Indigenous art

The indigenous cultural influence has produced a wide array of artistic expressions in Paraguay.  Originally considered a simple “handicraft,” its rescue and recognition as an art is owed in large part to archeologists, ethnologists, and general researchers of indigenous cultures who were developing their studies at the beginning of the 20th Century.

Within the indigenous art of Paraguay, those forms that stand out are basketwork and feathered ornaments, which constitute the oldest esthetic forms of the Guaraní peoples.  Wickerwork, related to indigenous weaving, includes a wide array of baskets and bags created for various uses.  The different consistency comes from the different materials, such as native bromeliads known as tacuarembó and caraguatá, and the pindo palm.

Indigenous feather art comes from distinct ethnicities, such as the Guaraní who use the “jeguaka” or adorning headdress for special ceremonies, or the Nivaclé that wear plumes made with colorful feathers.  In addition to collars, bracelets and anklets from various indigenous groups, one of the most impressive feather art creations are the ornately detailed cloaks made of beautiful feathers, the kind that once upon a time were reserved only for Guaraní shamans.

Ceramics is another standout of the indigenous artistic expression of Paraguay.  Ceramics deals with pieces ranging from ancient funerary urns to jugs used for culinary purposes, which are known for their ornamentation with engobe, urucú designs, or being corrugated, and works from Western Paraguay show Andean influences.

Finally there is the substantial branch of wood carving, that ranges from masks used for ethnic rituals, pipes, apyká or small chairs, to various types of animal- and human-like figures.

Wooden masks

Contact with the colonizers produced transformations or adaptations in some expressions of indigenous art, like for example the necklaces and other ornaments, that today are made with glass beads from Europe, or the “Kurusú poty,” the flowery crosses adopted by the missionaries, that the shamans began to use as protective elements.  And at the same time, its esthetic guidelines, as well as its techniques, profoundly influenced the mestizo or folk art that appeared in Paraguay with the colonization.

Vessels

Among all the museum space dedicated to indigenous art, the most important is the Andrés  Barbero Ethnographic Museum, created in 1929, located in Asunción, the Guido Boggiani Museum, founded in 1989 over the base of the works of the Paraguayan Institute of Pre-history, located in San Lorenzo, and the Museum of Indigenous Art, whose heritage dates from 1987, when the Center for the Visual Arts that is located in the same facility, was founded, and inaugurated as an individual space in 1995, in Asunción.  These museums house important samples of indigenous art from different ethnicities that inhabit the Paraguayan territory.  In the last few decades, it has become easier to enjoy samples of indigenous art in Paraguay, and it is possible to acquire pieces in numerous businesses that specialize in the various genres.