It all starts with skeletons. Particularly Mexican skeletons. During our wanders around our neighbourhood we came upon a garish shop filled with skeletons. The most brightly colored skeletons you have ever seen, in all manner of poses and doing all manner of things. We got talking to the owner of the shop who visits Mexico regularly to meet with local artisans and asked him why the colorful, fun representation of death?? He told us a little about El Día de los Muertos or The Day of the Dead. A mainly Latin American based celebration of the spirits of ancestors past. This celebration is filled with color and fun, unlike the Western obsession of death as something macabre and deadly serious, their idea of death is something very different. An inherent part of life, death is seen as something to be respected, but more importance is put upon remembering funny and happy memories of the dead. Honoring the dead with celebration, color, music and fun seems much more fitting. Choosing to fondly remember things about the person who died seems a whole lot healthier than dwelling on guilt, our own loss and sadness.
Our adventures have been whimsical and wonderful, yet the shadow of death follows close behind and at times it can make it hard to stay in the moment. When I found out a close friend of mine’s sister died recently, and I couldn’t be with her, the isolation of death came over me again. Death is a constant in life, and I didn’t want it to be a suffocating shadow any more . A different perspective was bought to our attention when Dotahn and I found a mexican art shop filled with colorful and celebrating skeletons. They where so beautiful and fun, they inspired me to channel this darkness in a positive way. I have been making a lot of origami and paper creations, so I decided to make an origami boat and paper skeleton to send out to sea in memory of our loved ones. One thing lead to another and since we have been experimenting with stop frame animation it seemed appropriate to allow the skeleton a celebration dance before being sent on its journey.
Skeleton dance can be found here:- http://vimeo.com/9965594
In researching a name for the proud vessel which would sail to the land of the dead we came upon a buddhist celebration called Obon. Centred around the story of Mokuren, a disciple of Buddha who visited his deceased mother and found her to be suffering. He took it upon himself to help right all the wrongs which were keeping her from peace and in doing so he discovered the many sacrifices and the unselfish nature of his mother. Upon granting her spirit peace with offerings to monks and much meditation he danced with joy and thus the celebration of Obon was born. A time to dance and celebrate the sacrifices and beauty of loved ones who have died. At the end of the ceremony paper lanterns are set out to sea.
We set out to find a suitable place for the launching of Obon, going to a point called Lands End at the edge of San Francisco. Unfortunately we picked a weekend and were a little perturbed by the large groups of people around. We wanted a little seclusion and peace to better carry out the offering. The first beach we came upon was filled with people, but by chance we saw a small, tangled path through the undergrowth and decided to take our chances. It was an amazing path with twists and turns, climbing over logs, through the heavy undergrowth and trees hung with vines. We chanced upon a small furry creature in our path. At first I thought it was a Mole, but upon further investigation we found out it was a gopher. A hungry gopher munching on the roots of the grass and not a bit concerned with our presence. (perhaps due to it being nearly blind)
After our fill of gopher fun, we continued on our way and came at last upon a clearing. We had found our spot. A secluded, foggy beach with rocks, a stunning view and what looked to be an old bathroom dropped on the rocks and heavily graffitied. Obon was set on its way in a perfect setting and with this gesture a renewed sence of love and peace for those still living.
You can find the documentation of the Journey of Obon here – http://vimeo.com/9965773