Traditional Mexican Art on Display at Mumbai’s Oldest Museum

November 2, 2018


The Embassy of Mexico in India, in association with the Dr. Bhau Daji Lad Mumbai City Museum, this week, opened a unique exhibition of Mexico's traditional paper-art, amates.


“Mexican Amates”, an exhibition of traditional paintings on hand-crafted paper by the indigenous people of Mexico, was inaugurated by Mr. Rajju Shroff, Honorary Consul of Mexico in Mumbai, at the Dr. Bhau Daji Lad Mumbai City Museum.


On display are 46 Mexican paintings which depict everyday life scenes, birds and animals. The subject of some paintings are also special occasions such as weddings and rituals. This indigenous Mexican art is quite similar to traditional art forms of India.


Commenting on the Mexico-India art connect, Mr. Santiago Ruy Sanchez, Head of Cultural and Tourism Affairs at the Embassy of Mexico in India said, “The main idea behind showcasing the Mexican Amates exhibition at Dr. Bhau Daji Lad Mumbai City Museum, the oldest museum in Mumbai, is to present the beautiful Mexican heritage and art to Indian audiences. We also want to highlight the wonderful similarities between Mexican and Indian traditional art forms. As you would see here, these traditional paintings on Amate hand-crafted paper are similar to the Warli art form found in Maharashtra. They also bear a resemblance to the Gond and Madhubani paintings. The exhibition lays emphasis on the fact that despite our vast physical distances, both our countries are connected in many ways, and one of them is our traditional art forms.


What is “Amates”? Amate paper, from the Nahuatl word 'amatl', is a type of bark paper which dates back to pre-Hispanic times in Mexico. It is an indigenous papermaking tradition that survives in the small village of San Pablito in Puebla. During the pre-Hispanic period, amate was used for different purposes such as, ritual offerings, payment of tributes and as a surface for the elaboration of codices. Amate paintings are made in brown and white bark. Brown paper usually features colourful paintings, made with acrylic colours, depicting flowers, birds, deer or rabbits and every day stories from the community such as fishing, hunting and harvesting. The white amate paper is used in more intricate drawings made with pen and ink representing stories of the community life.


In contemporary Mexico, amate can be found as a form of handicraft which in turn fosters tourism in the Otomi Community of San Pablito. The Otomi people sell the amate paper to the Nahua Community in the state of Guerrero, where the artisans skillfully paint it using bright colours.


“Mexican Amates” is on display at the Dr. Bhau Daji Lad Mumbai City Museum, Mumbai until Tuesday, 13th November 2018.