Tag Archives: altar

Preparing for Day of the Dead, Dia de los Muertos

Day of the Dead is coming soon. Festivities in Oaxaca will begin in the next few days, and people are now gathering what they need for home altars to honor their deceased loved ones:

  • palm branches to create an arch over the altar through which loved ones pass from the otherworld — a gateway to now
  • smokey copal incense that provides the aroma to guide the way
  • candles that burn continuously to offer light along the journey
  • fresh flowers, especially marigolds, a seasonal offering with a pungent aroma to guide the spirits
Dia de los Muertos Altar, San Pablo Villa de Mitla

Dia de los Muertos Altar, San Pablo Villa de Mitla

  • bread, chocolate, fruit and nuts for the spirit visitors to eat
  • favorite beverages of those who have passed on and will return: hot chocolate, beer, mezcal, whiskey, coca-cola, Fanta orange, atole
  • framed photographs of those who have died (it wasn’t until the 70’s or 80’s, I’m told, that most locals had cameras to capture images)

 See Day of the Dead 5-Day Photo Challenge at Facebook

 

Oaxaca street parades will start on October 30.

On October 31, the Xoxocotlan panteon (cemetery) will host locals and tourists who come from around the world to experience the reverie and revelry of Muertos. I like to start at the old cemetery around mid-afternoon to be present at the magic hour of sunset.

Pan de Muertos, Bread of the Dead

Pan de Muertos, Bread of the Dead

On November 1, there are many cemetery festivities, at San Pablo Villa de Mitla in the morning and in the evening at the Oaxaca city Panteon, and in San Augustin Etla.

On November 2, in Teotitlan del Valle, the low-key ceremonies of honoring the dead begin with a mid-afternoon meal at home to ensure the dead return to their graves with full bellies. The villagers then accompany the spirits to the the cemetery (around 6 p.m. ) and sit with them through the night to be certain they are cared for and rest in peace.

Teotitlan del Valle, Dia de los Muertos

Teotitlan del Valle, Dia de los Muertos

On November 3, in San Antonino Castillo de Velasco, the flower growing village, holds their Day of the Dead celebrations after they have cut and sold cockscomb, marigolds, lilies and more to surrounding villages and city dwellers.

You might also want to add Santa Maria Atzompa to your itinerary.

Sand paintings, part of the tradition,  Muertos

Sand paintings, part of the tradition, Muertos

These are not created as tourist attractions but exist as part of ancient pre-Hispanic ritual in many parts of Mexico. Oaxaca has one of the most vibrant Day of the Dead celebrations.

Locals and seasoned Oaxaca travelers continue the search for the undiscovered Day of the Dead celebration where few tourists descend. The farther from the city, the more likely this is to occur.

Still life with marigolds, Teotitlan del Valle market

Still life with marigolds, Teotitlan del Valle market

I’m in North Carolina with my friend Hettie, and have with me photos of my parents and copal incense. I’ll start making my memory altar in the next few days. Meanwhile, my Teotitlan del Valle family will light incense and place marigolds at the gate to my home to welcome the spirits and guide them back under the shadow of Picacho.

 See Day of the Dead 5-Day Photo Challenge at Facebook

Muertos altar, November 2, 2015, remembering my dad

Muertos altar, November 2, 2015, remembering my dad

After I built my altar last year, our 99-1/2 year-old mom took a downward turn and I left Oaxaca for California. She died on November 15, 2016. I return to California next week to join my family to lay the headstone on her grave just before the anniversary of her death, a ritual that is part of my religious tradition.

This year, my altar will hold them both. I will sit and honor their lives.

Dorothy Schafitz Beerstein, April 16, 2013

Dorothy Schafitz Beerstein, April 16, 2013

 

 

 

On The Road, Again: Leaving Oaxaca, Hello North Carolina, California and India

If I had Willie Nelson’s voice and guitar picking skills, I’d give you a personal performance. But, my elementary school glee club (mandatory) teacher asked me to mouth the words. You might like to hear him sing, once again.

