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Radish Art In Oaxaca

Wikimedia Commons

Each week on World Music (Saturday nights at 8:00 on KSTX), we not only hear great music, but I take a look at celebrations happening around the world this week...


December 23rd is an eagerly awaited evening in Oaxaca, Mexico. This night is known as ‘La Noche De los Rabanos’ or Night of The Radishes, when a large folk art festival takes place. When, and why the idea of carving radishes began is unknown, but the vegetable was introduced into Mexico by the Spanish in the 16th century. Some have suggested that a couple of Spanish friars thought that carving the root into interesting shapes might attract more customers into buying them. Whatever the inspiration, the Oaxacan villagers have been creating their works of art for centuries. In 1897, the mayor decided to formalize the event and make it into an annual competition. Mexican radishes are not the tiny red balls as we know in the USA---these guys are ‘macho’ size, up to 20 inches in length and weighing up to 7-8 lbs with long, convoluted roots. They can be carved into magnificent and daring creations. Unfortunately, their life span is limited and the balmy tropical evenings in Oaxaca City only contribute to their demise. The art show starts at 6:30 p.m. with three categories: flowers, corn husks and finally the piece de résistance, the radishes. The winner receives 12,000 pesos (almost a 1,000 US dollars) and a front page photo in the local newspaper.



For centuries in the African country of Mali, young men are sent into the Sahara to watch over the huge cattle herds. At the end of the year, either December or January, they all return to the greener pastures south of the desert. A relatively simple task, except it also involves having the cattle swim through the turbulent waters of the river Niger. Needless to say, no one wants to lose a cow, either by straying or drowning. The cattle are urged across in groups, ranked according the owner’s standing within the community. The first lot belongs to the wealthy, second come the religious leaders, next the politicians, and so on. The route across the swift water is indicated by the young Fula men slapping the water around the swimming herd. When all the cattle have been delivered safely, there’s an enormous party for the herders. This cattle drive is viewed as a rite of passage for the men, who are greeted by the young unmarried girls in hopes of attracting a potential spouse. The operation, known either as Dewgal or The Crossing of The Cattle, is regarded by the United Nations as a Cultural Heritage Event, and attracts a large number of tourists.


Learn more about these and other celebrations happening around the world this week on World Music with Deirdre Saravia, Saturday nights at 8:00 on KSTX 89.1 FM.

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