Clothing and adornment from various times and regions are presented in this exhibition room, illustrating the aesthetics and artistic diversity of indigenous creativity in Latin America. At the same time they represent ways to master the challenges posed by the environment and by communal life. Clothing can protect from cold and heat, it has the ability to either conceal its wearer from view or to attract glances, it can be either exclusive or inclusive, and can indicate affiliation with a specific group. It has also the potential to mirror world views, power relations, and economic situations, or to make historical developments and processes of negotiation visible. It is subject to change while at the same time being a vehicle of continuity.
The origins of Latin American textile traditions predate the European invasion by millennia, and are closely related to Latin America’s chequered history and vibrant present. A small selection of pre-Columbian weaving products gives an impression of their importance in long-ago times. The fusion of indigenous and colonial-European fashions, which at times has a tonguein-cheek undertone, is represented by creations from the Andes of Bolivia and Peru. Colourful body adornments of the Kayapó in Brazil illustrate the diversity of standards applied to proper clothing. The projection of religious mindscapes onto wearable covers becomes visible in textiles of the Peruvian Shipibo as well as in mask costumes of the Karihona of Columbia. Garments of the Maya of Guatemala and the Guna of Panama represent the visualisation of changing identities in woven and embroidered patterns. Clothing and jewellery of the Mapuche tell of lasting resistance from the time of Inca expansion to the colonial era and into the present. Many indigenous philosophers and activists have come to oppose the term “America”, which is criticized for being ethnocentric, with Abya Yala, “Land in its Full Maturity”, a term borrowed from the language of the Guna in what is today Panama. The concept of Abya Yala is setting the direction in terms of selfdetermination, human rights, and the multifaceted responses of indigenous communities to the encroachment of global markets on their environmentsand resources. However, advancements in human rights that were achieved in the past decades are at stake today, and the increasing pressure on indigenous communities has assumed a level that once again threatens their existence.
This exhibition is intended to present examples allowing an impression of the diversity of “getting dressed”, and of topics associated with dressing. It was planed and realized by a team of student guest curators in the context of a seminar at the Department of Cultural Anthropology of the LMU, in cooperation with the Museum Fünf Kontinente.