Willie Sings: On The Road Again

I left Oaxaca early this morning and now overnight in my Mexico City hotel. Tomorrow morning I take off for North Carolina to vote. Yes, VOTE! I’m doing this in person because I want my vote to count this year. I have to do a legal voter registration name change in person before I can do early voting. This is really important because NC is a swing state. My vote matters.

See who I’m voting for!   As if you couldn’t guess. Smile.

There’s also Colie and Brad’s wedding this weekend. She’s my dear friend Hollie’s daughter and I wouldn’t miss it for the world. I also get time with all my great NC pals Kathryn, Hettie, Karen and Steve, Cindy, Chris, Kate, Helen, Anne, Jo-Ann and Ted, Debbie, Judith, Robin, Kaola, Lew and Olive, and so many more …… Can’t wait.

The children's comparsa, Muertos

The children’s comparsa, Dia de los Muertos, Oaxaca

Next, I go to California to visit my son, and then our family gathers to lay the headstone on our mother’s grave in Santa Cruz. This will mark the first anniversary of her death on November 15, and in our religious tradition there is an important ceremony of remembrance.

The Old Cemetery, Xoxocotlan--Day of the Dead

The Old Cemetery, Xoxocotlan–Day of the Dead

My plan is to build a Day of the Dead — Dia de los Muertos Altar in North Carolina to remember my parents. I have the copal incense and photos packed in my luggage.

Muertos altar, November 2, 2015, remembering my dad

Muertos altar, November 2, 2015, remembering my dad

On November 15, I fly to New Delhi, India, where I’ll meet up with Fay Sims from Vancouver, B.C., Canada. Oaxaca has given me many blessings. I met Fay in Oaxaca and we have traveled to Chiapas together, so we figured we would make good travel partners for India. We’ll be there for a month, focusing on the textile culture of Gujarat, including block printing with indigo dyes.

Example, Gujarat Block Print with Indigo

My first cousin Sharon and my aunt, my mother’s younger sister now age 98, also live in Delhi, and I’m excited to see them again after a many year lapse.

I plan to blog, photograph and write about Indian and Oaxacan textiles from a comparative point-of-view.

When I return to Los Angeles, my son and I will fly together back to Oaxaca just in time for Christmas.

You’ll hear from me intermittently over the next few weeks as I settle into living out of a suitcase once again.

Participate in the Dia de los Muertos–Day of the Dead 5-Day Photo Challenge at Mexico Travel Photography.

One-Day Mixed Media Art Workshop: Personal Altars and Shrines

  • One Day, February 25, 2016, 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. OR
  • One Day, February 26, 2016, 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.

Fee: $35 USD/650 MXN pesos OR take both days for $65 USD/1220 MXN pesos

You do not need to have an art background to participate. This is about having fun, exploring and experimentation! All levels welcome.

Oaxaca is filled with altars that include sacred images and the Virgin of Guadalupe. Day of the Dead family altars display photographs of departed loved ones.  Frida Kahlo collected altars and ex-votos. She is a perfect subject for an altar you might create — an icon in her own right! You could make a memory altar in tribute to a departed loved one or in honor of a family member or friend. You might also make a self-portrait altar — what would you include?

Frida with monkey copy 800 kb self-portrait-with-necklace-of-thorns   

Your personal altar can be based on experience, travels, relationships. Your altar might contain a message to send or be a gift.  If you are visiting Oaxaca, it can be a memorabilia altar or a token to give to a friend when you return home.

HollieTaylor2014-72dpi.700KB

About Hollie Taylor, MFA, Workshop Leader

Hollie Taylor earned the BFA from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill focusing on painting and printmaking. She then went on to the University of Georgia and received the MFA with a concentration in printmaking.

Hollie taught drawing, printmaking, painting and ceramics at the college, middle and high school levels. For over 20 years, she has taught adult workshops in handmade paper-making, screen-printing, woodcutting, photo-imaging on clay, ceramic hand-building, mixed media art and art journaling.  

She is a recipient of the North Carolina Museum of Art annual artist scholarship award. Her work is published in Art Voices South. She earned the prestigious National Board Certification for Teaching Excellence and her students placed repeatedly in national shows. 

