The Porfirio Gutiérrez studio is a family of Zapotec textile artists using traditional natural dyes, continuing a process that has used for more than 2,500 years. This process is endangered due to the widespread use of chemical dyes and mass production weaving. Their mission is to preserve and uplift historically significant natural dye practices through education, raising awareness of their importance to their art form and our natural environment. Here, Gutiérrez tells us about the historic use of natural red dye in the annual ceremony, La Preciosa Sangre de Christo.
Image: Grinding cochineal insects by Nikhol Esteras, Copyright Porfirio Gutierrez
“9 July would have been the celebration of La Preciosa Sangre de Christo, the biggest annual celebration in our community. There are multiple ceremonies, including the feather dance and a procession where the color red can be seen as a significant symbolic element. During this procession women wear an enredo: a piece of handwoven red fabric wrapped around their waist like a skirt and held with a sash. In Teotitlán the red sash and enredo are distinctive garments for the women to wear on specific religious processions.”
“The shades of red come from Béé (cochineal), a living being that provides the precious dye. Historically, culturally, and symbolically, this living red has endured for centuries in Oaxaca. For the Mesoamerican, the color red was an important symbolic element used in various ceremonies, including burials, and had a relation to the sun, blood, and the gods. Even though much of these meanings have been lost, they are part of our collective memories that connect us to our ancestors.”
For more information visit porfiriogutierrez.com
The Porfirio Gutiérrez studio is taking part in Selvedge World Fair, a celebration of cloth, culture and creativity. To buy your ticket to enjoy talks, shopping, demonstrations, articles and interviews as well as a quiz with prizes, visit selvedge.org