Gods and goddesses come alive in new works on paper by Oaxaca-based Zapotec artist Gabriela Morac. Binni Gulal exhibits a series of pre-Hispanic figures allusive to gods that are not part of any archaeological record, where Morac has interpreted Zapotec urns found in archaeological sites, private collections or museums in other countries. The so-called “Zapotec urns” - or more appropriately “effigy vessels” as Adam Sellen (Researcher in Mesoamerican Studies) suggests, are commonly associated with funeral contexts. These figures could represent the ancestors, who at the same time personify gods and, due to the funerary context in which the majority have been found, suggests that their function could be to intermediate between the earthly plane and the gods through the ancestors.
The artist says, “This exhibition is very important to me because it is the result of a process of awareness and transformation, not only in the act of choosing Zapotec ceramic figures for particular characteristics and symbolism and their re-significance based on my own worldview; but rather as a process of personal and ideological transformation from different experiences and dynamics that generated knowledge at the time of making each of the works that make up this group.”
Binni Gulal translates to “ancestral seed” in Zapotec. Of the translation, Morac says, “The Zapotec language is particularly difficult to translate literally into Spanish since we speak of a metaphorical language, however that could be the most literal translation.”
The Zapotec were one of the most important cultures in Mesoamerica. The Zapotec name comes from Tzapotecatl of Nahuatl origin, whose meaning is "the town of the zapote". However, in their own language, the Zapotecs called themselves Bën zaa, which means "people of the clouds" because they defined themselves as direct descendants of the sky. Historically, the Zapotecs have occupied the part of the Mexican southeast and specifically the Central Valleys of the State of Oaxaca, where they built their most important monuments.
There are different hypotheses about Zapotec symbolism and its symbolism; however, in the end the hypotheses are the result of analysis and assumptions by others; We will hardly be able to know the true meaning of each of these vessels. What is certain is that they must have been of great importance and value for the company of deceased people on their way beyond the earthly realm, their meaning must have been as elaborate as their manufacturing, reflecting the worldview of the Zapotec at that time.
“Thus, it is a great pleasure for me to be able to share my work with an audience that perhaps is not familiar with Zapotec symbols or themes, but that, beyond geographical or cultural limitations, can experience a familiarity with them.”