The Volkswagen Beetle has long been a classic favourite with a cult following second to very few but the ‘Vochol’ takes intricacy and meticulous craftsmanship to another level.
The chosen car is a 1990 Volkswagen Beetle adorned with over two million carefully placed glass beads covering the German silhouette by the highly skilled Huichol artists.
The name ‘Vochol’ is a combination of ‘vocho’, a common term for Volkswagen Beetles in Mexico, and ’Huichol,’ another name for the Wixárika indigenous group in the western states of Nayarit and Jalisco, Mexico.
Separated from modern Mexico by the Sierra Madre mountains, Huichol artists have preserved many of their pre-Columbian skills and traditions through the centuries, including their incredible decorative beadwork.
Originally, the Huichol people made use of beads made from shells, seeds and various other natural materials to adorn jewellery, animal skulls, bowls and masks. Today, their beadwork incorporates colourful glass or plastic beads, depicting geometric patterns and scenes of animals and crops.
Volkswagen Beetle Commission
Back in 2019, a combination of public and private organisations commissioned the creation of the ‘Vochol’, a complete covering of a Volkswagen Beetle with ornate Huichol beading. The goal was to create artwork using folk techniques on a modern canvas, demonstrating the ongoing traditions of Mexico’s indigenous communities.
The team of eight artists were assembled from two Huichol families and worked tirelessly for eight months decorating the Beetle, meticulously covering sections of the car with resin and applying the beads in elaborate patterns by hand.
From side mirrors to the steering wheel, the entire car was eventually covered in beads and symbols that pay tribute to Huichol culture. The final product is an exclusive design that not only decorates the car but expresses Huichol spiritual beliefs.
On the Vochol’s hood, two snakes in the clouds represent rain. The sides depict deer, scorpions, birds and peyote flowers, which are all important symbols in Huichol culture and spirituality. On the roof, a large sun symbolizes the union between humans and gods, and four two-headed eagles offer protection to the passengers inside.
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An image of a shaman steering a canoe adorns the back of the car. The phrases “200 years of Independence” and “100 years since the Mexican Revolution” are spelt out in the Wixárika language along the fenders to mark the bicentennial of the start of the war of independence from Spain in 1810 and the centennial of the Mexican Revolution in 1910.
In total, the artisans used about 2,277,000 beads in their finished product and totalled over 9,000 hours of work. The amazing car is perhaps the largest individual piece of Huichol beadwork ever created.
The masterpiece was unveiled at a museum in Guadalajara, Mexico. It was then featured in Mexico City for exhibition and later embarked on an international tour at museums across the United States, Europe, Asia, South America and the Middle East. When it is not on loan, the ‘Vochol’ resides at the Museo de Arte Popular in Mexico City.