Felix Pestemer — Polvo: Der Staub der Ahnen / La Poussière des Aïeux / El polvo de los antepasados / The Dust of the Ancestors
This book has gone through two versions, and I had the pleasure of doing the English translations to both the original version, published as Day of the Dead in a limited edition of 400 copies in 2009 (ISBN 978-3-00-028080-1), as well as the expanded version published in 2011.
Over at Jitter Magazin, Andreas Rauth had the following to say about the book: "Felix Pestemer is a good narrator and an excellent colorist with a keen sense for details. Lavish compositions are his strength, the arrangement of material objects in particular. Building on profound research on the topic, the illustrator and author has succeeded in creating an autonomous docufiction full of empathy and irony — as well as, and not least of all, an extraordinary contribution to intercultural communication."
The plot of the book (to paraphrase the text at Pestemer's own website): While the Rojas family is preparing the Day of the Dead celebration in the cemetery, one branch of the family has already started to party — and in the midst of them: the little Benito, who recently died in a car accident. He's now one of the illustrious circle surrounding the Zapatista El Negro and the 170-year-old mask maker José Guadalupe Rojas: the dead of the family.
It's the time of the year when the living family members commemorate the deceased ones. As long as those living still keep doing this, the dead continue to exist — be it in heaven, in the afterlife, or in the crypt. Only when there is no one left to remember them do they finally fall to dust.
Inspired by the wall paintings of the Mexican muralists, the story of Benito and his family is told through drawings and gives a (very personal) impression of the rites and traditions on the Day of the Dead. Polvo ("Dust") presents a culture in which death is not a taboo but has a place in everyday life; a culture that celebrates the dead and makes skeletons dance.
Felix Pestemer has also exhibited twice at my gallery Martinski Fine Arts, first in 2008 and again in 2012.
Alongside the graphic novel Cargo, The Dust of the Ancestors is one of the few graphic novels that I've had the pleasure of translating.
A German TV report on
The Day of the Dead & Felix Pestemer: