The Muisca people have inhabited central Colombia since before the colonial period. They share both linguistic and cultural roots with other groups from the isthmo-colombian area, most of whom are located north of Muisca territory. Due to their strategic location, these groups were rapidly subjugated by Spanish colonisers in the 1530s and the few survivors were relocated to small areas reserved for the Indigenous population, which were located in the outskirts of the city of Bogota, capital of the viceroyalty.
Due to the concept of cultural mestizaje which was imposed since the independence of Colombia in 1819 as a means to facilitate the formation of the nation state, the Muisca groups were incorporated into the mestizo ethnic category. As a result, their indigeneity was until recently hidden and forgotten by the state, while the actual descendants of the Muisca accepted their cultural mestizaje to avoid suffering rejection and mistreatment on the hands of the rest of the population.
As young leaders from the Muisca groups from Chia (Jeronimo) and Bosa (Mario), we have a personal and collective interest in gathering knowledge about our ancestors and passing it on to our communities. This is why when SDCELAR gave us the opportunity to have access to digital material about the British Museum’s collections, we agreed that it was important to show it to as many members of our groups as possible. We would present the material following the format and design each group believes is the most suitable.
The Muisca group from Bosa is working on a series of round tables with four members of the community and Maria Fernanda Esteban, from SDCELAR. The participants have chosen ten objects from the collection to talk about them from their own perspective (as artists, spiritual leaders, political leaders or academics). The first roundtable was transmitted live to the community on 20th February 2021. There will be at least one more roundtable, after which we will interview members of the community about their experience. All of this information will be shared with a group of artists from the community who will produce an itinerant installation that will visit the schools, the administrative building and the Bosa spiritual house.
The Muisca group from Chia, in collaboration with SDCELAR, is producing a digital exhibition with the images of objects from the British Museum, as well as sound effects and the narrative that will accompany the images. The exhibition will visit at least 15 houses and will be presented against a wall using a projector. Immediately after each projection we will do a Q&A session with each family. The information collected will be shared with the artisans of the community, who will organize a workshop to explore the incorporation of Pre-Hispanic designs, colours and tools into their works with textiles, ceramics, music and jewellery.
Publications related to women’s and maternal health with Wixárika communities by the author of this exhibition
Gamlin, Jennie B. (2013)
Shame as a barrier to health seeking among indigenous Huichol migrant labourers: An interpretive approach of the “violence continuum” and “authoritative knowledge”
Social Science and Medicine 97 75-81
Gamlin, Jennie B. (2023)
Wixárika Practices of Medical Syncretism: An Ontological Proposal for Health in the Anthropocene
Medical Anthropology Theory 10 (2) 1-26
Gamlin, Jennie B. (2020)
“You see, we women, we can’t talk, we can’t have an opinion…”. The coloniality of gender and childbirth practices in Indigenous Wixárika families
Social Science and Medicine 252, 112912
Jennie Gamlin and David Osrin (2020)
Preventable infant deaths, lone births and lack of registration in Mexican indigenous communities: health care services and the afterlife of colonialism
Ethnicity and Health 25 (7)
Jennie Gamlin and Seth Holmes (2018)
Preventable perinatal deaths in indigenous Wixárika communities: an ethnographic study of pregnancy, childbirth and structural violence BMC
Pregnancy and Childbirth 18 (Article number 243) 2018
Gamlin, Jennie B. and Sarah J Hawkes (2015)
Pregnancy and birth in an Indigenous Huichol community: from structural violence to structural policy responses
Culture, health and sexuality 17 (1)