Art produced at Hollie’s workshops is highly individualistic, broad ranging in style and expressive of the maker. Participants come to the table with varied past creative experiences and she accommodates fully for this range of novice to accomplished artist. She gives personal feedback and encouragement and holds informal discussions to compare intent with outcome. A workshop with Hollie is engaging and fun!

 

Where is the workshop held?

We will hold this workshop at a comfortable private home with courtyard and terrace workshop space in Teotitlan del Valle. Space is limited. If you are coming from Oaxaca city, you may want to share a taxi or take a collectivo. We can give you the names of Teotitlan taxi drivers to make your plans easy. Directions provided after registration.

We can order in lunch at 150 pesos per person additional, if you wish.

Materials Fee and What to Bring

Materials fee: 100 MXN pesos. We give you a 4″x 5″ altar box pre-constructed and ready to decorate. We also give selected art supplies, glue, and other basic materials. Materials fee can be paid on the day of the workshop.

You Bring: Found objects, magazines, a pencil, embellishments such as stamps, charms, shells, milagros, copies of photographs, textiles, anything that conjures up Oaxaca, Frida, or something personal! Participants often like to share what they bring.

8.Frida.Paint altar parts with acrylic ink.800KBcopy

 

Rolling on Matte Medium to seal the foam core.

Rolling on Matte Medium to seal the foam core.

Reservations and Cancellations. The full fee of $35 per day is paid in advance to guarantee your spot. We accept payment with PayPal only.  Tell us you are ready to register and we will send you an invoice. After your reservation is made and you find you are unable to attend, you may send a friend in your place. If you prefer to make your payment in MXN pesos, we will make arrangements to meet you in advance to handle this.

This retreat is produced by Norma Schafer, Oaxaca Cultural Navigator LLC. We reserve the right to make itinerary changes and substitutions as necessary.

Remembering Frida Kahlo: Icon of Passion and Pain

We ended the four-day Looking for Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera Art History Study Tour in Mexico City with a morning at Casa Azul and the Frida Kahlo Museum followed by an afternoon at the Dolores Olmedo Patiño Museum. (I’ll be setting 2016 dates soon. Contact me to be notified.)

A few little nips

Frida Kahlo is a great source of inspiration and admiration. I see Frida differently each time I visit her home and look deeper into her art. Many are self-portraits about her accident, deformities, wish to be a mother, miscarriages and marital infidelities. Her work is honest and vulnerable.

Evoking Frida Kahlo: Making Memory Altars and Shrines

Consider making a self-portrait altar — a visual memoir!

Art historians and her admiring public describe her work as intensely personal and something we can all relate to, which is why, even today, her following is immense. She is compared to a contemporary Virgin of Guadalupe.

 

On this visit I was most interested in capturing close-up photographs of some of Frida’s most important works that are on exhibit. I am also continuing to experiment with my new Olympus OMD5 Mark II mirrorless camera that I used to take all the photos here.

 

We will repurpose the images for a 4-day mixed media art workshop, February 25-28, 2016.

Evoking Frida Kahlo: Making Memory Altars and Shrines

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In this mixed media art workshop, led by North Carolina artist Hollie Taylor, participants will build an altar or shrine to remember loved ones or to honor Frida Kahlo, feminist icon of passion and pain.

You can also use the workshop to make a self-portrait altar, incorporating images and experiences from your own life, much like a visual memoir.

 

We look at Frida’s life as an example. She was a woman of strength and complexity. While she lived with intense chronic pain, both physical and emotional, her face to the world successfully hid her deformities and shaped her identity. We see this in the Casa Azul exhibit, Appearances Can Be Deceiving.

  

A new documentary film shown at Casa Azul tells the story of Frida, a woman who has become a contemporary role model, honored for her courage and honesty, and for her ability to paint with emotion as a tool for self-reflection and healing.

Evoking Frida Kahlo: Making Memory Altars and Shrines gives us a chance to personally interpret Frida’s life and employ it as a jumping off point to create our own art altar in memory of Frida or our own special someone. Frida’s courage and obstacles, successes and set-backs are a metaphor for all of us.

