Amatl

Amatl

Amatl ( _na. āmatl, _es. amate or "papel amate") is a form of paper that was manufactured in pre-Columbian Mesoamerica. It is made by boiling the inner bark of several species of trees, particularly fig trees (genus "Ficus") such as "F. cotinifolia" and "F. padifolia". [Miller and Taube (1993, p.131)] The resulting fibrous material is pounded with a stone to produce a stretchy and somewhat delicate paper, colored light brown with corrugated lines.

Its use in Mesoamerica likely dates back to at least the Early Preclassic period of Mesoamerican chronology, in the early 1st millennium BCE. Iconography (in stone) dating from the period contains depictions of items thought to be paper. For example, Monument 52 from the Olmec site of San Lorenzo Tenochtitlán illustrates a personage adorned with ear pennants of folded paper. [Miller and Taube (1993, p.131)]

Word origin

Although its manufacture and use was common throughout Mesoamerican cultures, the material is generally and contemporarily known and referred to by its Nahuatl-language name, "amatl". [Nahuatl languages were spoken by, among others, the Aztecs. At around the time of the 16th-century Spanish conquest, Classical Nahuatl served as a "lingua franca" through much of central Mexico and surrounding regions, and Nahuatl terms were further spread and popularized by subsequent conquistador expeditions.] The Spanish word "amate" directly derives from the Nahuatl term. In both the 16th century and contemporary Yukatek Maya language, the equivalent word is "kopo" (modernised orthography, also rendered as "copo" in earlier orthographies). In the Classic Maya language, which was the main language appearing in most of the Maya hieroglyphics inscriptions, the equivalent is likely to have been "huun" (or "hun"), which also had the broader meaning of "book" or "bark".

Uses

The paper had both religious and secular uses. The paper would be painted using a brush and rolled up or folded for storage. It was used as a base material in the construction of several Mesoamerican cultures' accordion-folded books, including Maya codices and Aztec codices.

Papel amate as modern folk art form

Beginning in the early 20th century, several tribes among the Nahuatl language speakers of Mexico began developing paper amate paintings as an art-form primarily for trade or sale to tourists or other outsiders. Today, examples of the form can be found throughout southwestern Mexico, particularly in the states of Guerrero, Oaxaca, and Jalisco, ranging from low-art and very inexpensive prints on papel amate to elaborate narrative scenes that can fetch much higher prices in city markets and fine art galleries.

Like most folk art forms, very few papel amate painters have achieved individual recognition for their work—most pieces are purchased because they follow a tradition of representation rather than express an individual voice. A few exceptions do exist, with most being family members who learned to paint together, including Inocencio Jimenez and Felix Jimenez Chino, Marcial, Juan and Felix Camilo Ayala, and Roberto and Abraham Mauricio Salazar.

Notes

References

* |year=2002 |title=A Preliminary Classic Maya-English/English-Classic Maya Vocabulary of Hieroglyphic Readings |format=PDF |work=Mesoweb Articles |publisher=Mesoweb |url=http://www.mesoweb.com/resources/vocabulary/Vocabulary.pdf |accessdate=2007-08-17
* |year=2003 |title=Amate for Sale: Indigenous Mexican Painters in Global Art Markets |url=http://www.gmu.edu/jbc/Tyler/amate.doc |format=DOC |accessdate=2007-08-17
* |year=2005 |title=Markets and Cultural Voices: Liberty vs. Power in the Lives of Mexican Amate Painters |location=Ann Arbor |publisher=University of Michigan Press |isbn=0472098896 |oclc=56051127
* |authorlink=Mary Miller |coauthors=and aut|Karl Taube |year=1993 |title=The Gods and Symbols of Ancient Mexico and the Maya |publisher=Thames and Hudson |location=London |isbn=0-500-05068-6
* |coauthors=and aut|Thomas C. Albro |year=1990 |title=The Examination and Conservation Treatment of the Library of Congress Harkness 1531 Huejotzingo Codex |url=http://aic.stanford.edu/jaic/articles/jaic29-02-001.html |journal=Journal of the American Institute for Conservation |volume=29 |issue=2 |pages=pp.97–115 |issn=0197-1360 |doi=10.2307/3179577

Further reading

* [http://www.movingpartspress.com/Text/felicia.html "Codex Espangliensis"] : A modern art codex printed on amatl paper.

External links

* [http://www.mathcs.duq.edu/~tobin/maya/ The Construction of the Codex in Classic- and Postclassic-Period Maya Civilization] by Thomas J. Tobin. Maya codex and paper making.


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