WILL FOCUS ON NATIVE LEGENDS
Growing up in the Central American nation of Belize, Dismas Lizarraga
and Griselda Ramirez recall the warnings of their elders.
Dont go too
deep into the forest or Tata Duende may play some mischief
on you. Beware of Xtabai, the beautiful woman who seduces men and
then lures them into tragedy.
would sit down with us at night and they would tell us these stories,"
said Ramirez. Lizarraga added, "The older generation people know
the tales. Theres not a set story for each character. Everybody
has their own interpretation but most are scary in some way."
Now, the two Mission
College students are bringing to life the creatures they once feared as
Early next year, Lizarraga and Ramirez who refer to themselves
professionally as Dismas and GrissyG will lead an exhibition of
their work through the six major regions of Belize. "The Legends
of Belize" will focus on the myths of their homeland, as researched
by the two young art students. Their work will also serve as required
projects for their advanced art class with instructor Barbara Kerwin.
Dismas and GrissyG have long been interested in the myths as a motif for
their artwork. During a visit to their native Belize last summer, they
had an opportunity to propose the "Legends of Belize" series
to the president of Belizes National Institute of Culture and History.
The official was intrigued and agreed that the works would be exhibited
GrissyG and Dismas
began researching the legends. They found some information in books. But
most came from the tales told by relatives.
is the most famous," said GrissyG. "Shes basically a female
ghost who seduces drunken men and theyre either found or not found."
GrissyG said a family story holds that one of her great uncles was swept
off a dance floor by a beautiful young woman. The two disappeared for
hours until his friends found him dumbstruck and crying by the side of
convinced it was the Xtabai," she said. "His family had
to stay by his side for two weeks because he was afraid she would come
back for him."
Dismas said his grandparents would tell him stories about Tata Duende.
"Hes a spirit that lives in the jungles of Belize and can manipulate
the jungle to protect it," he recalled. "Like if poachers are
killing too many animals, hell send a porcupine to attack them.
Or, hell attack them himself."
Lizarraga and Ramirez
said that nearly every family they know can tell of at least one relatives
personal encounter with Xtabai or Tata Duende. Still, theyre
skeptical. Both believe the legends especially those most frightening
to children were created to protect children.
"There are a
lot of wild animals in Belize," said Dismas. "I think some of
the legends were made up to keep children from wandering into the jungle
and getting lost or bitten by a snake."
With Belize now rapidly developing, Dismas and GrissyG fear that the myths
and legends may disappear as the country modernizes.
"Thats why weve really taken this project to heart,"
said GrissyG. "We want to preserve whats already being lost."
The rush is on to have the exhibit ready by January. The featured works
employ a wide range of materials, including metallic and acrylic paints,
gel mediums, wire, and sculpey. Dismas and GrissyG are confident they
will have the collection ready in time. They work well together, often
finishing one anothers thoughts. Their partnership is both artistic
and romantic. And although both were born and raised in the same town
in Belize, they had to travel thousands of miles before they met. They
did not meet until both came to the U.S., 10 years apart. After meeting,
they discovered they have many mutual friends and relations in the homeland.
"Her aunt was my Moms best friend when they were younger. And
my uncle hes a doctor in Belize actually delivered
Grissy as a baby," said Dismas.
The fact that they both emigrated to Los Angeles, wound up at the same
community college, and, in fact, in the same art class (where they
met) seems to suggest they were destined for one another.
Quite a story. Its the stuff that legends are made of.
Dismas/GrissyG Collection of Works
BY EDUARDO PARDO