Welcome to the climactic last five days of the weeks-long festival that has hold of Valencia all year round. Las Fallas is a big deal here, and as of November of last year, it’s now an even bigger deal: UNESCO has added Las Fallas to their list of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity.
Today, March 15th, is the day that the fallas sculptures themselves need to be in place. There are between 700 and 800 of these installed on streets and intersections throughout the city, some five stories tall. Photographs don’t really do them justice, but we won’t let that stop us.
Yesterday we went to the Exposició del Ninot (Valencian for “exposition of the doll/puppet”). One of the hundreds of figures represented there will be chosen for inclusion in the Fallas museum; the rest will go up in flames Sunday night.
What with the large crowd of figurines and the large crowd of spectators, taking clear photos was something of a challenge, but I think you’ll still be able to see the types of materials used, and to get a sense for the variety of themes and designs featured.
Not knowing local political culture, and having trouble decoding many of the labels (they’re generally in Valencian, which differs significantly from Castillian Spanish), I miss the majority of the satirical references. I’m not sure I understood all that was being said about Donald Trump in the many ninots that featured him, but I did catch the general mood.
This was Ninja’s favorite. He’s currently very interested in digital sculpting and art, and he really liked the armor designs.
Here’s a little bit of México come home to the old country.
I get the DaVinci paintbrush reference, and Newton passed out on the ground, but I’m not entirely sure what I’m meant to conclude about Copernicus* in the frame. Maybe it’s about shifting our frame of reference? I also don’t know who the woman is. The crowd of spectators tended to move me along, so I didn’t have time to linger and puzzle.
I didn’t notice the title of this one, nor do I know if the pun would work in either Valencian or Castellano, but what would we call this in English but a letterhead?
This young fallero is playing an instrument called a dolçain. Watch for more on it in a future post.
Distorted proportions and shapes are hallmarks of fallas sculptures. This one struck my fancy.
As I said, I don’t really ever know quite what’s going on in these matters–this might be a reference to Pinocchio, but it might just be a wooden marionette whose puppeteer is also wooden.
There are lots of fallas sculptures that are strong on satire; many others go for vulgar in a big way. And then there are those full of the cute factor.
There are plenty of historical figures represented, and some of them had name plates that I could read. This is Beethoven, composing away, with unlikely musical collaborators.
I liked this guy’s expression.
Be afraid–be very afraid.
While the majority of modern fallas are made of various kinds of polystyrene foam, the original fallas were made of wood and papier-mâché, and those still get used from time to time. I think this is wood, though I can’t be sure.
Here’s another alternative-media figure that charmed me.
This little guy is part of a larger grouping. Though some fallas are a single figure, many of them are ensemble pieces.
Here’s the venerable Don Quixote de la Mancha, with Ninja on hand to give you a sense of scale.
Finally, this hollow-eyed specter invites us to contemplate the dangers of having all of our experiences staring at a screen. The paper tags that hang from the framework of his body have labels like #FallesFestival. I spent plenty of my time in the exposició del ninot looking at my phone in order to bring you these pictures, but I’m mindful of the conflict between having and recording experiences. In the coming days I’ll be gathering pictures for you, but I’ll also be working on a balance.
*Copernicus was the astronomer responsible for the paradigm shift from Ptolemy’s view of the heavens, with earth at the center, to the version with the sun being orbited by earth and the other planets of our solar system.
[Images: yours truly]