Jenny Mendez, Latino Cultural Arts Director for the Mattie Rhodes Center, Anne Manning, Director of Education and Interpretive Programs Nelson Atkins Museum and Sarah Hyde Schmiedeler Francis Family Foundation Educator, Family Programs & Events with the Nelson Atkins museum, join us on the program celebrating Dia de los Muertos/Day of the Dead.
Day of the Dead
The Day of the Dead is a unique festival that is the result of 16th century contact between Mesoamerica and Europe. Conceptually, it is a hybrid, owing its origins to both prehispanic Aztec philosophy and religion and medieval European ritual practice. Ceremonies held during the Aztec summer month of Miccailhuitontli were mainly focused on the celebration of the dead. These were held under the supernatural direction of the goddess Mictecacihuatl.(1) Both children and dead ancestors were remembered and celebrated. It was also during this month that the Aztecs commemorated fallen warriors. According to Diego Duran, a 16th century Spanish priest, the Aztecs would bring offerings of food to altars in honor of the dead.
Across Mexico, activities associated with Day of the Dead are fairly consistent from place to place. On the first day, families visit the graves of their relatives. During this time, they decorate the gravesite with flowers, earth, and candles. The also hold a kind of picnic at the graveside where they interact socially among themselves and with other families and community members who are all gathered at the cemetery. The stories that are exchanged by the families often feature other people who are also buried in the same cemetery. In this way, Day of the Dead acts as a method of social cohesion between different groups of people. Folks gathered around the graves are there not only to celebrate their ancestors, but to celebrate the role that those ancestors played in a larger community.
Day of the Dead Altar Installation
Kirkwood Hall | Plaza Level
Experience the altar installation honoring ancestors and write your own special remembrance. In collaboration with local artists through Mattie Rhodes Center, the 2015 altar will highlight the four elements of earth, wind, fire and water, and will feature a large scale suspended Papel Picado, sand paintings and four paper mache skeletons. Thanks to the students from Plaza de Nino’s in the museum’s Community Programs classes for creating the table sculptures. Altar will remain on view through November 15.
4525 Oak Street, Kansas City, Missouri 64111