of the Ecuadorian Andes
The artists of Tigua are renowned for their colorful paintings depicting
village life high in the mountains of rural Ecuador. Living much as
they have lived for centuries, families herd sheep and llamas and
cultivate a variety of potatoes and grains in small communities perched
on the windswept slopes of the Andes mountains. Their language is
Quichua, the language of the Incas. Though they have acquired many
modern ways, their customs, and indeed their paintings, still reflect
this ancient heritage.
The paintings, mostly done on sheep hide, depict the customs, festivals,
myths and dreams of indigenous people. The art form originated with
the painting of small drums used in traditional festivals and ceremonies.
In the early 1970's, one of the local artists, a community leader
named Julio Toaquiza, began to paint on hide stretched over a flat
frame. Since then, he has inspired a whole generation of artists.
Many of the frames are also painted with intricate colors and designs.
of Tigua Art
Traditionally, the Quichua people of the highlands decorated drums
and masks for festivals and fiestas. Painting on a flat surface
is a relatively recent development. This art form began in the early
1970's when Julio Toaquiza, encouraged by a Quito art dealer, began
painting pictures of daily life using sheephide stretched over a
wood frame and a brush made from chicken feathers. Over the years,
Julio has encouraged his children Alfredo, Gustavo, and Alfonso
as well as many others in Tigua to paint. Despite their lack of
formal training, the artists of Tigua, have gained renown throughout
Ecuador and beyond for the vitality of their paintings and detailed
rendering of nature and traditional life in the remote highlands.
paintings have decorative frames that also are painted by the artists.
Originally, all of the artists used enamel paints because they are
more readily available and relatively inexpensive. Now, however,
some of the more successful artists use oils or acrylic paint. Most
Tigua paintings are relatively small, mainly because they are limited
by the size of the sheep skin.
art reflects life in the highlands
Tigua paintings typically depict scenes of village life,
festivals such as Corpus Christi, a festival which combines
elements of both Inca harvest festivals and medieval Christian religion,
Noche Buena (Christmas Eve) and Tres Reyes (Three Kings).
Shamanic rituals also are depicted in Tigua art as well as historical
and political themes. The more sophisticated artists increasingly
depict political themes such as the celebrations following the election
of Ecuador's first indigenous representative to the national congress,
marches protesting indigenous rights and scenes of environmental
destruction resulting from oil development in the Amazon basin.
Pachacama, protector of the earth and the most important
Inca deity, is sometimes portrayed as a kind of floating head in
the background. This image is also an expression of pride and validation
of indigenous culture.
recent years, Tigua art has been shown at major exhibitions at the
Organization of American States in Washington DC, the University
of California Hearst Museum, the Museum of Man in San Diego, California
and at UNESCO headquarters in Paris. As the appreciation and renown
of this art spreads, so does the stature and respect for these artists
of the Andes and their colorful representations of indigenous life
in the past and present.
from the native forms of art, there are a number of Ecuadorian contemporary
artists who have made a huge impact on Ecuador, and the rest of
the world. A couple of these artists are Oswaldo
Guayasamín and Oswaldo Viteri.