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Colombian Artifacts

Liliana Villegas Benjamín Villegas: Artifacts from Colombia

Text: Enrique Pulecio

Photos: José Fernando Machado

The book “Artifacts of Colombia”, edited and published by Benjamín Villegas and Liliana Villegas in 2006, is a compilation of more than 500 years of artifacts that have accompanied Colombian social and cultural evolution from pre-Hispanic times to the present. Its chapters cover a path through different raw materials such as fabrics, leather, metals, clay and how objects that frame the daily lives of Colombians have been developed from them. 

“Archaeological investigations have shown how the settlement of Colombian territory was carried out by three great cultures, belonging to different linguistic families. Those of the Arawak, whose original nucleus is located in the basins of the Orinoco River, that of the Caribs, who settled in the inter-Andean plains and the regions of the Atlantic and Pacific Coast, and that of the Chibchas, who inhabited the lands that “They extend along the Andean mountain range.”

Guajiro chinchorros quindados in ranchería, indigenous porn Wuyuu Guajira, Colombian

“When Christopher Columbus arrived in America, in 1492, what is today Colombian territory was populated by numerous aboriginal societies, such as the Tairona, located in the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta, the Sinú culture, settled between the San Jorge and Sinú rivers, the Muiscas who inhabited the Cundiboyacense plateau, the Quimbaya who populated the region of Viejo Caldas, the Calima who occupied the valley of the river of the same name, in the current territory of Valle del Cauca, the Tierradentro located in the Andean region, in which “It is today the department of Cauca, Tolima in the upper Magdalena region, the San Agustín culture to the east of the Colombian massif, in the department of Huila, and the Tumaco and Nariño on the border with Ecuador.”

“Despite having similar characteristics, each town had its own culture, determined by both social and environmental factors. The climates, the geographical configuration, the inherent properties of the land, its relative position compared to other communities, its past and its mythology, were, without a doubt, part of those forces that determined the direction towards which they were transforming their natural environment into culture. It is known, for example, that our ancestors assimilated the strong influences of the migratory currents of the Mayans, who penetrated the country from the north, and of the Incas who arrived from the south, enriching their native culture with these new contributions.”

“With the development of his productive activity, pre-Hispanic man had established his own relationship with nature. He uses it with moderation and an almost sacred respect, and if he managed to transform it, he did so to the extent of both his vital needs and those related to the impulse that his material progress imposed on him. But, after the conquest, the relationship between man and nature changed radically in America. With the presence of the European, the previously preserved balances are broken. The so-called civilizing activity was oriented in a way as brutal as it was irrational, towards the blind search for material wealth, represented in gold and precious stones.”

“From the Conquest until the beginning of the 19th century, the Spanish crown colonized and evangelized the inhabitants of these territories, imposing on their historical development a strange model of civilization, but which, in the end, constituted, with miscegenation and consolidation of its culture, a new society. This was configured from very diverse elements since, to the indigenous ancestors, the ethnic presence of the black race was added, coming in the galleys of the Spanish, who also cohabited with the Indians and the Spanish, creating other types of miscegenation. ”

“The life of Colombia as a sovereign nation only begins in the first decades of the 19th century. After nine years of fighting by the patriot armies against the Spanish armies, independence from Spain was achieved, and in December 1819, at the Congress of Angostura, Gran Colombia was formed, made up of what are today the republics of Colombia, Venezuela, Ecuador and Panama.”

“In each region of the country, a particular human type has taken root that has its own characteristics. To the north, the coast of the Atlantic Ocean, inhabited by happy, extroverted and sincere people, makes up a simple-minded people, which includes, in addition to blacks, mulattoes and whites, indigenous tribes such as the Wayuu of La Guajira, the Kogi of the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta and the Cuna of the Gulf of Urabá. To the west, on the coast on the Pacific Ocean, settle black communities, fishing and hunting villages, flanked by the sea and the wettest and most biodiverse jungle in the world, cradle of indigenous tribes such as the Emberá and the Noanama. To the southeast, the exuberance of the Amazon rainforest, warm and humid, is the natural habitat of numerous groups, with their myths and legends, outlined by men who hunt and fish, with forms of communal and sometimes nomadic life, such as the Sibundoy, Makuna , Tukano and Tikuna . To the east, in the plains of the Orinoco and the immense rivers of the great savanna, there are societies based on agriculture and pastoralism and indigenous settlements such as the Guahibo, who inhabit the banks of the Vichada River. In the center, the Andes mountain range, divided into three branches and densely populated, is home to societies with marked cultural differences and great capacities for agriculture, pottery and weaving, and tribes that preserve centuries-old traditions, such as the Guambiano, the Pijao and the Páez.”“Colombia is a tropical synthesis of America, and by scrutinizing its material culture we can understand how this process of evolution is alive and present in the work of artisans. They are the direct and legitimate heirs of traditional production, which with its innumerable forms and elements, configures the material and aesthetic wealth that characterizes the various areas of the country. The culture of each region offers us a wide repertoire of the capacity for invention and adaptation to particular uses, with which Colombian man creates a second nature. At his side is the society that the artisan interprets and to which he returns, in the form of a finished object, certain patterns of general taste, under the pretext of satisfying practical needs.”

“This book collects images of multiple artifacts of daily life that have accompanied the development of Colombian culture throughout the centuries: ritual objects, tools, vessels, baskets, furniture, hammocks, hats and many more. If they have endured over time, it is because they have been made with tradition and originality, making use of noble materials such as wood, clay, metals, fibers, seeds, stone and leather that humanity has transformed in a thousand and one ways, but that Here, within their own idiosyncrasy, they acquire a form, a color and a content, which makes them symbolic examples of the continental region of which they are part, and testimony of a solid artisanal culture.”

“Craftsmanship is just one of the aspects that reveal the enormous importance of tradition both as a human way of transmitting a trade and as a way of instilling, in each new generation, the principles that make up the spiritual basis on which every society is founded. It is through it that we learn to respect the wisdom of the elders, to feel love for the land and its customs, and to create and perpetuate rituals. Thus, tradition and crafts, tradition and culture, are parts of human life, which mutually sustain each other and help a people to preserve and build their heritage. If these bases are consolidated, we can aspire to maintain a true relationship with nature and the cosmos.”

"Looking at the past and craftsmanship are routes that can lead to enjoying the quality of life, within authentic cultural principles, with "strength, character, talent and spiritual strength."

PULECIO, Enrique; "Artifacts of Colombia"; 2006; Villegas Editores, Introduction, P 13


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