Artwork by Mariana Castillo-Deball

Codex Humboldt Fragment 1 / Codex Azoyú Reverso

A contemporary elective affinityThe term Mesoamerica is used to describe a region in North and Central America that was shaped by shared cultural traits. It covered an area now occupied by Mexico, Guatemala, Belize, and parts of Honduras, El Salvador, and Costa Rica. In pre-colonial times a large population lived there and various indigenous cultures emerged, including the Aztec, Huaxtec, Mixtec, Olmec, Zapotec, Maya, and Cotzumalhuapa cultures. Impressive reliefs as well as large, sculptures of animal figures, mythical creatures, and deities are among the surviving artefacts from the Cotzumalhuapa culture.
Along with the eight mighty Cotzumalhuapa stelae from 650-950 and other artefacts, a large-scale modern installation dominates the Mesoamerica gallery in the Humboldt Forum. Using 320 terracotta tiles, the Mexican artist Mariana Castillo Deball created the largest contemporary artwork within the presentations of the Ethnologisches Museum and the Museum für Asiatische Kunst. Her installation Codex Humboldt Fragment 1/Codex Azoyú Reverso almost completely covers the two-storey high southern end of the hall and was made possible by a donation from the “Friends of the Ethnologisches Museum”. In this work, the Berlin-based artist refers to two pictographic documents, the “Codex Humboldt Fragment 1” and “Codex Azoyú Reverso”. These are records of tax payments from the Tlapa region in Guerrero to the Aztec conquerors and rulers from the sixteenth century. Alexander von Humboldt acquired the “Codex Humboldt Fragment 1” during his visit to New Spain at the beginning of the nineteenth century. Today, the fragment is in the collection of the Staatsbibliothek zu Berlin (Berlin State Library). The Codex Azoyú Reverso was rediscovered in 1940 in Guerrero, Mexico.

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Room 207 – Mesoamerica