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  • Ellie Harrison

Dia De Los Muertos

I’ve been thinking about part 7


I’ve been thinking about our plans to make part 7 a Dia De Los Meurtos themed 3 day event/wake. I’ve felt clearly from the beginning that this is risky territory because I’m not Mexican and what do I know about Day of the dead apart from what I’ve read in books and on the internet? What gives me the right to use this tradition in my work? But there is a gaping hole in our cultures approach to grief. It is characterised by silence and shame. A two minute silence? Fuck that. What do we have as the UK equivalent to Dia De Los Muertos? Nothing…well maybe remembrance Sunday but that’s specifically about war. But I have a confession: I have fallen in love with Dia De Los Muertos through my research. I’ve imagined what it would have been like to have her with me when my Dad died. I’ve imagined what it will be like when we’ve met. When we’ve hung out. I love her picnics in graveyards, her offrendas (domestic shrines for lost loved ones).I’ve fallen in love with her online profile. I’ve fallen in love from a distance and the reality may be different but I need to find out.


That’s why I feel I need to go to Mexico, to experience it first hand. To work and talk with Mexican artists about how to devise with them. How we might borrow with respect rather than steal. I come from a place with a long history of going to other countries, sticking a flag in whatever we want and claiming it as our own. It must be a slow and sensitive collaboration, a cultural exchange. If it goes well I want to bring Dia De Los Muertos to meet my artist family in Leeds. I imagine I will be nervous as I hope she likes them. This exchange needs to be underpinned by some rigorous research and a strong sense of what our values are: Compassion. Respect. Awe…actually. One thing I know is that I’m not up for a one night stand with Dia De Los Muertos..may I call it Dia for short? No, it’s too soon. We haven’t met yet. I’m in this for a long term relationship.


We put in a bid last year to travel to Mexico and we didn’t get the funding. Of course we won’t give up. Good relationships take work and are based on trust. Unfortunately our country is governed by people who aren’t much interested in compassion or trust, only with esteem and money. It’s all about Karen from The Apprentice voting to cut tax credits. It’s about dressing up as ‘mental patient’ for Halloween.


On a bad day, on a day when my mental health is suffering from the weight of pure bullshit produced by our media I think perhaps I should give up on my dream of building a relationship with Dia De Los Muertos. The fight is too hard….she’ll take up my time and money and energy and she might break my heart….but perhaps to fall in love and step into the unknown with compassion and perseverance is a radical thing? To not give up. To ask the same question 6 times in a row. Dia De Los Muertos has been through much more than me and she celebrates in spite of this. She has experienced loss and she offers food and community. She sees corruption and rather than being trodden on, she dances. Where our culture offers a stiff upper lip and dour silence, she seems to offer noise and flamboyance and hope. Celebration as resistance rather than shame and silence. I know I’m over romanticizing her. I’m in the crush phase. I can’t wait to meet her properly, my beloved Dia De Los Muertsos. I think that if she’ll let me, I might learn a lot from her.

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