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Pinto, maroma y juguete; painters, summersaults and toys

By Margaret Failoni

Toys, playthings and games survive from the most remote periods in the past and from a great variety of cultures. They vary from simplest to complex, from the natural stick selected and imagined into a hobbyhorse by a child to the sophisticated and mechanical automata that entertained both young and old in the 18th-century European courts. The potential range is unlimited.

Art: Pinto, Maroma y Juguete By Marisa Boullosa, Georgina Quintana & Angélica Tijerina. Sat, Feb 25, 5-8pm. Esquina Museo de Juguete Popular Mexicano, Cnr. San Francisco & Murillo

Museums in many countries exhibit antique objects whose original purpose may be controversial but which children may well have used or adopted for playthings; a Pre-Colombian clay animal on wheels from the early Mexican culture where no record of the wheel has otherwise been discovered may well have been a toy. Childhood play continues in adult life, or may be recaptured in later life as a parent plays with his child. The extension of playing into adult life becomes interwoven with adult activities and preoccupation (doll houses with working kitchens) and is therefore difficult to identify as pure play; the same is true of the instruments for play.

Toys can be divided into the static and the dynamic, into the uniquely and personally created and those created industrially. A basic type of toy is the human or animal doll and all the related domestic activities that start with child raising and home making. Each epoch and culture has provided its girl children with miniatures of the artifacts used in daily living and boy children with the artifacts of hunting and battle as well as farming instruments; many toys include a wider and more dramatic variety. In the Mexican festival of The Day of the Dead, elaborate and beautiful objects of sugar are made in the shapes of skulls, tombs and angels, which in the hands of children become toys, which are played with and eaten.

Under the pressures of industrialization, folk culture and tradition are rapidly disappearing. Modern western toys continue to reflect their antecedents in folk culture, but the machine age is fast erasing the recognizable traces. In many countries, however, an extraordinary wealth and variety of folk toys are still to be found, although becoming rarer and rarer. Therefore, the Esquina Museo de Juguete Popular Mexicano (The Corner Museum of Popular Mexican Toys) located in San Miguel de Allende, Guanajuato, the only one of its kind in Mexico, is a rare treasure to be preserved and nurtured. It consists of a lifetime collection of popular folk toys collected for over forty years in every small village throughout the country by Angélica Tijerina, the museum’s founder. The small three-storied townhouse which houses the museum also includes a museum shop in which contemporary folk-art toys are for sale, for the joy of collectors and children alike.

To further enrich the museum’s collection, Angelica has invited artisans from throughout the Republic to participate in an award-winning competition of original, uniquely made toys for the year 2011 with a successful wealth of magnificently executed toys. For the year 2012, a pair of contemporary artists has been invited to create original toys for the museum. Marisa Boullosa and Georgina Quintana both have an impressive trajectory in contemporary art with exhibits in galleries and museums both in Mexico and abroad as well as being the winners of prestigious international awards. For this special occasion, which will be presented to the public on February 25, Boullosa and Quintana have created beautifully carved and hand painted figures and animals, which move by manipulating by hand, springs and sticks similar to puppets. Screened and hand-stitched miniature cushions of people and animals are also among the very whimsical and beautiful creations. I strongly recommend a visit to this exhibition, which is not only sure to bring out the child in us all, but will help us support and preserve this cultural treasure.

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