First Food Art Residency organised the exhibition “Cactus & Creatures”, hosted by The Koppel Project in London, from the 6 of October to the 4 of November 2017. There were artworks from 19 Mexican and British artists and I participated with a series of sketches about cactus.
I used these sketches as a guide to create a clay sculpture, La ofrenda de Copil (Copil’s Offering). The design arose from the notion of the heart as a symbol of sacrifice in the Mexica’s world view, an organ usually referred to as quauhnochtli, Nahuatl word meaning “sacred tuna” – Tuna or prickly pear was considered a divine food. Therefore, the idea of a heart-tuna reminded me of Mexico City’s foundation, which is linked to sacrifice and offering.
According to the myth, Malinalxochitl, god Huitzilopochtli’s sister, was abandoned by him and the Mexicas during their pilgrimage looking for the destined site to establish a great city: Huitzilopochtli had said the place would be where an eagle eating a snake perched on a cactus was found. So Malinalxochitl took shelter in Malinalco and gave birth to Copil, to whom hatred against Huitzilopochtli was instilled by her. Some time afterwards, in revenge for her mother’s suffering, Copil conspired to defeat his uncle in battle. However, Huitzilopochtli anticipated the events and ordered his priests to capture Copil, extract the heart from his body and throw it into the lake; the heart was turned into stone and a nopal cactus blossomed from it. Such nopal cactus, along with the eagle and the snake, was the one found by Mexicas and where Mexico-Tenochtitlan was built.
The heart was considered the centre of life and the organ of individual consciousness by different Mesoamerican cultures. Mexicas offered the heart and blood from sacrificed bodies to their deities to keep the stars movement unalterable.
During human sacrifice the priest extracted the heart with his hands thus allowing the divine from the sacrificed body to raise.
In Mexica’s world view men kept the stars movement, especially the sun’s, through human sacrifice giving them the necessary energy with blood and hearts. In this way, an interdependence relationship between deities and men is created: men exist because of their gods but the gods need men to survive. Reciprocally, the nopal cactus grows up from a sacrificed deity’s heart, allowing the birth of a city for people’s subsistence.
Complete design of the sculpture: priest’s hand holding Copil’s heart with a nopal cactus growing up from it.