Funeralia. Objects Associated with Death

Museum of the Purpose of the Object

The Collection in the Museo del Objeto del Objeto

The word "funeralia" has been used since the 19th century to describe the conventions, codes and protocols that govern funeral rituals. The objects produced and used for those rituals reveal the values and world-views of the various cultures to which they belong.

In present day Mexico, death is transcendental. We are closely connected to it on a daily basis. In Mexico, death is just another family member sitting at our table.

This attitude is an amalgam of pre-Hispanic cosmogony and Spanish tradition, creating a truly unique cultural syncretism around human mortality.

The "Calavera"
In pre-Hispanic times, skulls were associated with fertility and rebirth.

During colonial times, the calavera became a reminder of the spiritual preparation for a good death.

The obituary
Obituaries became popular in the nineteenth century and there were several types: death notices, obituary invitations and condolence messages.

The obituaries used a particular language, remembering the life and the virtues of the deceased.

They included emotive or famous verses and the image of the deceased, and were almost always decorated with designs alluding to the occasion: the color black or purple, cemetery crosses, graves, skulls and skeletons.

Remembering is living
The commemorative pieces glorify heroes, martyrs, innocent people, stars, villains, and ordinary mortals.

The effigy or image may be cause for worship because of their feats for the country, sporting achievements, popular movements, idols, or political exploits,

... even more intensely if it was an individual whose life had been cut tragically short defending an ideal.

Through various objects, the memory of one who is no longer with us is intended to last.

Everyday death
Octavio Paz said that the modern period is characterized by a denial of death. There are now many ways to help to delay it: medicine, sports, nutrition, the veneration of beauty and youth.

We often avoid facing it or having direct contact with it.

It is important to recognize that death is a constant presence in daily life in Mexico; interaction with the macabre is part of our daily lives and our national identity.

We will all be "calaveras"
The objects shown here cause us to reflect on our own mortality and our perception of the world. They remind us that, in the words of G.B. Shaw, "by learning to die, we live better".
Credits: Story

Equipo del MODO
Antonio Soto, Arely Chong, Azael Lara, Carlos González, Edmundo Vargas, Javier Ávalos, Jonathan Torres, Mariana Huerta de la Sota, Mariana Pérez, Martín Cruz, Natalia Cheng, Paulina Newman, Piedad Romero, Rosario Luna, Zereh Gutiérrez.

Adaptado por Antonio Soto de la exposición "El modo de vivir la muerte" curada por Aurora Avilés y Víctor Rodríguez presentada en el MODO en 2012.

Museo del Objeto del Objeto © 2016.

Credits: All media
The story featured may in some cases have been created by an independent third party and may not always represent the views of the institutions, listed below, who have supplied the content.
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