Mexican experts: nearly 1,000-year-old Maya text authentic

Mexico's National Anthropology and History Institute says it was made between 1021 and 1154 A.D., is the oldest known pre-Hispanic text, and will now be known as the "Mexico Maya Codex." (INAH/AP)
Updated 02 September 2018
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Mexican experts: nearly 1,000-year-old Maya text authentic

  • The 10 surviving pages of the tree-bark folding “book” will now be known as the Mexico Maya Codex
  • The fact that it was looted and had a simpler design than other surviving texts had led some to doubt its authenticity

MEXICO CITY: Fifty-four years after it was sold by looters, an ancient Maya pictographic text was judged authentic by scholars Thursday.
Mexico’s National Institute of History and Anthropology said the calendar-style text was made between 1021 and 1154 A.D. and is the oldest known pre-Hispanic document.
The 10 surviving pages of the tree-bark folding “book” will now be known as the Mexico Maya Codex. It had been known as the Grolier Codex. It may have originally had 20 pages, but some were lost after centuries in a cave in southern Chiapas state.
It contains a series of observations and predictions related to the astral movement of Venus. Mayan texts are written in a series of syllabic glyphs, in which a stylized painted figure often stands for a syllable.
A Mexican collector bought it in 1964, and it was first exhibited at the Grolier Club in New York in 1971.
Collector Josue Saenz returned the book to Mexican authorities in 1974.
The fact that it was looted and had a simpler design than other surviving texts had led some to doubt its authenticity.
“Its style differs from other Maya codex that are known and proven authentic,” the institute said in a statement. About three other later Maya “books” survived an attempt by Spanish conquerors to destroy Mayan artifacts in the 1500s.
But the institute said Thursday that because the book was written so early, it had been created in an era of relative poverty compared to the other works. It said a series of chemical tests proved the authenticity of the pages and the pre-Hispanic inks used to write it.
While previous studies had supported the authenticity of the text, it was the end of decades of doubts for the book.
“For a long time, critics of the codex said the style wasn’t Mayan and that it was ‘the ugliest’ of them in terms of figures and color,” said institute researcher Sofia Martinez del Campo. “But the austerity of the work is explained by its epoch, when things are scarce one uses what one has at hand.”


Emirati artist Farah Al-Qasimi’s first solo US show set to open

Farah Al-Qasimi’s ‘Living Room Vape’ (2017). (Supplied)
Updated 16 July 2019
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Emirati artist Farah Al-Qasimi’s first solo US show set to open

DUBAI: Emirati artist Farah Al-Qasimi’s first solo exhibition at a US institution is set to open on July 30 at the MIT List Visual Arts Center in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

Working in photography, video, and performance, Al-Qasimi’s work explores themes of gender, nationality and class. Her photographs subvert ingrained expectations of how images are constructed and understood and she is known for borrowing conventions from various sources, including documentary photography and Renaissance paintings.

Um Al Naar (Mother of Fire) (still), 2019. (Supplied)

Camouflage and concealment play a central role in the artist’s work. In a recent series of portraits, Al-Qasimi obscures the faces of her subjects while capturing intimate images, despite the lack of a clear, engaging face. Various compositional strategies hide identifying features — behind plumes of smoke, a well-placed hand, or sumptuously patterned textiles and drapery — while she still manages to accentuate the opulent interiors her subjects inhabit.

Alongside a group of recent photographs, the exhibition will include a screening of Al-Qasimi’s new film, “Um Al Naar (Mother of Fire)” (2019), which was recently unveiled at Art Basel Statements.

M Napping on Carpet, 2016. (Supplied)

The 40-minute video is structured like a television documentary following a jinn — a ghost-like entity in Islamic tradition. Delivering a confessional, reality TV-style monologue, the jinn appears on camera beneath a patterned sheet. The video interweaves her thoughts on centuries of Portuguese and British colonial meddling in the modern-day emirate of Ras Al-Khaimah in the UAE. The video also explores the influence of the European presence in the region and the use of Euro-centric practices for the display of historical artifacts.

Curated by Henriette Huldisch, the director of exhibitions at the MIT List Visual Arts Center, the exhibition marks the first time Al-Qasimi’s work has been shown in a solo exhibition in the US — it is set to wrap up on Oct. 20.  

The artist lives and works between New York and Dubai and has seen her work exhibited in The Third Line gallery in Dubai, Jameel Arts Centre in Dubai and the San Francisco Arts Commission, among other locations.

Al-Qasimi received her MFA from the Yale School of Art and has participated in residencies at the Delfina Foundation in London; the Skowhegan School of Painting and Sculpture in Maine; and is a recipient of the New York NADA Artadia Prize and the Aaron Siskind Individual Photographer’s Fellowship.