May 28, 2004

New San Diego Museum of Man Exhibit to Examine Chilean Culture

The Mapuche people of Southern Chile —the largest indigenous group in that country — are the focus of “Map-uche: Chilean People of the Land,” a Museum of Man exhibit premiering June 4, 2004 and continuing through March, 2005.

According to Grace Johnson, the Museum’s Curator of Latin American Collections, the new exhibit will examine a complex culture which has withstood the onslaught of Spanish colonialism, while persevering into the modern world.

The more than 100 items on display will include silverwork, textiles, basketry and modern and vintage photographs, which Johnson says “provide an intriguing look at a culture that has retained many traditional characteristics despite centuries of European influence.”

The Mapuche  —  who were never actually conquered by the Inca or by the Spaniards  — are a remarkably resilient and independent population who speak  their own language and earn a minimum income by creating and selling jewelry and textiles such as rugs, blankets, and  shawls while farming the land. “They were settled on reservations in 1884, so there are many parallels that can be made between the Mapuche and Native Americans in the United States,” Johnson says.

She notes that the exhibi-tion’s overall theme is continuity and change. “A combination of old and new items, early and recent photographs reflect this theme underlying the Mapuche culture today.”

The exhibit was inspired by a visit Johnson made to Chile in 1996 with a grant from the International Partnerships Among Museums under the auspices of the American Association of Museums. The grant  enabled her to work at the Museo Regional de la Araucania in Temuco, Chile, where she assembled the contemporary pieces and photographs now on display in the Mapuche exhibit. The older artifacts in the exhibit — many of which date back to the turn of the century — are from collections made in the 1960s by anthropologist  Gage Skinner.

Located in the landmark California Tower in Balboa Park, is open daily from 10 a.m. to  4:30 p.m.

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