Latin American Culture Pulsates in Exhibition

Article excerpt

The Mayan civilization, one of the three core civilizations of Latin America, dawned around 1500 B.C., when the Mayans began to settle down in small villages as well as develop methods of planting crops and making clothing and jewelry, all of which formed the Mayan culture.

The Mayans are famous for their highly advanced culture with their temples, pyramids, hieroglyphic writing and sophisticated calendar system. Although the Mayans have endured persecution for the past 500 years and their ancient cities have been abandoned, more than six million descendants still maintain a unique culture that is distinctly Mayan in areas of Mexico, Belize, Honduras and Guatemala, where more than half the population are of Mayan descent.

Now, Koreans can get a taste of this ancient civilization at an exhibition of traditional costumes and textiles from Guatemala and Mexico, the heart of the Mayan region.

The exhibition, titled ``Trajes y Tejidos mas Esculturas (Costume and Fabric plus Sculpture),'' is being held at the Latin American Cultural Center and Museum in Koyang, Kyonggi-do, till Nov. 19.

``For the first exhibition of the 21st century, I've decided to show traditional clothing and weavings of the indigenous natives of Latin America in order to rediscover and appreciate `the worth of things gone by.''' said Lee Bok-hyung, director of the center and a former diplomat.

He served in Mexico twice, Costa Rica, the Dominica Republic and Argentina, which explains his warm affection for Latin America and its culture.

The cultural center, which opened on Oct. 5, 1994, is the only cultural facility of its kind in Asia founded and operated by a private family.

About 1,500 Latin American art pieces, most of which are from Mexico and Meso-America, are on permanent exhibition. They range from terracotta, stone and bronze sculptures, paintings, ceramics, a collection of masks, some musical instruments and a variety of handicrafts.

An ever-growing collection of books on Latin American history and arts are available as well as numerous informative video tapes on the nations and historical sites of Latin America.

Since the opening six years ago, the center has hosted numerous cultural activities from time to time, including exhibitions, lectures and concerts. Starting with an exhibition featuring the works of Victor Gutierrez, a famous Mexican sculptor, held in 1995, special exhibitions have been held annually.

This year, most of the works exhibited are ``huipil'' -- a rectangular outer garment, centered with an intricate brocade-woven cross-shape covering the arms, front and back. The huipil is a traditional garb originating from Mexico and Guatemala Mayans, elaborately weaved and embroidered with bright, vibrant colors and patterns of nature, such as flowers and animals or the symbols of the cosmos like the sky and spirits. …