a return to Ecuador and its Panama Hat Trail
By Nick Dantona
[Franklin, Tennessee]: Nick Dantona. Edition of 12 + 3 AP.
10.5 x 13 x 3.75" custom enclosure containing 5 Notebooks (9.25x12"); Journal (8.5x11"); Legend (and Colophon) (9.5x12"); 58 removable photographs; and, 49 pullout/sequenced photographs. Removable photographs printed by the artist on Hahnemuhle Fine Art Rice Paper.
Cover/case references a Panama hat using Creame color, Iris bookcloth and a recessed black moire "hat band" foil stamped with the title, BULTOS. Hand cut illustration of dots above the black band to match hat pattern. Top flap of cover has an inlaid map of Ecuador. Legend housed in a pocket to the bottom flap. Inside tray covered in Slate Canapetta and holds five Notebooks and one Journal. Hidden compartment under a "false floor" holds the special "Forty Years After" notebook.
Six post-bound Notebooks (one of which is the Journal) housed in each custom enclosure. They are comprised of photographic prints that are post bound with brass posts. Lig-free case covered in brown Arrestox bookcloth. Covers are numbered and labeled. Inside cover paste downs, blue Bugra paper. Inside cover has a pocket that holds "Correspondence Envelope". Each notebook has a designed and printed oversheet with embedded straw .
Each Notebook contains a "Correspondence" envelope and letter. Designed envelope with Ecuador stamp, and "addressed" with contents. Designed and print "letters" are highlights from journal . Produced in an English and Spanish version.
Images - each Notebook contains a varying number of post bound photographs, which relate to that portion of the narrative. Most Notebooks contain custom-crafted pullout sequence of images that add depth to the visual narrative.
Photographer/writer, Nick Dantona, travels through Ecuador to describe in words and pictures how this singular item, a hat, can advance the economic, political and social structure of that society.
"Dantona’s BULTOS narrative takes us through the jungles, coastal towns and mountainous Andean villages to meet the harvesters, weavers, middlemen and elders of Ecuador’s cherished tradition.
"The title, BULTOS, refers to the 100 lb. bundle of the special straw plant used for making Panama hats. In the hands of Ecuadorians the straw is woven into a supple work of art that financed the country’s Liberal Revolution of 1906. Even today the Panama Hat remains a deep source of national pride and an economic force.
"BULTOS also marks the artist’s return to Ecuador after forty years. Dantona reprinted portraits made in 1978 and set out to find these subjects. A Special Section, Forty Years After, includes the emotionally charged sequences where Dantona locates and re-photographs six of these people.
"The BULTOS adventure is told through the daily journal entries of the artist. Over 100 photographs are organized in five numbered, handmade Notebooks. Four Accordion Sequences reveal the relationships of people and processes on the Panama Hat Trail. Custom crafted Coversheets connect you to the full narrative, and Journal summaries are placed in Air Mail envelopes for easy reference. ... Brass screw posts and magnets are used to ensure easy access to the images and contents. The photographs can be unscrewed for individual framing."
Journal Entry (summary): Women of the Straw - "Women. Ecuadorian women. They were everywhere along the Panama Hat Trail, and a link to the Liberator, Eloy Alfaro. Here’s how: traditionally, women have been responsible for the raising of children and families and to a large extent that is still true. However, beginning with the Liberal Revolution that Presidente Alfaro seeded in 1906, the social order began to shift. Women entered the workforce, many of them in the hat business. They occupy all positions in the supply chain.
"We saw women weaving, teaching, designing, organizing, governing, wholesaling, retailing, middle manning and engineering all aspects of The Trail. Most of them working while attending to their wifely/motherly role as well. They now have a voice louder than the whisper we heard forty years ago.
"One of the largest, oldest and most respected hat companies in Ecuador, The House of Homero Ortega Hats has a female president, Alicia Ortega. Her sister, Gladys, is the General Counsel. It is safe to say that without women there would be no current day Panama Hat Trail. At least nothing that would retain the hecho a mano (handmade) artisanal quality and value of a real Sombrero de Paja Toquilla. Without them, I believe it would take on the character of a Chinese production line.
"I would bet there is still room for pay equality but all the women we encountered were happy and proud."
That became apparent in every portrait we made. It is a hand-made work of art designed for visual and tactile interaction."