Rebeca Méndez

Ascent of Weavers in Los Angeles Latino International Film Festival (LALIFF) (2019-08-07)


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Ascent of Weavers is a 3-channel video installation that was commissioned by the Museum of Contemporary Art in Oaxaca, Mexico. The curators paired 12 artists from Los Angeles and New York with 12 artisans from Oaxaca to collaborate in the creation of a work of art to be acquired by the museum and to be shown at the museum in the exhibition Bajo La Bóveda Azul Cobalto (Under the Cobalt Blue Sky) from October 2018 to May 2019.

My collaborators were the Hernandez Quero family who are weavers of Zapotec descent from Mitla, home to the most important prehispanic religious center of the Zapotec culture known as the city of the dead. The name Mitla is derived from the Nahuatl name Mictlán, the underworld of Aztec mythology.

I researched the history and culture of the Zapotec, of Mitla and weaving, and got to know the family through spending several weeks of conversation, meals together and healing ceremonies performed by one family member, Gildardo, who is also the keeper of knowledge of the family and of Mitla. Mitla has long relied on Gildardo’s oral tradition to preserve a record of the past.

I proposed a film project focused on an indigenous cultural story of transformation and for the healing of the earth.

Gildardo, a poet and healer, would focus on adapting his individual healing ceremony to the healing ceremony for the earth.

Back home here in Los Angeles we came across a research paper by a mexican ethnographer, Professor Damian Gonzalez Perez called “Women Weavers, Warrior Goddesses: Textile Tradition in the Zapotec Region of Southern Oaxaca.”

In Zapotec mythology there are various accounts of women weavers represented as warrior goddesses. In the Codex Borgia or Codex Yoalli Ehēcatl, Mesoamerican ritual and divinatory manuscript, there is a depiction of the weaving goddess Tlazolteotl which became the base for my representation of the warrior goddess.

My other characters were based on the directions of human life in pre-Hispanic Zapotec civilization. I personified the cycles of the sun, the heavens and the underworld.

We set out to conduct interviews so that through oral history, the culture, traditions, knowledge of Mitla and the family would be preserved.

The formal description of the film is:

For a world facing social and environmental crises, Ascent of Weavers is a call for awakening and action for collective healing of the earth. Entities of white, red, blue, and black embody cycles of the sun, the heavens, and the underworld and directions of human life in pre-Hispanic Zapotec civilization. The entities undertake a journey into Mictlan (Lyobaa in Zapotec)—the underworld of the Mixtec mythology—aided by Xolotl (a canine god), who leads them through the underworld’s nine levels. Here they are challenged by piercing winds and crushing mountains, finally crossing rivers of blood to emerge as goddesses of weaving (Tlazolteotl, or Nohuichana in Zapotec)—warriors leading us to a more just, equitable, and sustainable relationship with our planet.

Director: Rebeca Méndez
Cast: Evelyn Méndez Maldonado, Gildardo Hernández Quero, Rodrigo Hernández Quero, Reina García Martínez, Liliana Hernández García, Mariana Juárez Contreras; Alexa Guadalupe Martínez Santiago
Cinematographer: Gabriel Noguez
Music Composer: Drew Schnurr
Editors: Addie Liang, Logan and Gabriel Noguez
Colorist: Eric DeHeaven, Logan
Foley Sound: Dale Strumpell
Post Producer: J.R. Tuang, Logan
Installation System Designer: Carlos Garcia
Research and Production: Maru García
Assistant Designer: Angaea Cuna
Sound Assistant: Juan Robles
Editor Assistant: Juan Carlos Santibañes Miguel

A Rebeca Méndez Studio and MACO production

MACO Staff:
Cecilia Mingüer, Director; Guadalupe Cortes, Exhibitions Coordinator; Oscar Montaño Aragón, Administrative Assistant, Enrique Olvaldo Maldonado, Driver.

Special thanks to:
Cecilia Mingüer, MACO; Marietta Bernstorff, MACO; Gabriel Noguez and Jesse Chorng, Ceremony, NY; Brian Collins, Collins; Alexei Tylevich, Logan, LA; Christina De León, Cooper-Hewitt National Design Museum; José Luis Noria, Museo de las Culturas de Oaxaca; Mitla Archaeological Site Staff.

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