We met with Salvador Maldonado Paz from the Museo Textil de Oaxaca which summed up the whole trip to Mexico nicely. He was able to talk us through the work they are doing to preserve and exhibit textiles, raise awareness about ancient techniques and importantly teach new generations some of the skills.
He explained how they began and abou the early work they did in presenting exhibitions to raise awareness and promote different craftspeople all over Oaxaca.
They raise awareness through projects so people from all sorts of areas can learn and exchange ideas and skills.
The museum have a shop where they sell collections from weavers all over Oaxaca. They have to evaluate the cloth, workmanship, finishes, materials and threads so as to pick the very best quality and have a whole thread library as a resource.
We learned some interesting facts about the history of weaving both before and after the Spanish conquest and about the evolution of embroidery through European and other influences that have and continue to tell stories which make history through thread. One interesting fact is that before needles they would use the point of a cactus. It was great to hear more about the stories that make up the parts of the community and families and history within.
Today, they have over 6000 fabrics and textiles collected from all over the world and are continuing to bring awareness to weaving communities and their workmanship all over Mexico.
Another objective of the museum is to bring awareness to the entire process of textile cloth so people can appreciate and value the workmanship by giving weekly workshops and demonstrations of the entire process from dyeing the thread to weaving whole piece and all the steps in between. They have taught lawyers, doctors, teachers, housewife’s, children and a growing number of people from all over the world as well as within Mexico.
When we asked whether Salvador thought some of the important traditions are being lost he replied that the world is constantly changing so the hands of the craftspeople must change with it, change is constantly evolving like the pages of a book and that nothing should stay still.
We finished with a private view of their current exhibition called Syrup and Wine, Needle and Thread, which demonstrates the history use of fibres from the agave cactus. Mexico is the country with the greatest number of agaves and Oaxaca is the region with the highest diversity of species. The earliest known textiles to date from Mesoamerica were made with agave fibre with the earliest found around 10,000 years ago. The living traces of old spoken words for the agave have proven that this was used at least 4,000 years before our era and that the art of weaving first relied on this ancient fibre before cotton. The exhibition includes bags and shoes woven from agave, an age old tradition still used today in many rural communities.