"La Festividad de los Muertos – Lanii Xtee Tugul" Project
In 2010, Metamorfosis Documentation Project embarked on the Todos Santos / Day of the Dead Project, to explore rituals that celebrate the relation between the living and the dead. This Project consisted of three individual Day of the Dead Projects in three distinct traditional communities in Mexico and Bolivia.
The cult of the dead is celebrated throughout Latin America in indigenous and mestizo communities. Known as Día de Muertos or Todos Santos, these celebrations have roots in the cult of the dead of pre-Hispanic indigenous cultures and in pagan and Catholic rituals. Each ethnicity, region and country has different ways of honoring their dead, all based on the same sense of responsibility and reciprocity to the ancestors.
We have, through our Projects documenting these traditions, portrayed how the different rituals and beliefs about the proper way to honor the dead, the preparations for the celebrations, the altars, and the communion with the dead strengthen family and community ties, bringing about a sense of belonging and wellbeing.
In 2012, for our second individual Day of the Dead Project, working in collaboration with the Museum Committee of the "Balaa Xtee Guech Gulal" Community Museum, we documented the traditional celebration of Day of the Dead in Teotitlán del Valle, Oaxaca, Mexico.
We focused on the importance placed on family and extended family relations during the celebrations in this Zapotec community.
The first phase of the Project introduced a new collaborative element to our process in an effort to encourage the documentation, preservation and promotion of these cultural traditions by members of the local community - an apprentice program. We had two apprentices, chosen by the Museum Committee, to assist in the documentary work. Besides offering them practical training in production work, we advised them on the concepts involved in the documenting of cultural and ethnographic events. We also shared important resources for them to continue pursuing their interests in this area.
This phase culminated in our production of a documentary of Teotitlán del Valle’s Day of the Dead celebrations, “La Festividad de los Muertos / Lanii Xtee Tugul”.
Lanii Xtee Tugul is the Zapotec name used in Teotitlán del Valle for this celebration; which translates into Spanish as Festividad de los Muertos; we translated it and this became the title of our documentary.
We had never heard anyone in the community before then or since refer to their celebration in Spanish as “La Festividad de los Muertos”.
In the second phase of the Project, we worked in collaboration with the Museum Committee to improve and expand the permanent Día de Muertos Exhibit in the Community Museum. We granted the Community Museum rights of reproduction and sale of the documentary, with all the proceeds from the sales of the documentary to be dedicated to the maintenance and improvement of the Museum.
In May of 2013, in a community event, the Museum’s new Día de Muertos Exhibit was inaugurated; and we celebrated the world premiere of our documentary with a large and enthusiastic audience in the Civic Plaza of Teotitlán del Valle. We continue to screen the film whenever possible in Mexico and the U.S.A..