Campus News

School of Human Ecology celebrates Day of the Dead

Professor Kallenborn remembers her time in Mexico fondly as she aims to bring a piece of their culture to UW-Madison. 

Professor Kallenborn remembers her time in Mexico fondly as she aims to bring a piece of their culture to UW-Madison. 

Image By: Will Cioci

Students, faculty and community members participated Friday in the sixth annual Day of the Dead celebration in Nancy Nicholas Hall.

“The Community Altar Project and the Day of the Dead are at the intersection of art, culture and the deeply human and unifying experience of death and remembrance which very much falls in line with a Human Ecology perspective,” Kallenborn said. 

The event was co-sponsored by the Latin American Caribbean and Iberian Studies Program and coordinated by Professor Carolyn Kallenborn — who started the Community Altar Project six years ago with David Wells, the curator at Edgewood College.

“It is a festival filled with flowers, music, food, art, friends and family as people set aside time to remember loved ones who have gone,” Kallenborn said. 

The project expanded to the School of Human Ecology in 2016, which Kallenborn called “a fitting place” for the Day of the Dead event and the Community Altars Project.

“This participatory art project invites anyone in the community to take part in in the thoughtful, often very touching, process of creating a public altar of remembrance for people who have passed,” Kallenborn said. “The project is designed to help us build bridges between the individual and the community, life and death, sorrow and celebration.”

Kallenborn fondly remembers her experience of many Day of the Dead celebrations during her time researching in Mexico, dedicating her appreciation to a friend of hers from Oaxaca, Mexico.

“A friend of mine from a small village in Oaxaca once said to me ‘For some reason, the All Powerful One allows our dead loved ones to come back one day a year. So we throw them a party,’” Kallenborn said. “And when you think of it that way, having parties in the graveyard or setting your grandpa’s favorite food and drinks and books out an altar for him, makes total sense.”

This inspired her to carry on the tradition at UW-Madison. Yet, she wishes that many could one day experience the celebration in Mexico, she hopes to bring a semblance of the Day of the Dead at the university.

“I wish I could bring everyone I knew to Mexico to experience Day of the Dead there. But I can’t. So I do what I can to create, here in Madison, a sense of what it feels like,” Kallenborn said.

The Community Altars Project will be on display in Nancy Nicholas Hall until Nov. 15. 

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