By: Joshua Danker-Dake | Category: Other | Issue: October 2011
Dancing is an important part of the Day of the Dead.
On the evening of Tuesday, November 1, Living Arts of Tulsa’s Day of the Dead arts festival offers a special celebration of Mexican culture and arts, including music, food and dancing, in downtown Tulsa.
The Day of the Dead (el Dia de los Muertos in Spanish) festival has been celebrated by the indigenous people of Mexico and other Latin American countries for hundreds, perhaps thousands of years. The celebration now contains aspects of the original Aztec ritual merged with aspects from Catholicism, and is celebrated on November 1 and 2 in connection with All Saints’ Day and All Souls’ Day.
This community-oriented holiday commemorates deceased friends and family members. One tradition is the construction of private altars to honor the deceased: these altars may contain photos and mementos of a loved one, as well as that loved one’s favorite foods and drinks. Skulls, which honor the dead and are a symbol both of death and rebirth, are a common symbol in the Day of the Dead festival.
Tulsa’s celebration is hosted by Living Arts of Tulsa and will include altars created by local artists. Artwork, posters and festival T-shirts will also be available. Visitors can decorate traditional sugar skulls and incinerate letters written to the deceased.
Musicians and dancers will perform both outdoors and at an indoor café. Life-sized papier-mâché skeletons will be paraded through the festival. Fire dancers will also perform.
Established in 1969, Living Arts of Tulsa’s mission is to present and develop contemporary art forms in Tulsa. Living Arts focuses on newly evolving ideas and concepts in the creation of art forms, as well as the exploration of the relationship of art to other disciplines and fields of knowledge. Living Arts shares these interests with the community through creative workshops, performances, exhibitions, films, videos, demonstrations of current art, lectures, research and related educational activities.
Steve Liggett, Living Arts’ artistic director, began the Day of the Dead festival after a 1992 trip to Oaxaca, Mexico, where he witnessed the native remembrance of loved ones. Liggett says that he saw a fearless attitude toward death that allowed for a celebration of life.
In 1994, Living Arts organized a small exhibit of altars made by artists, and the festival has grown since then. Anyone is welcome to come to Living Arts and construct an altar for someone they have lost. According to Liggett, this can be a very cathartic and meaningful experience. Schools, church groups and individuals may contact Living Arts of Tulsa for more information.
The Day of the Dead arts festival, sponsored by Living Arts of Tulsa, is Tuesday, November 1, from 5 p.m. to 10 p.m. at Living Arts of Tulsa (307 E. Brady St., a block west of Drillers Stadium downtown). Tickets are $5 per person; children 12 and under are free. For more information, call (918) 585-1234 or visit them on the web at www.livingarts.org.