Bolivian Aymara ponchos at Siegal Gallery, Santa Fe
During the 1970s, Giles W. Mead, then director of the Los Angeles County Natural History Museum, collected an exemplary group of twenty 17th and 18th century Balandrán-style Aymara ponchos from Bolivia. From 25 July to 26 August, the Giles W. Mead and Parry Mead-Murray Collection will be exhibited at the William Siegal Gallery, 540 S. Guadalupe St., in the Railyard Arts District in Santa Fe, New Mexico.
The Balandrán-style ponchos in the Mead Collection were first made in the highlands of Bolivia, Chile, and Argentina during the Spanish colonial period. It is likely that they were adapted from ponchos made by the Araucanian Indians of northern Chile. They present a fascinating example of the adaptation of a pre-Columbian garment and weaving technology for life in the post-Columbian world. They are named after a type of cape, sometimes with a hood, worn indoors by priests and scholars until relatively recently. These garments are untailored, usually sleeveless, and fasten only at the neck. They were worn for warmth, and largely cover the body, offering excellent protection against inclement weather. But perhaps the most significant connection between the garments is that people of status wore them, whether priests or village headmen. They communicated high status and identity, just as textiles did in the Andes in Inca times. Even their scale, averaging 200 by 150–175 cm, is much larger than the standard poncho or the smaller ponchito worn throughout the Andes. Highlights from the Mead collection, which is featured in the Summer 2014 issue of HALI, are presented here, accompanied by edited extracts from the forthcoming exhibition catalogue.
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