Mexican Art took centre stage in the children's activities programme at the 33rd Sharjah International Book Fair. During three workshops conducted by Mexican artists, children got the chance to create a piñata and paint imaginary animal sculptures made out of seeds and on special Mexican paper.
In her 'Papel Amate' workshop, Laura Orozco gave children Amate, a special Mexican form of paper akin to the Egyptian papyrus. Traditionally, the paper is made out of tree bark that is boiled for hours, softened, and then the fibres are mashed and flattened out before being left to dry, explained Laura. "During the times of the Aztec, that paper was used to write things on, for paintings, to document daily life in Mexico and even as clothing material," she explained.
In her workshop at the SIBF, children were given bright acrylic paints and were asked to paint Mexican drawings that were already outlined on the paper.
During another workshop, Laura's sister and her business partner in Mexico, Teresa Orozco, taught children about Alebrijes that stems from Oaxacan- Mexican art. The brightly painted animal sculptures are characterised by their fantastical nature – usually involving the merging of different parts of different animals together. "I first introduced the children to the concept of that form of art, showing them illustrations of the heads and bodies of different animals merged together," said Teresa.
Traditionally in Mexico, Alebrijes is usually made out of paper mache or wood. "However, here, for logistical reasons, I created miniature versions of these sculptures using a large seed and the animals had a moving head which children loved," said Teresa. She showed the children how the Alebrijes are painted using contrasting bright colours and dots and then the children used their imagination to create similar work to take away with them.
The third workshop on Mexican art featured Mexican artist Edith Ramirez who taught children how to decorate the famous piñatas. At Mexican-themed parties, piñata donkeys are stuffed with candy and beaten with a stick till they break and people get the candy reward. During the workshop, however, the piñata was star-shaped. "It was great that the children knew what piñatas were and they were quite interactive too. They were also all eagerly waiting for the candy," said Edith, adding that she made sure their piñatas were stuffed with Mexican candies, made out of milk and tamarind.