By Jose Tobar
- Jose Tobar
Papier mache is a very popular art form in Ecuador where it's practice is linked to rituals, myths and to get a fresh start on the arrival of a New Year.
In this small South American country located in the middle of the world, the art of papier mache is a popular practice, especially on New Years Eve. Manufactured at homes as well as streets and sidewalks, it has also become a form of family support in this particular holiday season.
A rite to forget all bad experiences of the year that's about to end
As a popular rite, on December 31st in Ecuador, it's usual to see people burning to ashes a papier mache doll named "Old Year's Stooge." It's entirely built in effigy and sometimes dressed in old clothes. Burning it is considered a sort of lucky charm, a way to erase the bad energies of the past and to forget bad memories, or to take out any devils or any other negative impact of the year that's ending with what is popularly called a "clean". Many people take the opportunity to "burn" politicians as well as famous local characters; all of this happens on December 31st at 12:00 pm.
Business, parties and popular street celebration
In the last days of the year one can see how people make and give paint finishes to their papier mache creations, on the street where they plan to sell them. Throughout the city you can see several sites where they are expended in full body or only as masks. The bestsellers characters are certainly the President, politicians in general, clowns, demons, heroes, comic characters and even Bart Simpson is available for a price ranging between $15 and $200 U.S. dollars.
Papier mache "Old year stooges" with their partners, flesh and bone "widows"
People's creativity explodes onto the streets and neighbourhoods, where families and friends present their creations in small improvised scenarios. The rite is to burn the "Old Year Stooge" that represents the year thats ending, accompanied by it's partner that is a "widow". This is a man dressed up as woman that weeps for their old papier mache doll that's going to be burned at midnight. In doing so, earning themselves a small tip at the same time by putting up a particular show that entertains lots of people that are looking forward to seeing them.
Some display their "Old year Stooges" hung in front of cars or bikes throughout the city. It's also very common to see young people showing scenarios with monsters or robots deploying popular colours, music, art and fun to get ready for the arrival of the New Year. At this time the technique of papier mache is exploited at its best. This latin spirited ritual happens on the last day of the year, in the middle of the world.