The Detroit Institute of Arts and the Mexican Consulate of Detroit present “Ofrenda Altars: A Celebration of Día de los Muertos” for its fourth consecutive year.
Ruben Millan Mayorga, administrator of the Mexican Consulate, says “Día de los Muertos,” meaning “Day of the Dead” in English, is a traditional Mexican and Mexican-American holiday celebrated on Nov. 1 and 2 — days when the spirits of passed loved ones are believed to return.
The holiday is a fusion of Aztec festivities to honor the dead and the Catholic celebration of “Día de Todos los Santos”, or “All Saints Day.” During this time, families create “ofrendas,”or “offerings,” and altars with pictures of the relatives as well as their favorite foods, drinks and activities.
“The Day of the Dead is one of the most important and ancient traditions of the Mexican people,” Millan Mayorga said. “Since we are children we are taught to celebrate it as a moment to remember those we love but are not longer with us. Besides the love involved with our relatives, we love this tradition because it is something that we relate with our Aztec heritage and with our Spaniard religious beliefs.”
The DIA exhibit will feature ofrendas made by community artists specifically for the event.
Prior to the exhibit opening, a committee of judges headed by DIA’s Family Program Coordinator Emily Bowyer and aided by the consulate will review submissions and choose the ones that will be featured at the museum. Bowyer said last year there were more than 40 submissions.
“The selection committee will be looking at things like artistry while making their decisions, but we feel the most important thing is the meaning behind the piece,” Bowyer said. “The pieces that have a real sense of personal connection tend to be the ones the committee unanimously agree on.”
Larisa Zade, senior communications specialist at the DIA, said that it increases in popularity every year, and it is a unique way to teach people about the history and tradition of the holiday.
“People of all ages and backgrounds come to see local artists’ talent and learn about this rich cultural tradition,” Zade said. “Visitors also appreciate that the exhibition labels are presented in both English in Spanish — an effort to help make the experience more accessible for our diverse communities.”
The exhibit will be open to the public from Oct. 21 to Nov. 6.
On Nov. 6, the consulate will deliver a speech about Día de los Muertos and install its own ofrenda. The window to submit ofrendasfor judging has closed; however, pictures of passed loved ones posted to Instagram with the hashtag #DIAofrendas2016 may be included in a special exhibition slideshow.
Visitors can also create “retablos,” or “devotional paintings,” and paper flowers to leave in the exhibition’s community ofrenda during drop-in workshops offered on Saturdays and Sundays from noon to 4 p.m. throughout October.