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The word tzompantli or tzompantle comes from the Náhuatl (Aztec) language and means skull rack or scaffold of skulls. In different Mesoamerican cultures, skulls from the sacrificed were placed in wood racks to keep the gods satisfied. For the Aztecs, sacrifices had a sacred purpose; they helped to keep the sun in the sky, and with it, preserve life. The Tzompantlí Skull is Mexican artist, Omar Hernández’s most representative piece, showing how the ancient cultures of Mexico view death. Everything has a cycle, and when your body stops working, you don’t die but rather transform to become part of the universe around you. Death exists to give life. Today, Oaxacans and Mexicans see happiness and joy alongside death and mourning. People still fear death, but they reflect on it and remember their loved ones with celebration. This celebration, when the souls of the dead come back to share a single day with the living is called, “Day of the Dead.” Materials and technique This detailed skull is made using the pastillage technique, which consists in placing small skulls on fresh clay, where once dry, it is put in the oven for the first bake and then painted with organic pigments and put back into the oven to color. The artist’s selection of Fine white and Oaxaca’s Donaji clay make each skull a true masterpiece. Omar uses natural pigments from soil minerals and oxides (copper and manganese) to decorate each piece. He finds these in the different types of soil near his house in the Central Valley of Oaxaca and in the Mixtec Region on his routine walks. He says, “Sometimes I stop in the highway to collect a bit of soil when I see a beautiful color. We just find each other on the way!” Made in Oaxaca, México Limited edition of 30 skulls.
H 17 cm x W 15 cm x D 23 cm
H 6.7 in x W 5.9 in x D 9.1 in
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