Sawdust Carpets Coat Guatemalan Streets

ARTS

Colorful sawdust carpets coat the streets of Guatemala’s cities during their iconic Easter Holy Week processions. This year, the country has a new reason to celebrate—it has been recognized by Guinness World Records for producing the longest sawdust carpet in the world. (Daily Mail—be sure to look at the gorgeous photos!)

What other “ephemeral art” can you find in our collections?

"Sawdust carpets," like this one in the historic city of Antigua, line city streets in Guatemala each year during Holy Week, the week that precedes the Christian festival of Easter. Artists use wooden stencils to create the intricate designs. The designs themselves use fine, colored sawdust. Religious processions then pass through the carpeted streets, reducing the work to dusty memories. Photograph by Joe Scherschel, National Geographic

“Sawdust carpets,” like this one in the historic city of Antigua, line city streets in Guatemala each year during Holy Week, the week that precedes the Christian festival of Easter. Artists use wooden stencils to create the intricate designs. The designs themselves use fine, colored sawdust. Religious processions then pass through the carpeted streets, quickly reducing the work to dusty memories.
Photograph by Joe Scherschel, National Geographic

Discussion Ideas

  • The beautiful “sawdust carpets” that line the streets of Guatemala every year are part of a tradition of “ephemeral art” shared by many cultures around the world. Why do you think sawdust carpets are considered “ephemeral“?
    • Ephemeral (ee-FEH-mur-ul) simply means it doesn’t last very long. Although Guatemala’s sawdust carpets take months to design and execute, it takes only minutes for them to be (happily! reverently!) destroyed by the shuffling feet of participants in religious processions.

 

 

  • Which types of “ephemeral art” are different from sawdust carpets?
    • Here are a few examples—again, click on the links!!
      • ikebana is the Japanese art of flower arranging, which lasts as long as the flowers can be kept fresh.
      • leis are the traditional flower necklace of Hawaii.
      • even the most beautiful ice sculptures melt . . . butter sculptures, too
      • dance is an entirely ephemeral art, although it can be captured by film (thank goodness!). Here are some gorgeous, diverse examples of the ephemeral art of dance—hula, ballet, and contemporary (click on “The Radio Show” or “Pavement” for videos).
      • like dance, music can be an ephemeral art. Check out our “Geography of Jazz” GeoStory to see how we tried to capture this elusive genre.

Thanks to Elizabeth, one of our favorite instructional designers—and native Guatemalan—for this seasonal current-event connection!

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