FIGURE 1. Cover page of Francisco de Alvarado's 1593 _Vocabulario en Lengua Mixteca_.

FIGURE 1. Cover page of Francisco de Alvarado’s 1593 Vocabulario en Lengua Mixteca.

For all their color, details of material culture, and centuries-long time depth, the Ñudzavui screenfolds focus on only a few types of events. Again and again, the pages of the screenfolds show pictures of marriage, of battle, of the birth of heirs. The scribes who painted the screenfolds used several standard conventions for depicting these repeated actions, and the explanation of these stereotyped compositions is the subject of this tutorial. Knowledge of the visual conventions explained on the following pages will help you to read the basic outlines of codical narratives.

Although an understanding of the Ñudzavui language is not needed to interpret these images, many of them do have specific resonations with the Ñudzavui spoken word. When possible, the lexical aspects of these images of action will be discussed, drawn from two books on the Ñudzavui language written by Dominican friars at the end of the sixteenth century. Both were published in 1593: Antonio de los Reyes’ Arte en Lengua Mixteca (a book of grammar) and Francisco de Alvarado’s Vocabulario en Lengua Mixteca (Figure 1).

In order to provide a framework for discussion, the examples in this tutorial will focus on events in the life history of a single individual: Lord 9 Lizard of Añute (Jaltepec). Born around 1320, his biography is presented on pages 11, 12, and 13 of the Codex Selden. His story encompasses the full range of Ñudzavui narrative conventions, from marriage to conquest to the treatment of the dead. When necessary, however, images from other people’s lives in other screenfolds will be used to provide additional examples of Ñudzavui pictorial conventions.

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