Death is wearing a jade mask
One of the world’s most famous cultures, the Maya were a Mesoamerican civilization that in the pre-classic period extended from the Yucatán peninsula across the western part of Honduras and El Salvador.
As great astronomers, farmers and mathematicians, they are regarded as a source of much inspiration and as a point of reference in the development of humankind in America.
The Mexican artist Tomer Linaje was so fascinated by this culture that he created a mural that pays a small tribute to the Maya: “I was determined to paint something that represented Mexican culture; at that time my son was studying the Mayan culture, so we were watching films about them all the time”, he explains.
© Tomer Linaje, Photo: Sehr Bueno
The true essence of graffiti comes alive when painting at night.
Mayas en Berlín is the mural that he painted in Klosterstrasse in Berlin, and in which he depicts childhood and maturity, divided by death. Death is wearing a jade mask and displays characteristics of the Mayan culture such as ear extensions, hairstyles, and facial tattoos. In a realist style, the work plays with proportions in a bid to convey a sense of remoteness and proximity on a grand scale.
However, he was not content with merely presenting portraits with Mayan characteristics. Tomer Linaje incorporated a personal and highly emotional significance into the painting: “Being so far away, it was a way in which to make a small gift to my son because I was unable to take him to Germany with me. So that he would know that he was with me nonetheless”, he says.
Rafael Medina Martínez, better known as Tomer Linaje, is a self-taught sculptural artist who has been interested in street art ever since high school. Though he started only by signing his name on public walls, over time and with great constancy he made a name for himself among the world’s most highly-reputed Mexican mural artists, from the island of Holbox and Valle de Bravo to São Paulo and Germany: “I am a self-taught artist. I learned through constancy, experimentation, and art history, as well as from videos made by other artists”, he says.
His hyper-realistic style portrays Mexicans and animals: from a girl from Puebla to the hugely popular Frida Kahlo; from the famous Mexican dog to the elegant jaguar; but his greatest inspiration is his son, who he has depicted in various ways in his works.
During his time in Germany, Tomer wanted to get to know this European country better, which is why he decided to take a trip to the capital, Berlin, but he had problems due to cultural differences: “I got lost in Germany because the bus that I was going to take didn’t depart, with the result that I had to walk until 4 am to get back to where I had started, almost crying with despair. But the next time I tried again and was successful”, he recounts.