Monday, November 8, 2010

The Magic Carpets of Oaxaca...

















Oaxaca is a very special place - the heart and soul of Mexico - its ancestral, spiritual and cultural home. It is a place where all the traditions of Mexico are followed and the festivities of Mexico are celebrated, and when this is combined with Oaxaca as the city of artists and folk art, then this is the result - the Day of the Dead tapetes monumentales (giant carpets).....





















Oaxaca is a wonderful place to witness all the amazing Day of the Dead celebrations, and central to those celebrations is all the folk art associated with the festival. In front of the cathedral this bicentennial year, there was an exhibition of five giant sand paintings to honour the dead , and I was lucky to see the process of constructing these contoured carpets from start to finish...














First the sand is poured into the frame, kept moist with watering cans so it can be easily moulded, and then gradually shaped by hand into the contours of skulls, skeletons, snakes, and bones. Initially the site looks like some kind of strange archaeological dig in reverse with bones being created instead of uncovered....























Powdered paints are applied to the contoured shapes in strict colour order - first white to literally create the skeletal framework of the images, then the primary colours reds, yellows, and blues, followed by the pastel colours pinks, lemons and lilacs....
















The colours are applied by sifting powdered paints through an ordinary household sieve, and the last colour to be added is always black....

















Special attention is always paid to getting the details just right, especially the eye sockets and the teeth of the skulls....























Then the final touches are added, a few extra sprinkles from the sieve, getting all the tiny little details in place....

















Then it is time to step back and admire the fruits of such artistic labour - six solid hours of hard labour - with these wonderful final results....



I felt so privileged to witness this extraordinary process from start to finish, and hope you enjoy this sequence of photographs which documents the different stages involved. For more windows on the world this week check out the My World Tuesday postings by clicking here....

12 comments:

lotusleaf said...

Amazing sand paintings! Your post is so informative and interesting. Thanks.

Sylvia K said...

Absolutely fantastic, Catherine! You have really caught it all! Such a terrific post and photos and, as Lotusleaf has written, it is so informative and interesting and so colorful! Thanks for sharing it with us! Enjoy your week!

Sylvia

Kay L. Davies said...

Fantastic, Catherine. I was in Oaxaca many many years ago, but at the wrong time of year, I guess.
This is beautiful, and educational, a great combination. Thank you!!
-- K

Kay, Alberta, Canada
An Unfittie's Guide to Adventurous Travel

Joanna said...

How wonderful to see the steps in creating this. I didn't know that this was a Day of the Dead tradition. Have a lovely week.

Owen said...

Catherine, this is simply awesome, perhaps one of your best posts ever... what an incredible process, to have been there watching it all happen at close range must have been just incredible. Somebody just covered me in green paint...

Incredible too that it is done outdoors apparently... should a rainstorm come along before it was finished ??? But more beautiful for being fragile, ephemeral...
Thank you for sharing this with us...

ladyfi said...

Wow - such amazingly beautiful magic carpets. What a privilege to witness. I went to a museum in order to get my does of Dia de los Muertos this year!

A Cuban In London said...

I'd never ever seen anything like this and wasn't even aware of their existence in Mexico. Fascinating post. You've taken me through the whole process, the preparation, the making, the outcome. Many, many thanks.

Greetings from London.

Catherine said...

glad you all liked this post - it really is a unique festival to come and see...

Loulou said...

Soooo nice! Found your blog and contact via Owen's blog ;-)
Take care
Loulou (from New Delhi)

Catherine said...

Hi Loulou - thanks for stopping by - will catch up with your blog very soon...

Jen said...

Wow, what talent!
Love your shots.

Arija said...

Great posts, both this and Shadow Shot. Love the bony hand making a path!