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"World's First And Only Mexican Beaded VW" Visits U.S. (It's Better Than It Sounds)

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On: Thu, Mar 29, 2012 at 4:30PM | By: Andrew W Davis


Photoillustration by Author

On the first leg of its tour of North America and Europe, “Vochol”—the world's “first and only Volkswagen decorated with beads by Mexican Huichol Indians”—can be seen now through May 6 at the Smithsonian's National Museum of the American Indian in Washington, D.C.

Now before you go and dismiss this as a “hippie”-style psychedelic custom VW, let’s look at the facts: all of the intricate, multicolored everything you see on the surface of this 1990 VW Beetle (yes, I meant 1990) has been done—by hand—with “more than 2 million glass seed beads and nearly 35 pounds of fabric, paint, yarn and resin.”

Yep, "two families of Huíchol artisans [eight persons total] devoted more than 9,000 hours” to create Vochol, a name derived from a combination of “vochol”, a popular term for VW Beetles in Mexico, and “Huichol”, the common name of the Wirrárika indigenous group.

But this project is more than 233 lbs. of beadwork slapped on a Bug. And—unlike any groovy, 1960s-era painted version—this one’s important enough to be in the Smithsonian.

Speaking of which, here’s how the Smithsonian’s National Museum of the American Indian puts it:

“The museum welcomes the 1990s Volkswagen Beetle named ‘Vochol®,’ decorated by indigenous craftsmen from the Huichol (Wixaritari) communities of Nayarit and Jalisco, Mexico, using more than 2 million glass beads and fabric. This one-of-a-kind vehicle is presented in collaboration with the Association of Friends of the Museo de Arte Popular and the Museo de Arte Popular in Mexico City, the Embassy of Mexico and the Mexican Cultural Institute.

“The Vochol’s beadwork and embroidery illustrates powerful symbols, milestones and stories from the deeply spiritual culture, including images of deer—the most revered animal—and a two-headed eagle marking the four cardinal directions, as well as the fire, drum, squash and corn used in a traditional maize-offering ceremony. For the Huíchol, creating art—in the form of beadwork, textiles, stone sculptures, ceremonial objects and pipes—is not merely decorative. It is an expression of faith, evoking centuries-old shamanism and peyote rituals that are still practiced to this day.

“Work on the Vochol began in 2010 as a collaboration between the Museo de Arte Popular, the Association of Friends of the Museo de Arte Popular, the Embassy of Mexico and the Mexican Cultural Institute, as well as the states of Jalisco and Nayarit. The Vochol will be on view through May 10, before continuing its international tour at esteemed institutions, including the Musée de Quai Branly in Paris. The tour will conclude with the international sale and/or auction of the Vochol, with all proceeds donated to the Association of Friends of the Museum of Popular Art to further its mission of safeguarding and promoting the work of Mexican artisans. For additional information about the project, visit http://vocholaamap.blogspot.com.”

The NMAI on the national mall is located at Fourth Street and Independence Avenue, S.W. in Washington, D.C. It is open every day but Dec. 25th from 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Admission to this museum—and all other Smithsonian museums (and zoo!) in the nation’s capital, by the way—is free.


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