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Meet the Vochol

On an international tour, a Volkswagen Beetle makes a stop at the National Museum of American Indian

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The Huichol, a native people in the Sierra Madre mountains of west-central Mexico, are known for their elaborate beadwork. Typically, the community’s artisans adorn bowls, masks, animal skulls and gourds with brightly-colored glass beads. The tiny beads are arranged in geometric patterns as well as to represent fanciful depictions of animals and crops that carry spiritual significance.

However, in 2010, two Huichol families—the Bautistas from Jalisco and the Ortiz from Nayarit, Mexico—embarked on a project that gave a contemporary spin to the traditional art form. In no less than 9,000 hours, eight family members used resin to adhere more than two million beads to the exterior of a 1990 Volkswagen Beetle, on display at the National Museum of American Indian through May 6. The eye-catching work of art is called the Vochol, a name derived from a combination of “Vocho,” a slang term in Mexico for a VW Beetle, and “Huichol.”

In this video, Kerry Boyd, assistant director of exhibitions, operations and program support at the American Indian Museum, describes the car and its vivid imagery. The Vochol was given a grand welcome Tuesday evening by Smithsonian Institution Secretary G. Wayne Clough, Mexican Ambassador Arturo Sarukhan, museum director Kevin Gover and the Washington, D.C.-based mariachi ensemble Mariachi Los Amigos.

The art project was made possible by the Museo de Arte Popular in Mexico City, the Association of Friends of the Museo de Arte Popular, the Embassy of Mexico and the Mexican Cultural Institute. After its stay at the American Indian Museum, the car will continue on its international tour, and will ultimately be auctioned off with the proceeds to go towards promoting the work of other native Mexican artists.

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