"Light foot"- "Silent death"
Updated: Jul 3
While visiting Oaxaca, one of the dreams was to get to know one of the most famous contemporary Mexican artists, Francisco Toledo. Until a couple of years ago, you could meet El Maestro on the streets of his hometown. Constantly rebellious, often awkward, activist, philanthropist, loving his city of Oaxaca but also mocking its inhabitants, the latter began to appreciate folklore only because it became fashionable. For many years Toledo was the most famous living contemporary Mexican artist, whose works intertwined with Mexican folklore and work of twentieth-century European artists Paul Klee and Juan Miro and the earthman Rufino Tamayo. However, due to the pandemic, the museums were closed, so I carried the dream into the future. On the last day, wandering the colorful streets of the city, the eyes caught behind the familiar surnames - Toledo. Rufino. Nieto. "Abierto" - Open but the door locked. A woman emerging from somewhere opened the door and invited her to come in. Myrele Kuri not only showed all the islets in the gallery, but also told stories related to the works. All works are sold in the gallery, so it will be exhibited until someone buys them.
Of particular interest was one of Myrel’s stories, perhaps because of the relevance of the topic and its links to today’s issues. True, this story is not about the artist, he only illustrated it, but his wife Natalia told in poems in the children's book "Silent Death".
There was a time when no one on earth died. All living creatures were constantly multiplying, and space began to run short of space. Then Death decided to make an order: every living creature had to duel with it - jump over a rope. Being immortal, death won every time. So gradually every living thing learned what death is. The first challenge was thrown to a man. After defeating him, Death took his leather shoes and while wearing them continued to jump with all living creatures until they all died of exhaustion. The toad, the monkey, the iguana, the coyote, the rabbit, the crocodile, and everyone else had to face a duel with Death.
When death thought he had got rid of all, he noticed the grasshopper: "- Hey you, comida oaxaquenos, now I'll jump with you!"
( "Comida oaxacenos" - Oaxaca's people's food; grasshoppers in those areas - a common source of protein)
The both jump one day, two, three; all ten have passed away, and the grasshopper is still alive and well. And then Death noticed that the grasshopper had outwitted her: while she was jumping, he was just squatting on a rope. She was angry to death, took off her shoes and threw them into the grasshopper. And since then it is said that when death comes, no one hears it. Death has become an inevitable part of life, coming whenever she wants, without warning and yet, after losing her shoes, very quietly and unnoticed. It does not discriminate against anyone: neither animals nor humans, and at the same time she protects the earth from all of us 🙂 This Zapotec legend, with which most Zapotec children grow up, telling the story how the earth created death to protect itself from immortal animals and humans, was dressed in poetic clothes by Natalia Toledo, who grew up with it as well as her husband, one of the most famous modern Mexican artists Francisco Toledo, who illustrated the book. "I wrote this story based on engravings by the artist Francisco Toledo. The engravings depict a death jumping over a rope in Tehuantepece, where both me and Francisco were born. ".
Although Natalia Toledo wrote the book in her native language, Zapotec, it has been translated into English and Spanish: