This candle holder from Mexico is used during the Days of the Dead. The skull imagery is typical of objects associated with the celebration. Candles are an important element of the ofrenda, or altar, set up to honor deceased relatives and ancestors. Four candles are placed on the top level of the altar signifying the four cardinal directions. The light from these candles illuminates the way for the returning spirits of the ancestors. One candle for each deceased family member is located elsewhere on the ofrenda. One extra candle burns so that no one will be forgotten. This object is on display in the Días de los Muertos (Days of the Dead) exhibit.
September 4th, 2012 | Artifacts
This hand-painted sign from the Democratic Republic of the Congo (formerly Zaire) is an advertisement for a barbershop. In the DRC, barber shops are an important forum not only for aesthetics, but also for socialization. Some urban areas have up to 1,000 barbershops. For displaced peoples inside the DRC, impromptu barbershops provide a sense of normalcy and an arena to express one’s individuality. In recent years, however, barbershops have become sites of contention between rival political parties.
July 27th, 2012 | Artifacts
A hagoita or battledore is a rectangular board similar to a large ping-pong racket that is used to play a traditional Japanese New Year game called hanetsuki where shuttlecocks are hit back and forth with the paddles. This object, however, is not for practical use, rather it is a good-luck charm used for decoration. An image of an elaborately dressed young woman representing the New Year appears on the front of the battledore. In a tradition dating back to the Edo Period (1615-1868), the Battledore Fair, or Hagoita-Ichi, is held each year at the Senso-ji Temple in Tokyo with numerous open-air stalls selling hagoita, shuttlecocks, kites, and other New Year decorations.
July 2nd, 2012 | Artifacts
This 21st century painting shows the Catholic icon Our Lady of Guadalupe with a Mexican flag and a red bandana covering her face. The Virgin of Guadalupe is often used as a unifying symbol for Mexicans. In this image, the bandana over her face symbolizes the Zapatista Army of National Liberation, a revolutionary group based in the state of Chiapas, and the painting serves as a piece of political propaganda.
May 7th, 2012 | Artifacts
This silk hat in the shape of a tiger is representative of a traditional Q’ing Chinese form of head covering. The hat is designed to protect a male child from evil spirits that may wish to harm him.