  

It offers us an opportunity, through art, to explore identity, image, impression, impact, intent. To create an art altar is to interpret and to understand, to reveal what is hidden, to emotionally connect in a very visual way, and to offer homage.

  

Akin to the Mexican approach to death and dying through Day of the Dead, by building a memory altar or shrine, we create a space where we embrace and examine a loved one’s life using photos and memorabilia.

Consider making a self-portrait altar — a visual memoir!

 

Marigolds and Altars: Day of the Dead in Oaxaca, Mexico

The campo (countryside) is a blanket of tiny yellow flowers called cempasuchitl or wild marigolds that come up in southern Mexico this time of year.  It’s less than a week before Day of the Dead here in Oaxaca. Preparations have begun.

3YagulMarigolds-2

My friend Guadalupe was at the casita yesterday and she explained that the intense yellow color of the wild marigold signals the dead to return to earth for Dia de los Muertos. That’s why they are a prominent part of altars.

MarigoldAltar12 MarigoldAltar12-3

The dead like color, she says, and the strong scent of the marigolds. Lupe also said that the bees make a deep yellow honey from the wild marigolds this time of year and this can be special addition to the altar.

MuertosBread-2I started to gather and build my altar yesterday. It is not yet complete. Front and center is a photo of our dad who passed in 1997.  As I duplicated the photo, cut foam board and secured it to the photo, I had a sense of well-being, connection and loving memory. It is a meaningful experience to make a memory altar to honor a loved one who is no longer here.

MarigoldAltar12-5Our dad was a teacher in the Los Angeles City School District for over thirty years. He went out on strike once to protest a wage cut. I remember our mom was scared because there would be no income until he went back to work.  Our family was still young and with three children. Even so, he chose to stick to his principles. He was the son of immigrants and knew the importance of a fair wage and decent working conditions. This is our favorite photo of him.

This altar is a tribute to him.

MarigoldAltar12-11

It is somewhat typical of Teotitlan del Valle altars. It has the favorite food and beverages that the deceased liked. Bread. Chocolate. Fruit. Nuts. A soft drink and/or a bottle of beer. Perhaps a bowl of atole. Our parents weren’t drinkers, but on occasion our dad would enjoy a beer. I’m sure in his lifetime he had a Victoria when we went out to eat at a Mexican restaurant. So here it is along with my artisanal mezcal collection in garafones (hand-blown bottles).

3YagulMarigolds-3

There is more to add. The palm fronds used for arches that allow the dead to enter earth from the underworld won’t be available until later this week. I will wait to get fresh marigolds for November 1. I’ve already prepared the copal incense burner. The aroma also helps guide the spirits home. Lupe says I need to add peanuts even though I have pecans. Maybe I’ll put a marigold arch over the front doorway.

Day of the Dead is a pre-Hispanic tradition that blends into All Saints and All Souls Days which some also mistakenly refer to in the U.S.A. as Halloween. It isn’t Halloween here, said my friend Danny Hernandez. Some of the locals are not happy that the occasion is moving away from the traditional celebration toward the commercial with spiders, bats and Jack O’Lanterns.

MarigoldAltar12-2

My experience in building this altar is to reaffirm that Day of the Dead is for anyone who wants to create something very tangible and joyful to remember a loved one. This is a personal and community tribute to the continuity of life each step of the way. In my world, I see it as ecumenical and non-denominational.

MarigoldAltar12-6 MuertosBread-4

Here in Teotitlan del Valle people will welcome their deceased into their homes on November 1 with a meal of chicken tamales with yellow mole.  On November 2 they will return to the cemetery to help guide the spirits’ return to the underworld after the 3 p.m. lunch. During this 24-hour period, they will receive visitors and make visits to family and friends with altar gifts of chocolate, Pan de Muertos, beer and mezcal to honor family and loved ones.

MarigoldAltar12-7

P.S. Weavers in Teotitlan del Valle who work with natural dyes collect cempasuchitl this time of year and hang it to dry. It makes a beautiful yellow dye on wool and silk.  When over-dyed with indigo, it is the color of the corn leaves in the photo above.