Filogonio Naxín. Woven Beings

Cabeza de Guajolote / Turkey’s head © Filogonio Naxín

By Juan G. Sánchez Martínez

The art of Filogonio Naxín bets upon the freedom of shapes. Reaching beyond galleries, museums and art schools, Naxín dislocates definitions of “traditional” and visualizes bridges in oil, acrylic, and watercolor with which he crosses from the Mazatec language to the techniques of Western art.

Filogonio Naxín
Se tragó el mundo / He swallowed the world © Filogonio Naxín

Filogonio Naxín is from Mazatlán Villa de Flores, Cañada Region, Mazatec territory in the State of Oaxaca, Mexico. He is a native speaker of the Mazatec language. He has a B.A in Visual and Plastic Arts from the Universidad Autónoma Benito Juárez, Oaxaca. Currently he illustrates books as well as offers painting, drawing and engraving workshops. Nixín has had more than 20 individual exhibitions, among which showings at the Institute of Graphic Arts of Oaxaca-IAGO, the Torre del Reloj Gallery in Polanco, and the INAH National Museum of World Cultures stand out. In 2015, the National Institute of Indigenous Languages published his bilingual book (Mazatec and Spanish), Minu xi kuatsura chichjána, Kui anima xi bantiya yajura / Qué cosa dice mi tata, Seres que se transforman.

© Secretaría de Cultura de México

Naxín’s paintings gravitate around characters and landscapes in which human-beings, non-human-beings and more-than-human-beings merge. His last name, Naxín, means the nawal-spirit-horse, a presence in many of his canvases. In the indeterminacy of forms, these paintings invite you to enter a web of beings: a dog is a deer that is a whale that is a mouse that is a dinosaur that is a city. The “holy children” (as María Sabina called the medicinal mushrooms that grow in the mountains of Oaxaca) stand colorfully in this net that binds defined shapes and mystery.

Jkin Chuu Ngasundie / Ground animals © Filogonio Naxín
Tuntsin / Hummingbird © Filogonio Naxín

At some point in her experience, the viewer may ask herself: Are these images fantasy? But how can I distinguish “fantasy” from “reality”? Or are these visions another way to represent what has always been there? In any case, it seems that the only way of being in this art is “being-in-between”: as in “Ngansudie / Earth”, where the body of the city is the stomach of a deer in which the Milky Way can be found; or as in “Ién Nima / Mazatec”, where the body of a dog is a ladder standing as a tree. Being-in-between levels, being-in-between bodies.

Ngansundie / Earth © Filogonio Naxín
Ién Nima / Mazatec language / The humble’s tongue © Filogonio Naxín

Suddenly, the viewer transits from amazement to laughter, as Naxín’s aesthetics reveal the fragility of human beings when they believe they are just “individuals”. In “Earth Mother ”, the seed, the corn, the flowing water are spontaneous traces of a hand/mountain full of life. 

La madre tierra / Earth Mother © Filogonio Naxín
Ndiya / Path © Filogonio Naxín

Naxín’s art has been said to be “surreal”, bringing to mind André Breton’s famous 1938 comment on Mexico: “Mexico is the most surreal country in the world”. However, in this context, what some see as surreal, borrowed from the unconscious or the absurd, is perhaps the opposite: an ancient/contemporary/conscious creativity like the one cultivated for milenia by many indigenous peoples from Abya-Yala (the Americas). Here, at Siwar Mayu,  are some examples of this art. Filogonio Naxín’s work is an invitation for new generations to remember and daydream this fabric between languages, aesthetics and worlds.

Voz de la montaña / The voice of the mountain © Filogonio Naxín
Pico © Filogonio Naxín

For more about Filogonio Naxín’s art

“Viewing Today’s World Through the Lens of Indigenous Cosmology” by Leigh Thelmadatter: