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Mexico Pavilion ropes in Pepe Soho and Betsabeé Romero for stunning exhibition at Expo 2020 Dubai

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mexico pavilion expo 2020
Situated in the Mobility District, Mexico Pavilion houses an immersive exhibition by renowned photographer Pepe Soho Image Credit: Supplied

Dubai: Mexico is marking its participation with a very special pavilion at Expo 2020 Dubai – one that parades the heartfelt motto of ‘Tejiendo Vidas’. Bernardo Noval, Director of the Mexico Pavilion, translates this theme to ‘Weaving Lives’ in an interview with Gulf News.

“For this Expo, we decided to empower the female artisans of Mexico,” said Noval. “A community of women from the state of Jalisco was in charge of weaving the beautiful façade of the pavilion.”

For this Expo, we decided to empower the female artisans of Mexico. A community of women from the state of Jalisco was in charge of weaving the beautiful façade of the pavilion.

– Bernardo Noval, Director of the Mexico Pavilion

Covering the three-storey building are colourful handwoven strips of the raffia fibre, sourced from the leaves of the same palm tree. The strips run diagonally across the pavilion in shades of orange, green, blue, red and yellow, depicting the Latin American country as “full of culture and colour”.

Visual artist Betsabeé Romero is behind the vibrant displays seen within and on the building, which were inspired by the ancient civilisations of Maya and Aztec.

mexico pavilion expo 2020
Facade of the Mexico Pavilion woven by the female artisans of Jalisco. Image Credit: Supplied

Monarch butterfly, symbol of mobility

Another symbol Noval repeatedly highlights is the monarch butterfly, a migratory species that attests to Mexico’s location in the Mobility District. Known for their bright orange and black wings, the butterflies hold a significant place in the Mexican culture, often sighted arriving from their yearly migration during Día de Muertos or Day of the Dead festival.

The monarch butterfly symbolism ties in with the major mobility projects that the country is currently developing. One of them is Tren Maya, an intercity railway connecting vulnerable low-income areas in the south of Mexico.

day of the dead mexico
Woman dressed as a monarch butterfly for Día de Muertos. Picture used for illustrative purposes only Image Credit: Flickr/Joey zanotti

“The name of the pavilion is very important, not only because we are giving life to many people in vulnerable situations but [also because] we are giving life to our country in the middle of the pandemic,” added Noval.

Pepe Soho’s biodiversity spectacle

Once the visitors step inside the pavilion, they are met with massive screens and scents evoking the natural landscapes and flowers of Mexico. For this immersive introductory experience, Noval enlisted the help of renowned nature photographer Pepe Soho.

“When you enter the pavilion, you will see a magical, mystical place [featuring] Mexican biodiversity, flora and fauna,” he said. “Soho created the experience with monarch butterflies, landscapes of Mexico and Mayan culture.”

mexico pavilion expo 2020
Immersive exhibition on ground floor of the pavilion with quincunx-shaped flowers on the walls. Image Credit: Supplied

The award-winning International Center of Photography graduate runs his own art museum in Mexico by the name of Mystika. At Expo expect to a new version of the museum, visuals taking you to ancient Mayan pyramids and giving you an insight into how the 4,000-year-old civilisation lived via wall-to-wall digital screens and mirrors. The exhibit is so immersive that Noval says it is a complete sensorial experience.

“There’s the smell, then you will see things, feel things and – of course – the music is gorgeous,” he added.

Floral scent adds to the recurring flower motif spotted throughout the pavilion journey. The walls of the ground floor are adorned with quincunx-shaped flowers as is the façade of the pavilion. Celebrating this Mesoamerican icon is vital, especially when majority of the flora grown in Mexico is plucked and used in festivals.

“We celebrate everything, even death. We think that part of our culture is flowers,” Noval said.

Honouring indigenous handicrafts

Handmade souvenirs for the taking can be found at a kiosk within the pavilion. Among those on sale, visitors will find black clay pottery native to Oaxaca, Mexico, traditionally made by artisans living in the highlands.

Noval lists ceramics, jewellery, handwoven baskets and rebozos as well, the latter a pashmina-like garment most famously worn by Frida Kahlo around the shoulders. Various items will represent the diverse states of the country.

Javier Camarena is coming to Dubai

While on its national day, November 10, 2021, Mexico will regale visitors with a taste of its Día de Muertos celebrations, there is another kicker in store. Mexican opera singer Javier Camarena will stun the Expo audience at Jubilee Stage with his acclaimed tenor, the very performer who received multiple encores at the Metropolitan Opera in New York.

javier camarena
Image Credit: Instagram/@tenorjaviercamarena

Ballet Folklórico de México, a folkloric ensemble developed by choreographer Amalia Hernández in 1952, will be seen as well. These performances can be enjoyed at all major venues of the Expo site, from Al Wasl Plaza to the Dubai Millennium Amphitheatre.

For those interested in the latest Mexican fashion trends, there is a fashion week planned from October 14 to October 19. The collection for the event has been drawn up by six different Mexican designers, and this will be seen on runways at the venues.

Catch Mexican events outside Expo

People in other emirates such as Abu Dhabi and Sharjah can also enjoy Mexico Pavilion’s cultural agenda, drawn up to extend beyond the physical Expo site. Noval said: “Our pavilion [spans] 900 square metres – it’s not a big pavilion, so we’re extending our participation to other emirates.”

mexico pavilion expo 2020
The second floor of the pavilion houses a mouthwatering Mexican restaurant. Image Credit: Supplied

Abu Dhabi’s Manarat Al Saadiyat will host an all-mix cultural exhibition on Mexico. In the capital city, visitors will also find workshops by native artisans set up in the House of Artisans at Qasr Al Hosn. Meanwhile, Sharjah’s House of Wisdom will introduce legendary painter Frida Kahlo to children. All external events are to take place in tandem with Expo 2020’s six-month run.

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