TODOS SANTO PHOTOGRAPHY EXHIBITION BY PETER EVERSOLL
Curated by Georges Le Chevallier
October 9 – 31, 2009 at the Orchestra Gallery, THE LoDi PROJECT, Raleigh NC
Polaroid photo, 1998 / scanned, enlarged and printed, 2009
In 1998 I was invited by a friend to visit San Agustin Etla, a small town tucked in the mountains of Oaxaca, for a comparsa, their way of celebrating Todos Santos, All Saints’ Day. I set out equipped with my Polaroid 600 camera not sure what to expect. The comparsa starts before sundown on November 1st in the town square with a theatric black comedy centered on el Difunto (dead man). The other protagonists include la Viuda (widow), el Padre (priest), la Puta (whore), el Canastero (basket man), el Diablo (devil), la Banda (the band), los Chicoteros (lash men) and an ample supply of Espiritos (spirits). This motley crew parade through the town acting out their parody of “death”. Los Espiritus, dressed in suits of jingle bells and sequined Lucha Libre masks, dance in clangorous unison to contemporary pop and traditional songs played by a 20+ piece brass band. The suits can weigh up to 60 pounds, testing the physical and mental limits of the dancers. The inner forces exuded through their dancing attempt to raise the dead and maintain them “alive” during the night. The job of the Diablo is to prevent this by crashing into the banda and interrupting the music, thus returning the dead to the hereafter. The banda rely on the protection of the chicoteros who dole out harsh punishment to the Diablo, reverently taming his serious intentions soaked in mezcal laced bravado. The group, numbering around a hundred, stops at people’s homes to view family altars, dance, eat tamales and drink atole, ponche or mezcal. The procession continues until seven or eight in the morning when the comparsa returns crashing down on the town square in a chaotic, drunken fury of living and dead: Diablo and Espiritus vying for control of spiritual existence, a battle that lasts well into the afternoon of November 2nd.
– Peter Eversoll, Photographer
Opening Reception October 9, 2009