Sunday, December 10, 2023

Testament to Magic

On Sundays we offer free art sessions including materials and refreshments to our neighbor children in San Pedro Ixtlahuaca, Mexico. The projects have been ongoing for three years now and at times we have struggled to come up with new ideas. The kids delight in creating something and taking their artwork home. At times we have given them crafts to paint and embellish. Our latest effort is finishing an alebrije. Mexican Alebrije´s are hand carved wooden sculpture of fantastical (fantasy/mythical) creatures that are brightly colored with designs.

Two alebrijes  from our collection by the Jimenez family 

Last Friday Amy and I went with a new found American friend who lives in our village and drove an hour to Ocatlán, a bigger town nearby Oaxaca. Ocatlán's Friday market is a tapestry of culture, offering everything from fresh fruits and vegetables to handcrafted textiles, arts & crafts, and livestock for sale or barter. Our quest on this particular Friday was to delve into the world of alebrijes, the whimsical, fantastical creatures carved from wood that have become emblematic of Mexican folk art. We sought hand carved, unpainted alebrijes that local craftspeople make and sell. We wanted unfinished ones for our children to paint. Unpainted and awaiting transformation, the wooden canvases held the potential for magic. Bees, turtles, dogs, and rabbits awaited their metamorphosis into alebrijes. Our friend had told us we must arrive early because items sell out fast. By 7:30 AM we had a collection of carvings from several artisans.

Jo, buying a rabbit (conejo)

Family of carvers

The market is a thrill so we browsed, then went to an early lunch at a nearby livestock bazaar where locals sat under tents eating traditional fare.

With our newly acquired treasures in tow, we eagerly returned home to share the enchantment on Sunday with our neighbor children. Our plan was simple yet filled with creativity and joy – we would guide the children in painting these wooden creatures, infusing them with magical colors that would bring them to life to be transformed into true alebrijes.

Unpainted carvings

Sunday the children dipped their brushes into a palette of vivid colors, unleashing their imagination onto the wooden canvases. Laughter echoed through the air as wooden bees, turtles, dogs, and rabbits were transformed into vibrant, fantastical beings. Each stroke of the brush was a step closer to the creation of their unique masterpiece, a testament to the rich cultural heritage and artistic spirit of Oaxaca.

The experience was not merely about creating art but about fostering a connection between generations and communities. Through the shared act of painting, we bridged gaps and transcended language barriers, creating bonds that extended beyond the vibrant hues of the alebrijes.

Our collection of painted alebrijes stands as a testament to the magic that can unfold in the heart of a Mexican village. The true beauty of a journey lies not only in the destination but in the vibrant tapestry of experiences woven along the way.

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