible thanks to the support of Tenaris/Organización Techint.