Dia de los Muertos began its celebrations at UVU on Nov. 1 with the unveiling of a beautiful ofrenda created by the local artist Mika Rane in the Bingham Gallery. The event, which had more than 200 people in attendance, was accompanied by music, speakers, and food.
It began at the Fulton Library quad where participants gathered and were given battery powered candles to carry to the ofrenda. They formed a procession with a youth mariachi band called Mariachi Fuego performing as they entered the Bingham Gallery. Participants were then invited to approach the ofrenda and lay their candles upon it as a way to memorialize their ancestors.
The ofrenda was a beautiful display that captured the spirit of the festivities. Ofrendas are memorials for those who have passed away. Photos are used to dedicate it to specific individuals. Rane chose several historically significant figures from Mexican history as well as her own grandparents for this ofrenda.
Other elements of the ofrenda included sugar skulls and Paper Mache art. An incense called copal was used to create a liminal space to connect to the dead. Other objects significant to the departed, such as favorite foods, were further used to connect with them. Marigold flowers also played a significant role. Rane explained, “They have this beautiful orange color and gorgeous smell. It guides and helps bring the souls to recognize where the altar is.”
Two life-sized skeletons were featured at the foot of the ofrenda, one painted red and the other blue. Their frames were made from sticks and the skulls from paper. The skeletons were self-portraits of Rane and her husband. Hers was red to symbolize her love for watermelon and his was blue to symbolize his love for fishing and swimming.
The creation of ofrendas is important to Dia de los Muertos because they function to connect to one’s ancestors. Rane explained, “Dia de los Muertos is a…reunion with them [one’s ancestors].” She went on to say, “It feels so special and dear to me that I can celebrate my family in this way.”
Rane unquestionably captured the essence of the festivities with her beautiful ofrenda. The installation created an inviting space that allowed anyone to connect with their heritage, fostering a sense of companionship and intimacy.
After Rane explained the ofrenda, Fernando Gomez, the founder of the Museum of Mormon Mexican History, spoke on the importance of doing family history work. He said, “More important than the Day of the Dead, we need to write down and collect pictures, documents, anything that will tell us a little bit of history.” He also challenged everyone to leave records of their own behind by saying, “We need to leave something behind that we tell them [our children] what our challenges and trials were and how we were able to overcome certain periods of our lives.”
The event concluded with food being provided for the participants. While they ate, they were able to enjoy a performance by Chac Xol, a Mexican American folk musician that seeks to use music to connect to his heritage. It was a wonderful way to wrap up the event as everyone was left with the powerful message of how they can continue to reflect on their own heritage.
UVU will continue to celebrate Dia de los Muertos with other activities. Check out the Review’s article on the events to learn more about how you can participate. In the meantime, be sure to visit Rane’s ofrenda in the Bingham Gallery at the Fulton Library. It will be removed with another celebratory event at the Bingham Gallery on Nov. 6 from 5:30 p.m. to 6:30 p.m.