Events & Exhibits - Winter 1996
Through March 22, the Weinberg Memorial Library is hosting an exhibition of Guatemalan textiles from the collection of Linda Ledford-Miller, Ph.D., of the University's Foreign Languages Department. The exhibition is presented on the fourth and fifth floors of the Library.
The textiles of the indigenous Indian peoples (who comprise 70% of Guatemala's population) are characterized by their brilliant rainbow colors. Each indigenous group has its own distinctive pattern of dress that distinguishes it from other indigenous groups. Legend, in fact, has it that the Spanish conquerors forced members of the various Indian groups to dress alike so as to distinguish the different groups from each other and from their conquerors. Weaving is done on a backstrap loom; girls begin training in weaving as early as ages five and six. Embroidery is used to embellish the woven patterns and also to join pieces of fabric together. Textiles are made into shawls for warmth and for carrying babies, headdresses, belts, skirts, coverings for carrying bundles on the head, and huipiles, which are large, heavily embroidered blouses worn by women. Garments for special occasions may take several months to produce. Bright colors are used for all clothing including everyday wear and for clothes for both sexes. Sometimes a woman who is about to marry will make ornate clothing for her bridegroom.
Not surprisingly, there has been a decline in the production of these textiles due in part to the labor intensity of the weaving and embroidery work. A less carefully crafted product is also made for the tourist trade. Also cheap mass-produced Western style clothing is becoming more popular, particularly as some people do not want to identify themselves as parr of the Indian population. In fact, the Latinos (Guatemalans of Spanish background) never wear these clothes; Dr. Ledford-Miller said it was considered unusual when she was in Guatemala that she, an American, would want to wear these fabrics.
Dr. Ledford-Miller started collecting while doing research in Guatemala in 1990. She does not characterize herself as a "serious" collector bur is intrigued by the endless varieties of weaving, color and pattern. She herself uses many of the items in her collection including shawls, purses, tablecloths, napkins, bedspreads and shells.
The Guatemalan textile exhibition is part of the Festival of Latin American Culture sponsored by the University's Department of Art and Music. Further information on the exhibit can be obtained by calling 941-7526.
Textile Exhibit At Library