In Chumatlán, Veracruz, México a 4.5m high totem was carved from a single tree during a ceremony to thank it for giving its life. The head of a man and the wings of an eagle were sculpted into the cedar wood, the chiselled lines imprinting a message that would stretch 9000km from Mexico to London.
Commissioned by Border Crossings' ORIGINS Festival, and carved by Indigenous Totonac artist Jun Tiburcio, TOTEM LATAMAT is a messenger sent by the Totonac people. "Latamat" means "life" in Tutunakú, and the totem is expressive of Totonac spiritual ideas as they relate to the environment. It emphasises how deeply our existence is interwoven with nature, calls attention to the damage being done to the seas, the land and the air, and insists that we cannot ignore this destruction any longer.
TOTEM LATAMAT travelled to the UK by ship and toured important cultural hubs, drawing powerful links between Indigenous experience and local heritage. The totem finally arrived in Glasgow for the 2021 United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP26).
Following COP26 it was ceremonially returned to the Earth in Dumfries, emphasising the cyclical and transient nature of life and art.
The film of TOTEM LATAMAT's journey premiered on 21st January 2022, and is available on this page.
1st – 5th October 2021 Chiswick House
5th -11th October 2021 Milton Keynes Station Square
11th – 14th October 2021 Fountain Square, Enfield Town
14th– 18th October 2021 Warwick Arts Centre
18th – 21st October 2021 Rollright Stones, Oxfordshire
21st – 24th October 2021 Manchester Museum, University of Manchester
24th – 27th October 2021 Hexham Abbey
27th October – 14th November 2021 The Hidden Gardens, Glasgow
From 15th November 2021 The Crichton, Dumfries
TOTEM LATAMAT was co-presented by Centro de las Artes Indígenas with the support of The Open University and the Embassy of Mexico. Supported by Arts Council England as part of ORIGINS 2021-22.