Tigua Art – A Colorful Expression of Life

Tigua artists have always been known to decorate masks and drums for their festivals with precision and vibrant color. Their talented hands create an extravaganza of color and beauty that is beyond what would be expected from self-taught artists. Tigua art gained popularity in the 1970’s, when an art dealer from Quito saw the potential in this form of art and challenged a local artist to explore and expand his talent for traditional art.

Julio Toaquiza was the first Tigua artist to try and paint on a sheepskin. Painting on a flat surface was unheard of for the villagers, but through the lead that Toaquiza took and the success that followed, many other Tigua artists have begun to paint their extraordinarily beautiful scenes on sheepskins. Tigua art is an expression of traditions and the beliefs of the Indian community that remained hidden in the Andes of Ecuador for so many years.

The village of Tigua lies between the majestic slopes of the Cotopaxi Volcano and the breathtaking Quilotoa crater. Most Tigua villagers, including the artists, are engaged in farming activities and herd sheep, plant potatoes, spin wool, harvest the maize and weave the most beautiful cloths. The paintings often depict these different aspects of their daily lives, bringing to life the traditions and cultures that have been passed down over generations.

Even the most successful Tigua artists still attend to their crops or herds and it is difficult to imagine that the hands that work so hard can also produce the most detailed and vibrant images. The landscape that surrounds the village also plays a significant role in the paintings. Today, Tigua art has taken on various forms, which includes paintings, carvings, weaving, masks and drums, but still remains faithful to their traditions.

The amazing works of art that have come from this small Ecuadorian community now grace walls and exhibits around the world. Tigua paintings and craft abilities are displayed in centers such as the Museum of Man in San Diego and the Organization of American States. These wonderful paintings and crafts display every imaginable part of the native Ecuadorian’s lives, which includes their festivals, rituals, labor, livestock and landscapes. Tigua art is a growing industry that gives visitors and art collectors the insight into a secluded world and offers buyers the opportunity to own one of these unique and exquisite pieces.