Huichol Artist Cilau Valadez visits Chestnut Hill School
Fourth generation Huichol artisan Cilau Valadez visited CHS on Tuesday, November 8. Based on carbon dating of artifacts, the Huichol tribe has been on the North American continent for over 10,000 years. Huichol art imagery has spiritual meanings. During religious rituals Huichol Shamans receive visions from their gods. Those visions are then transcribed by artists into carvings, paintings, and elaborate textiles. Under the tutelage of his father, renowned Huichol artist Mariano Valdez, Cilau learned the intricate art form of Huichol yarn painting. His work has been shown at the Museum of Indian Art & Culture in Santa Fe, New Mexico, and at the UN Visitors Center in New York City.
The Huichol were land bridge crossers. By migrating into the who were able to maintain their culture in spite of European exploration by the Spanish conquistadors like Coronado and Cortes. Now, Cilau pointed out, “through our art, we not only preserve our traditions and culture, but we also have the great honor of sharing them with the world.”
Mr. Acosta’s 5th grade social studies class provides one example of how the artist’s visit affected CHS students. The class admired Cilau’s skill in creating the intricate, colorful pieces, including a yarn painting of the CHS mascot - the hawk. It starts with a combination of beeswax and pine resin onto a piece of thin wood and then manipulates very thin yarn of different colors into shapes and symbols.
Another example was how 5th grade students were able to make connections between their recent trip to the Mashantucket- Pequot museum in Connecticut, and the Huichol tribe. Like the Huichols, the Pequots basic foodstuff was corn. Many of the art pieces include symbolism representative of the corn god.
As part of this Education Outreach program, Cilau has visited 19 schools and 7,000 students to educate people on the traditions and diversity of native peoples. As he explains in his artist statement, “my role as a cultural ambassador and an artist is to connect the human eye with nature, spirit and our high universe.”
CHS was fortunate to have this Cilau Valadez, Huichol Ambassador visit us. Thanks to Merce Garcia and the Arts, Spanish and Building and Engineering departments for organizing this visit.