This year’s Dias de los Muertos (Days of the Dead) celebration at the Fort Wayne Museum of Art (FWMoA) will engage the public like never before. This year for the seventh annual event there will be an altar exhibit in the gallery space that people can view through November 12.
Unlike today’s Hallow’s Eve (Halloween) traditions that focus on scary costumes and trick or treating, today’s Dias de los Muertos celebrations focus on the connection between the living and the dead. They evolved over the last 3,000 years from a blend of Meso-American and Christian cultures and those traditions come to life by artists, families and community groups throughout the region. The altar exhibit includes traditional elements of the ancient Mexican holiday, such as sugar skulls, colorful tissue paper cutouts and photos or personal items of deceased relatives to honor the souls of the departed.
Some of the altars honor deceased loved ones or groups of individuals who have died for a cause or as a result of persecution or injustice. Common symbols include colorful skeletal figures, laughing in the face of death or the glamorous La Catrina based on a famous etching by Mexican printmaker Jose Guadalupe Posada, which depicts a female skeleton dressed in aristocratic styles of Europeans of her time. This figure satirizes those Mexican natives who Posada felt were over imitating European traditions of the aristocracy in the pre-revolutionary era.
On Sunday, October 29, youngsters and their families can learn more of the day’s rich traditions. Children’s activities include hands-on activities and storytelling from 2-4 p.m. At 4 p.m., traditional music and dancing by characters dressed in folkloric costumes will entertain. Mexican pastries and food will be available from local food trucks until 6 p.m.
The third component from now until December 3, FWMoA presents Los Vivos y Los Muertos (The Life and Death) from the private collection of Dr. Gilberto Cardeñas, Director of the Institute of Latino Studies-Notre Dame. On the holiday, it is believed that the gates of heaven open, allowing for the souls of departed loved ones to descend and reunite with their loved ones still on earth for 24 hours. As a result, imagery surrounding Día de los Muertos is full of life, color and movement as participants celebrate the lives of those they have lost. Los Vivos y Los Muertos captures the history and energy of Dias de los Muertos as traditional imagery is captured in printmaking, quilting and sculpture.
The exhibits, performances and food would not be possible without the financial support of individuals, businesses and community organizations. Born Again Quilts was honored to loan the Altar Committee textiles and a doll to represent a deceased child. Altar member Emily Guerrero is expecting students from the surrounding counties to attend. “This will be a wonderful time for these students and families to explore these ancient sacred traditions and their relevance today.”
Although there is no admission charge on October 29, donations are always welcome.
Lois Levihn is the owner of Born Again Quilts located at 4005 South Wayne Ave. She may be contacted at 260-515-9446 or firstname.lastname@example.org