The Water Carriers.

Posted in Uncategorized on August 1, 2018 by brunyfire

2018 is turning out to be a busy travel year for Brunyfire. Having just returned from the last round (comprising several weeks in the UK, Switzerland, the Phillipines, Singapore and Malaysia – stories to come!) to a winter in Tassie seemed the ideal time to sort through the thousands of images and to catch up with untold yarns. ‘The Water Carriers’ tale continues on from Brunyfire’s Mexican sojourn at the beginning of the year.

Back in February this year, Brunyfire sadly departed Oaxaca (Seeing Red) and arrived in Mexico City to follow up on the cochineal trail first discovered in the weaving village of Teotitlán del Valle just outside Oaxaca.

Despite earthquakes, the horrendous traffic and Mexico City’s ‘bad boy’ reputation, life, art, culture and cuisine abound in this vibrant city and so long as one took reasonable care, the city was safe and perfectly manageable. Of the three days here, Brunyfire committed one whole day to the National Museum of Anthropology, the largest and most visited museum in Mexico. 705A72D3-6D6E-4FAC-9B16-F24AB3099445C990E269-35E9-40C9-BD56-5B9A0445DE2CDesigned in 1964 by Pedro Ramírez Vázquez, Jorge Campuzano, and Rafael Mijares Alcérreca, this monumental building contains exhibition halls surrounding a courtyard with a huge pond and a vast square with a concrete umbrella supported by a single slender pillar (known as ‘el paraguas’ – ‘the umbrella’). The halls are ringed by gardens, many of which contain outdoor works. The museum has 23 rooms and covers an area of nearly 20 acres – and the exhibits are stunning!

It’s hard to move fast in this place – each of the 23 rooms is fascinating and drags the viewer to frequent enthralled stops – such as the Introduction to Anthropology section that displays the evolution of human life in the form of exquisitely executed diaoramas.0C9C12DA-3725-49A0-9DE3-ABC18B4E104B These stories have been facilitated by the remains of the people, in this instance, of the Pre to Middle Classical age of Mesoamerican culture (2,500BC to 200 AD). Their skeletal remains have shown evidence of bodily injuries that have helped a contemporary translation to the kind of arduous activities associated with the grind of daily life at this time. These activities included transporting heavy loads, such as wood for ceramics, and water. In the next room, in the form of a small earthenware figurine beside a clay jar, is the evidence of just such an activity…………….3FF428AB-2828-498B-8FA6-49B8E81A90E4………this little female figurine is carrying a clay pitcher with a ‘mecapal’ – a strap that is threaded through the lugs on the pitcher and held in place around the forehead. This was a particularly exciting find, as was finding a second pitcher, this time with a straw woven strap, in the Ethnography Rooms……….2F7F9A6A-88BB-4764-9669-85562E022760………this time, the more contemporary piece shows some tell tale markings that indicated a continuum of tradition – from the pre-historic to the present – the production of these pots was still happening as had been witnessed during the course of the ‘Fire and Clay: Ancient Innovations’ tour that Brunyfire was a part of.

During the tour, we were continually being reminded of the traditions and connections the work of the potters whom we engaged with, had with the past. In the remote village of San Bartolo Tonaltepec, for example, in the mountainous regions beyond Oaxaca we were visiting the home and workshop (way off the beaten track) of Gregoria……..F34A5CB1-98C5-4CC4-8A82-5C475834B911…….one of a handful of women potters who still make the traditional water carriers which she readily demonstrated.AC578114-2611-48D2-9D13-779305C81E43.jpeg The production of these cántaro, abstractly coloured post firing with a bark tea of tanin, are totally unique to this area, and sadly, a dying art.B4B74C4B-0484-40A1-AE78-0725A850A587Nevertheless, Gregoria, like all the potters we had met to date, was extremely generous in sharing her knowledge, experience and food with us, and we were privileged to watch her make a cántara.59E96EAA-B8A7-4BCF-B1CD-ED3821748F8COnce her work has dried (see the full story here), Gregoria stacks her pots in a traditional stone updraft kiln……..C3F62CB3-D711-4305-BAA2-00ED048F12B5……..firing the pots to red hot when she removes them, and splashes on the bark (tanin) tea – here Gregoria had come up with a more ‘high tech’ version of the bark water – a plastic bottle with a hole in the cap!73A68812-B424-4BDF-A7DE-B96D4AF9503982928F11-A1A3-4D80-BBEB-272B8432A73F12CC568B-E86A-4ABD-9659-6C83A5B07C0F

The cántara, just one example of a pre historic past in the present day.

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