About the Project
Young People’s Ofrenda: Expressions of Life and Remembranceat the Minneapolis Institute of Arts, October 20 through November 15, 2009
In partnership with the Minneapolis Institute of Arts, students from El Colegio, an urban-based magnet school in Minneapolis that integrates research-based teaching strategies with Latino culture and traditions, create ofrendas, the Spanish word for offerings related to Day of the Dead ceremonies.
Students use wooden crates to symbolize the immigrant population that came to Minnesota to work in the fields. Each ofrenda reflects the student’s own experience.
This project Web site and blog follows the students’ progress in creating their ofrendas. Here we present the videos they have made, in which they relate their perspectives and insights as they honor their ancestors. Their final ofrendas and videos will be on view in an exhibition at the Minneapolis Institute of Arts between October 20 and November 15, 2009.
The Video Project
Insignia video cameras have been donated by Best Buy to this project so the participating students can record their thoughts and perspectives as they create their ofrendas. Their videos are edited and presented here. During this four-week process, students focus on weekly topics.
Week 1: Selection of Subject. Students explore ideas and concepts for their ofrendas. The subject can be personal, such as a tribute to a relative or friend. Or it can address traditional themes.
Week 2: Making Ideas Into Images. The students visit the Minneapolis Institute of Arts and tour international artworks from the permanent collection that illustrate reverence for ancestors and attitudes about death. They learn how artists have successfully translated ideas into images.
Week 3: Ofrenda Assembly. This week students start to decorate their ofrendas, using materials they have collected during the first two weeks. Some students may make personal drawings, while others may create small, ceramic sculptures.
Week 4: The Final Narrative. With their ofrendas near completion, students write narratives about their ofrendas, which are used as the label texts for the exhibition, printed in both Spanish and English.
Day of the Dead
Day of the Dead (in Spanish, Día de los Muertos) is celebrated November first and second each year. Probably based on an ancient Aztec festival, Day of the Dead is a celebration in which family and friends gather to honor those who have died. The departed souls are believed to return to visit their living relatives on this holiday. The celebrants create ofrendas, or offerings, for the deceased, which contain favorite foods, mementos, pictures, and flowers. They can also recount amusing family stories or anecdotes. These offerings are meant to welcome the souls so they can communicate with their living relatives and friends. Images of skulls and skeletons are seen during the festival and in the ofrendas, demonstrating that death is a natural part of the life cycle. Día de los Muertos is primarily celebrated by people of Mexican heritage living in Mexico and throughout the world. In the United States, many cities with Mexican-American populations celebrate this tradition in the weeks before and after November first and second.
This project is generously supported by the Friends of the Institute and Cargill, Inc, with in-kind support provided by Best Buy.