Multiple Readings

The Ñudzavui screenfolds can be read and interpreted from a number of different perspectives—visual, performative, historical, material. In order to facilitate this layered appreciation of the contents of the Ñudzavui screenfolds, ten tutorials—including this one—have been included in Mesolore to provide an overview of Ñudzavui history, material culture, and poetics. Introductory tutorials are provided for the three primary source Ñudzavui documents included in Mesolore. The “Introduction to the Codex Nuttall” and “Introdution to the Codex Selden” look in detail at two Ñudzavui books and the context of their creation and use. The “Introduction to the Alvarado Vocabulario “ focuses on a Spanish-to-Ñudzavui dictionary published in 1593. Its entries provide an invaluable source of information on many aspects of Ñudzavui life, from metaphors for marriage and battle to words for the feathered headdress of warriors and the jaguar-patterned cloth capes worn by the Ñudzavui elite. “Life in the Rain Place” introduces you to the material, conceptual, and political world in which the people who wrote and watched the screenfolds lived. “Images of Action,” “Keeping Time,” and “Painted Landscapes” discuss how the who, what, when, and where of the Ñudzavui past were recorded. “The Ñudzavui Body” focuses on the meanings encoded in the imagery of the body and its decoration; and “Colored Lyrics” discusses the literary and poetic aspects of Ñudzavui writing.

In conclusion, the images in the screenfolds record many layers of information. They record the who, what, when, and where of the Ñudzavui past. They preserve the material splendor of elite Ñudzavui culture—its woven textiles, its headdresses of feathers, its styles of face paint, its gold jewelry. Finally, they preserve the outlines of Ñudzavui poetry, the structures of the songs through which these images of the elite past were recounted. Understanding how all of these layers interconnect will allow you to appreciate the richness of Ñudzavui writing.

Text by Byron Hamann