Thursday, September 30, 2021

The Coming of Totem Latamat

The story began back in  March, when we first approached Jun Tiburcio to make the totem. It was clear that this year's ORIGINS was not going to be the same as previous editions, with travel and audience gathering so uncertain. Indigenous people had been particularly badly hit by the pandemic, and this fact was also affecting the other great concern of 2021, the Cop26 summit on Climate Change.  As Greta Thunberg pointed out, vaccination inequality compounds existing divisions between rich and poor, effectively excluding Indigenous voices from the crucial debates in November. As a UK-based organisation working with Indigenous cultures, we felt a deep need to find another way in which their environmental ideas and agendas could be brought to the world's attention. TOTEM LATAMAT is the answer.

Accompanied by a ceremony to give thanks for the life that was being offered, a single tree was felled by Jun and other men from his village back in June. He carved it over many weeks, working with the entire community to shape the tree, to sculpt its intricate designs, to paint it in the magnificent, sun-kissed colours of Mexico. TOTEM LATAMAT is the work of a great artist - and it is also the work of his Totonac village community.

By early August, the totem was ready to move to Veracruz for shipping. It's not a simple matter... but we really couldn't send this by plane: the whole project has to be as environmentally positive as possible. We needed export licences and we're still doing import paperwork. The totem turned out too be too big for the 20 foot shipping container we had booked, so we had to get a bigger one. Then the queue of goods for the ship proved too long, and there was a two week delay before it could be loaded onto the next ship. Finally, on 7th September, it was able to begin its sea crossing.  

The ship stopped in Houston, and then Le Havre. Mid-Atlantic there was another delay that meant the ceremony of welcome had to be put back. Just this morning we heard the departure from Le Havre was 9 hours late, which means the ship will be unloaded overnight tonight at London Gateway. Then it's a question of how long it takes to get through customs. The shippers will drive it across London to Chiswick House, and at last we will meet TOTEM LATAMAT, for the beginning of the UK journey.  

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