Oaxaca’s Day of the Dead Takes Flight

Scott Skinner
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Big projects start in small ways, and so it was with this fall’s Dia de los Muertos (Day of the Dead) celebration in Oaxaca, Mexico. Almost two years ago, former Drachen Foundation employee Melissa McKelvey dashed through Seattle – to and from Mexico – and in her wake she left a Mexican kite, crudely framed and bridled, but with beautiful graphic treatment.

The kite was hand painted on a very heavy handmade paper, like the surface of a woven mat of reeds. The colors were earthlike green shades. The image was not just an illustrated bat, but an impression of a bat articulated by an artist.

Intrigued, Administrator Ali Fujino researched the kite online and learned that it came from renowned artist Francisco Toledo and the Instituto de Artes Graficas de Oaxaca (IAGO). She wanted to learn more! At the same time, through a Drachen grant, Christopher Ornelas was in Guatemala, documenting the kites of Sumpango. Ali immediately sent him on a mission to Oaxaca to find the kite’s source.

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