PechaKucha Included an Intimate Conversation with 80 Strangers

“The Art of Death as Part of Life and Beyond,” a PechaKucha Night held March 1 at Rogue Buddha Gallery, brought people of all ages, genders, orientations and ethnicities into the same room, said one observer.

At this joint event a series of fast-paced presentations of images was followed, after a break, by Death Café Twin Cities, a format in which people explore death-related topics in groups of eight to ten. About 40 people of the 80 in attendance for the PechaKucha stayed for the Death Café, which seeks to embrace and honor death as a part of life.

“It’s not a grief group,” said Christin Ament, organizer, “If you are actively grieving I can give you resources for that.” (For DCTC future meetings, see https://www.facebook.com/DeathCafeTwinCities/)

Artists’ presentations discussed how their work was shaped by death and dying close to them as adults or in their youth, and the complexities of relationships pre- and post-mortem.

Gustavo Lira shared traditions of Mexico around Dia de los Muertos (Day of the Dead). It is not a day of sadness, but of celebration as it’s believed that loved ones awaken and celebrate with the living. Ofrendas, or altars, include food, drink and photographs.

Nikki Tundel, who photographs objects that people leave at grave sites, commented on how, in some eyes for example, children who die are perceived as staying the same age forever, as demonstrated by toys or dolls left for them. Others are celebrated on their birthdays with age-appropriate items, celebratory drinks or poems — common to all ages of the deceased.

These items represent the living family’s and friends’ feelings about the individual, and go beyond the obligatory or usual commercially-available tributes.

Common conversation starters in the discussion groups were “what brought you here, and what are your questions?” People then (at least in one of the groups) talked about items or sounds that trigger memories of a person and help heal loss. And there was more than occasional laughter upon sharing fond memories and the discovery of commonality with otherwise strangers.

Watch this space for other PechaKucha events on various topics, approximately quarterly, sponsored by the Northeast Minneapolis Arts District’s HATCH committee. Not esoteric salons, these are energizing events, accessible to anyone.