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Indigenous Art Exhibition Seeks To Break Open the Subject Of The Pre-Hispanic World

By Dialogo
May 08, 2009

A sample of indigenous art from Northwest Argentina that opened at the National Museum of Fine Arts aims, through pieces ranging up to 3000 years old, to destroy the cliché that all pre-Hispanic societies were savages. Of a strong didactic nature, the exhibition "Original Art: Diversity and Memory" intended "to highlight the role of heritage in the Argentine prehistoric world, that of the natives before the arrival of the first Europeans," the curator of the show, archaeologist José Antonio Pérez Gollán, explained to Efe. In addition, Gollán noted that the exhibition tries to "explain, in a political context, why the Argentines do not feel that the indigenous world is part of their heritage." The material, on display from now until early July, was provided by the collections “Guido Tella” of the Museum of Fine Arts and “Francisco Hirsch” of the Argentine Chancery, but has some pieces on loan from the Museum of La Plata, and from the School of Natural Science, of the same city. Although the material had been exhibited previously, it was never done in an instructional manner, "not trying to prompt curiosity in people, not offering a full-circle message, but a questioning one," said Gollán, for whom there are many ways to be Argentine, with diverse cultural manifestations, and this is one of them. The exhibition presents a journey through some of the central themes of the indigenous tradition of the country’s northwestern region, such as the worship of the sun and ancestors, the representations related to power, and the use of hallucinogenic plants to communicate with holy beings. Focusing on the first millennium BC and the first half of the sixteenth century, the exhibit illustrates 2,500 years of change and transformation, mainly through archaeological remains in pottery, stone, and bronze. Among the 80 pieces are decorative ceramics, common objects such as drinking glasses and bottles, bronze tools and plates, and pipes, which were used to consume substances that brought them into contact with their gods. Many of the pieces have the property of being dual, a concept that the exhibition’s organizers consider "fundamental to the thinking of Andean societies," as it structured their entire symbolic world. Several explanatory texts and audiovisual presentations accompany the archaeological elements, as well as drawings on the walls and several pencil, watercolor, and oil paintings by César Paternosto, Alejandro Puente, and Joaquín Torres, whose works are intended to enhance the indigenous tradition.