The Day of the Dead, Día de los Muertos, is celebrated in Mexico at the beginning of November. During the festival, the entire family gathers together, an altar is built at home for the dead of the family, with offerings of flowers, objects, food and drink, graves are tidied up and an entire night is spent at the cemetery. The Day of the Dead is celebrated in a carnevalistic atmosphere, with skeletons dancing, tequila flowing, and children munching on skulls made of sugar.
The tradition of building an altar for the Day of the Dead originates from the Aztec culture. With the arrival of the Spanish and Christianity, the tradition changed and figures of Catholic saints and crucifixes made their appearance on the altars; the culture of the native Mexicans blended with that of the Conquistadors. The altar of the Day of the Dead is a living folk tradition which continues to evolve: American Halloween pumpkins have already found a place on the altar.
The altar at Tennis Palace was dedicated to Tina Modotti, whose photographs were on show at the same time in the museum, as well as to two great Mexican artists, Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera. The papier-mache skeletons on the altar are commissioned from the famous Linares family, who have specialised in them. Curator Dora Baizabal Sánchez from The National Museum for Popular Cultures Mexico brought the objects for the altar to Helsinki, and was also responsible for decorating the altar. The altar will remain in the collections of the Helsinki City Art Museum.
The exhibition was produced by Helsinki City Art Museum in collaboration with CONACULTAN (Consejo Nacional para la Cultura y las Artes), The National Museum for Popular Cultures Mexico and the Mexican Embassy.