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Art of everyday life

In the Andean region and in the valleys and lowlands of Bolivia, different cultures produce folk art of great beauty and extraordinary quality. Folk art in developing countries such as Bolivia is created for use in daily life. More elaborate objects are used for rituals, worship, festivals, and celebrations. Folk art responds to common beliefs and collective imagination.

In celebration of everyday life, the IDB Cultural Center displays an exhibition of folk art from Bolivia. Indigenous Presence in Bolivian Folk Art is an exhibit of more than 50 artistic and utilitarian objects that reflect popular creativity and the influence of indigenous traditions. The objects include textiles, baskets, wood and silver, and pieces used in community celebrations.

Crafts are intended to meet daily needs for utilitarian goods, which are often connected to the farming livelihoods that dominate rural communities.

Crafts and costumes, such as those associated with dances like the diablada, play an important role in traditional ceremonies and festivals in rural communities. Masks, costumes and musical instruments are part of people’s lives and are clear signs of cultural syncretism, particularly with Christianity.

Bolivian folk art is created in both urban and rural areas, and bears a strong indigenous imprint. Many contemporary works owe their current form to lengthy cultural processes that have evolved over centuries. This brings us close to the esthetic and symbolic world of cultures of the past and the present. 

Understanding the folk art produced today requires placing it in its cultural context and tracing its evolution. Folk art objects are very much manifestations of the broader cultural developments from which they arise.

With this exhibition, the IDB Cultural Center pays tribute to Bolivia´s indigenous people by highlighting some of the extraordinary contributions of their age-old traditions, which have come to define the character of Bolivian life today.

The exhibit includes contemporary textiles from the Macha, Maragua, Kallawaya, Chuquisaca, Cotagaita, Calamarca and North Potosí areas; wood carvings from the Chiquitanía region; religious and secular Potosí silver objects; and masks, headdresses and costumes for “La Diablada,” the traditional carnival dance. The exhibit also features an authentic “Totora” reed raft, a signature object of the highland communities around Lake Titicaca, which go back several hundred years before the arrival of the Europeans. The raft’s function and craftsmanship remain unchanged. 

The IDB Cultural Center joins in the celebration of the Indigenous Cultures of the Americas, saluting the upcoming inauguration of the Smithsonian’s National Museum of the American Indian. The exhibit is part of the regular exhibit program of the Center, which aims to bring to Washington the more outstanding cultural expressions of the IDB member countries in a manner that is both educational and enlightening about the importance of culture in any development process.

Additional information

The exhibition will open to the public at the Art Gallery of the Cultural Center of the Inter-American Development Bank, in Washington, D.C., on September 7th until November 19, 2004. For additional information about the IDB Cultural Center, its programs and guided tours, please call (202) 623-3774. A free full-color catalog reproducing all works in the exhibition is available to the public. For photographs, please call (202) 623-1213.
The IDB Cultural Center art gallery is located at 1300 New York Avenue, N.W., Washington, D.C. and is open Monday through Friday, from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m., free of charge. The nearest Metro station is Metro Center.

The exhibit components come from the Antonio Viaña and the “Quipus” Cultural Foundation in La Paz, and other locations in Bolivia.

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