Peralta Community College District's Only Student-Run Publication
Peralta Community College District's only student-run publication.

The Citizen

Peralta Community College District's only student-run publication.

The Citizen

Peralta Community College District's only student-run publication.

The Citizen

    ‘Tree of Life and Death’ at OMCA

    The Oakland Museum of California 19th annual Dia de los Muertos exhibition, “The Tree of Life and Death,” opened October 9, much to the enthusiasm of visitors and museum staff alike.

    The exhibition intertwines the Dias de los Muertos (Days of the Dead) theme with the museum’s Natural Sciences wing, which opened on May 31 after a four-year renovation. The arrangement of installations allows guests to wander back and forth between the Natural Sciences and Dias de los Muertos exhibitions.

    'The Cobbler,' by artist Wendeanne Ke'aka Stitt.

    The focus of this interdisciplinary exhibit are the ofrendas, or altars, to the souls of the deceased. A multitude of artists heralding from Mesoamerican traditions and other cultures created unique works pertaining to the theme of life, death, and remembrance, as well as the ideas of interactions between humans and nature, the afterlife, and environmental issues.

    Nine visual artists made such contributions. There were also community contributions by the Educational Coalition for Hispanics Organization in Oakland, students from La Escuelita in Oakland led by Jose Ortiz, and students from Bancroft Middle School in San Leandro led by teacher Lee Rosenberg.

    One of the altars is designed by artists Amy and Sal Cortez. The altar is modeled after West African goddess of the sea, Yemaya, who is the mother of all.

    The altar is a papier-mâché skeleton mermaid, which incorporates many references to pollution, such as plastic trash and charcoal drawings of the most polluted areas of the bay.

    Alternatively, the plastic trash is strung on beads, representing another West African tradition: a single bead, just as a single moment, can be insignificant; a string of beads has meaning, just as a string of our actions has meaning.

    Amy Cortez said that our pollution may seem insignificant but it’s “important to encourage people to do what is right,” and not pollute. “I like to think of people’s lives like a big beautiful necklace,” Sal Cortez said.

    Other unique altars didn’t look like a traditional ofrenda, such as that of Wendeanne Ke’aka Stitt, who created a quilted altar in a tribute to honored men in her life. Stitt is an award-winning quilt maker who has learned the ancient history of Hawaiian kappa cloth making.

    Another non-traditional altar, fashioned by artist Fernando Hernandez, featured offerings to loved ones in the everyday household setting of an office desk

    In all, while the exhibits are each unique in their own way, they are united by the common theme of life and death. Said Senior Experience Developer Evelyn Orantes “We come together to celebrate, we come together to mourn, we come together to share stories,” emphasizing the heart of the tradition.

    While the traditional Dias de los Muertos is celebrated annually between Oct. 31 and Nov. 2, the Oakland Museum exhibit lasts until December 8. The museum will have its annual Days of the Dead Community Celebration on Sunday, Oct. 27 from noon to 4:30 p.m.

    About the Contributor
    In the fall of 2019, The Laney Tower rebranded as The Citizen and launched a new website. These stories were ported over from the old Laney Tower website, but byline metadata was lost in the port. However, many of these stories credit the authors in the text of the story. Some articles may also suffer from formatting issues. Future archival efforts may fix these issues.  
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