Aymara Celebrate Fiesta de las Ñatitas in New Gallery
Dr. Paul Koudounaris has returned from his most recent trip to Bolivia’s Fiesta de las Ñatitas with a brand new gallery of 48 images, some of which are making their debut on SmokeJedi. Dr. Koudounaris has been making the trek to Bolivia for the festival annually since 2007 to photograph the Aymara in revelry with their decorated skulls, lovingly referred to as “ñatitas.” The term “ñatitas” has no exact English parallel but roughly translates to “pug-nosed ones.” The Aymara typically partake in the Fiesta de las Ñatitas a week following All Saints Day and All Souls Day with this year’s festivities falling on November 8th.
Our culture views skulls as at least cautionary portents if not symbols for matters more sinister but the Aymara find the ñatitas to be cute in the same way we might view a beloved pet. Not just any skull meets the criteria of cherished ñatitas. A certain sense of compatibility between caretaker and ñatitas must be present with the relationship resting heavily on the perceived personality of the ñatitas. The Aymara emphasize some of this personality by decking their ñatitas out in outrageous fashions, gifting them lavish floral headpieces, hologram sunglasses, pearly dentures, and even cigarettes. A person may also acquire a ñatitas only to find through experience that the ñatitas and he are not compatible. However, many ñatitas are permanent fixtures in Aymara families, despite bearing no relation to their host family during the former life of the ñatitas.
The Aymara, Bolivia’s indigenous people, were the first to ascribe the ñatitas status to skulls, finding that the right ñatitas could be a purveyor of good fortune. These beliefs echo in the Aymara today.
You can keep up to date on the sojourns of Dr. Paul Koudounaris including upcoming lectures through his website Empire de la Mort.