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Dia de los Muertos

22 Mar, 2022 —  10 May, 2022

Feliz dia de los Muertos

My initial idea for this book was to create a shrine, but after several maquettes it developed into this cabinet. It tells the story of the Mexican festival of Day of the Dead, which takes place on the 1st and 2nd of November. Researching the subject took me back 3000 years to its origins in Pre-Colombian Mesoamerica and rituals of honouring the dead. 

Each of the four pages tells part of the story of Day of the Dead from its origins to present day celebrations. Page one is filled with cut paper Monarch butterflies which are said to have arrived in the warmer climate of Mexico on November 1st and were believed to take the souls of the dead to their final resting place – Chicunamictlan – Land of the dead. The journey was arduous and only after completing difficult challenges could the souls reach Mictlan – the final resting place. Page two uses made and found objects to illustrate the needs of the souls to make this journey – pan de animas (spirit bread), water, light/fire and paper banners (papel picado) representing the air. 

Day of the dead is seen very much as a celebration of the lives that have passed. Relatives visit and cover the graves of the dead with cempasuchil (marigolds- the flowers of the dead). Offrendas (shrines) are built with pictures of loved ones, Christian iconography and other items as a reminder of the deceased relative. Calaveras (skulls) are a common symbol, but are whimsical and highly decorated. 

The final page uses paper cut outs of a parade, which has only been part of the celebrations since the Bond film Spectre in 2016. The image at the bottom right however, is of Jose Guadalupe Posada’s 1910 satirical etching Calavera Catrina (Elegant Skull), a political statement against the adoption by Mexicans of European fashions over their own culture. The image is reflected in the costumes worn by participants in the parade.

The outside of the book is made of hinged wooden boxes, which are decorated to represent the feeling and colour of Day of the Dead, but also the home made nature of many of the symbols associated with the festival. The hinges allow the book to be closed and folded together. Closed it is approximately 14x9x9cm.

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The Day of the dead is seen very much as a celebration of the lives that have passed.

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