Day of the Dead coming to Ballarat

Día de los Muertos: Sally Myers, 3, and Catherine Toro, a Chilean member of Ballarat Spanish-speaking network, reflect on the celebrations involved in the Day of the Dead at the Ballarat Mining Exchange. Picture: Lachlan Bence.

Día de los Muertos: Sally Myers, 3, and Catherine Toro, a Chilean member of Ballarat Spanish-speaking network, reflect on the celebrations involved in the Day of the Dead at the Ballarat Mining Exchange. Picture: Lachlan Bence.

A room full of screaming, running skeletal faces sounds like a horror movie, but it was rather a youthful celebration of the upcoming Dia de los Muertos, the Day of the Dead.

Ballarat students flocked intro the Mining Exchange to join in a Mexican Spirit Hunt, an activity devised by Leonardo Castaneda of MexVic, Victoria’s social and cultural organisation for Victoria’s Mexican community.

Four local artists including Deanne Gilson trained with Castaneda to learn the significance of the Day of Dead in Mexico, and are sharing that knowledge with the students.

The children had their faces painted and built tiny altars called ofrendas before stalking their forebears’ spirits around the historic interior of the exchange.

“The ofrendas are tiny altars composed of offerings to the dead,” said Ms Gilson.

Gallery spokesman Peter Freund said that the response to the workshop had been sensational.

“We expected a good response, but all four of these workshops are totally booked out.

“This project has been an outcome of the relationship we have built with MexVic, which will culminate in a big Dia de los Muertos celebration on 4 November.

“It’s amazing how Mexicans use the Day of the Dead to keep remembrance of dead loved ones alive in a very real and celebratory way – it’s not an empty, spooky thing like Halloween has become.” 

The workshops are an outcome of the Art Gallery of Ballarat exhibition Romancing the Skull, which opens on 14 October. Dia de los Muertos in Ballarat takes place on November 4.