Rebozo Exhibition in London, UK

I came across the ‘Made in Mexico’ exhibition whilst walking down the quirky neighbourhood of Bermondsey Street and was instantly enticed in, not just because of my fascination with the Mexican culture, but how strangely Mexican the Fashion and Textile Museum building itself looked in comparison to the streetscape and neighbouring buildings.

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As I entered, I was asking myself what even is a ‘rebozo’!? Despite visiting Mexico three times (and having lived there for 5 months), I never came across this term or knew its significance.

A rebozo is a garment that we would label as being a shawl, scarf or wrap.

I remember that I had seen rebozos all over Mexico at the majority of markets that I visited. Not only were they being sold, I had seen them worn, largely by many older Indian ladies as part of the indigenous dress, but also by ladies who were dressed in more contemporary attire. Yet I had no idea of the significance of these fashion accessories with the Mexican history and culture.  And I was soon to find out about this at this exhibition.

It is worn by women of all ages, from where you are wrapped up to keep you want and snug after birth to being wrapped up in it when you have died as part of the burial ritual. One lady who is particularly well known in the Mexican art world is Frida Kahlo (who was married to the famous muralist, Diego Rivera). She is well recognised for her stylish attire and often you will see in pictures of her, that she was a fan of rebozos.

It is something of a tradition for Mexican women to be presented with a robozo at an important stage of their lives, or to have inherited one. This demonstrates that strong connection that it has with family memories, sentiment and heritage.

The techniques used to make these scarves date back hundreds of years before the Spanish conquest (1821). The word ‘rebozo’ actually originates from the Spanish word ‘rebozar’ which means to muffle up.

The rebozo is made from a painstakingly long process of intricate craftwork which involves hours of skilful weaving. However, judging by the beautiful masterpieces that are on display at the exhibition, the arduous work is clearly worth the effort!

There are many townships around Mexico that are particularly famous for their own styles of rebozo. For example, Santa Maria del Rio (San Luis Potosí) is known for its silk and Hueyapan (Puebla) for its wool.

Due to technological advancements and the way in which we produce in the twenty first century, the traditional skills required to make the rebozo are becoming less common. The government and private initiatives have been set up to help to try protecting the heritage of these rebozo’s. In addition, cooperatives have been formed to help protect communities and to teach them how to make these scarfs.

The rebozo is such an integral part of Mexican identity that some argue that it should form the national flag!

Next time I hear the term or see a rebozo, I will now remember its importance to the Mexican culture and not just dismiss them as being everywhere in the name of fashion.

Random fact:

I refer back to my earlier comment in the opening paragraph about one of things that invited me to visit the museum was  how much the architectural style of the building reminded me very much of the postmodern architectural styles that can be seen throughout Mexico.

Interestingly enough, it turns out that it was indeed designed by a well-known Mexican architect, known as Ricardo Legorreta. Those of you that know Bermondsey Street, will know that historically it was an industrial zone with historic connections to leather making, tanners, rope makers and a whole lot more, which makes this pink and orange building stand out so prominently from the dark blues, browns and greys of the historic buildings surrounding it.

Bermondsey = ‘land of leather’ http://www.british-history.ac.uk/report.aspx?compid=45269

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