Open Seminars

Centre for Myth Studies & ESCALA

Special Event

University of Essex

Thursday 23 June, at 12:00 in Room CB.21

Journeys to Mictlan and Xibalba: an introduction to the Aztec and Maya afterlife through art

Dr. Joanne Harwood (University of Essex)


Rufino Tamayo (1899-1991), Figura Prehispánica VIII. Vaso zoomorfo, Colima (Prehispanic Figure VIII. Zoomorphic vase, Colima), 1976 © the artist, image © ESCALA

In this object-based session we will introduce Aztec and Maya beliefs about the afterlife through artworks in the Essex Collection of Art from Latin America (ESCALA). ESCALA is a unique research and teaching collection at the University of Essex housed in a purpose-designed space in the Constable Buildings. The Collection includes a number of artworks that relate to pre-Columbian and indigenous beliefs and myths; a legacy of Professor Emeritus Gordon Brotherston’s world-renowned expertise in pictorial indigenous American literatures. Some of them, including those listed below, are inspired by Aztec and Maya traditions and art, and specifically the role of the underworld (Mictlan for the Aztecs and Xibalba for the Maya) in cosmogony and the birth of humans. As Mary Miller and Karl Taube have noted, ‘In Mesoamerican thought death was closely integrated into the world of the living’ and life and death were believed ‘to exist in dynamic and complementary opposition’ (1997: 74). This is evident in almost every aspect of Aztec and Maya thought and culture, and the legacies of the integration of death into the world of the living apparent in Mexico’s contemporary Day of the Dead celebrations.

See the list of recommended and additional readings

Dr Joanne Harwood is Director of ESCALA (Essex Collection of Art from Latin America)

The event will be followed by drinks





See the Seminars Archive page for past events


One Response to Open Seminars

  1. Pingback: Thursday 26 November: Junot Díaz and a Graeco-Caribbean Mythology | Essex Myth

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