The Huichol are one of the indigenous groups that have best conserved their traditions and their artistic and cultural characteristics in spite of their population's being of about 18,000. This is because they live in isolated communities near the Sierra Occidental (Western Sierra Madre) in the states of Durango, Jalisco, Nayarit and Zacatecas where their community structure or religious beliefs are barely touched by other cultures.
Huichol art is recognized around the world due to its originality and colorfulness. It allows us to enter and view part of the Huichol world, for their artwork represents stories and legends of their worldview. Huichol people use art to encode and channel sacred knowledge, insuring the continuity and survival of the legacy left to them by their pre-Columbian ancestors. Art represents for them a prayer that provides direct communication and participation with the sacred realm.
Some representative forms of art that show the uniqueness of the Huichol people and their way of thinking are: Symbolic paintings and Jaguar heads.
Symbolic drawings are the most common among the Huichol. This is not due to any simplicity of production, but rather because they represent their worldview. The design of each painting is drawn over a wooden and then covered with string, creating magnificent images. In traditional Huichol communities, an important ritual artifact is the nieli'ka: a small square or round tablet with a hole in the center covered on one or both sides with a mixture of beewax and pine resin into which threads of yarn are pressed. Nieli'kas are found in most Huichol sacred places such as house shrines (xiriki), temples, springs and caves.
Each painting displays the spiritual journey that the indigenous people had made using Peyote to get closer to the sacred world and the different representations of gods. In the same way each of this drawing expresses a part of the religious beliefs of Huichols
Hiuichol art is also characterized by the representation of the jaguar, but especially for the creation of jaguar heads. The creation of a single piece involves numerous hours of careful work by the artisans. First, the artisan carves the shape of the jaguar head out of wood. Afterwards, he draws onto the head the symbols and designs he wants to represent. The head is then covered with a layer of Campeche wax and each bead is carefully placed on the head, one by one. The beads are carefully selected according to the colors corresponding to the gods or goddess that they represent and the specific interpretation of the story that the artist wishes to highlight. For example blue signifies Rapawiyeme (Rapa is the tree of rain); black is Tatei Aramara (the Pacific Ocean, place of the dead or great serpent of rain); red indicates Wirikuta, (location of the birthplace of peyote, deer and the eagle). All of this results in a work of art that is entirely unique which is used to tell a story of the spiritual relationship between the Huichol people and nature.
For further and more specific information about Huichol art and rituals please refer to the Related Links listed above.