Sunday Supplement: Road Traffic Control (The Semana Santa Code)
Happy Easter everyone! Yes it may be grey, and bleak, and ever so slightly damp here in London, but my flat is nonetheless filled with all the yellows of Spring, a chicken (cooked Spanish style with a grape juice glaze and caramalised apples) is about to go into the oven, and I am still putting up total resistance to the chocolate temptations all around.
In this final post in a week which has been bursting full of Easter-themed homages, mainly to the sensational Semana Santa spectacles of my dear España, I introduce you to my ultimate canvas exploring the theme of Semana Santa. This vast painting, entitled Road Traffic Control (The Semana Santa Code) was painted by yours truly towards the end of last year and is consequently my most recent painted depiction of the Semana Santa parades. But this work, which measures some 150cm across, depicts Semana Santa processions in a slightly unusual way, using road traffic symbols from the highway code to illustrate the main characters in a typical Semana Santa procession. In fact, the symbolism is at times so detailed that I like to think of the painting as being something of a new Da Vinci Code, the likes of which I will decrypt in today’s Sunday Supplement.
Traffic Cones and the Lily Cathedral
The idea behind this interpretation of Semana Santa came to me when I was watching a procession last year and it occurred to me that the Nazareños with their pointed hats look a bit like walking traffic cones. From there the idea was born – their candles were swiftly replaced by zebra crossing lamps, the large lanterns carried at the front of the parade were replaced by traffic lights, and the banner held at the front of the procession was replaced by a “Controlled Zone” sign – after all, isn’t religion an attempt to control or at least orchestrate a way of life? The road is of course no different from the kind of road which a procession in Spain would walk along, except that here it spirals and wafts like a ribbon in full flight, from its point of emergence from a large lily, which represents a great Spanish Catedral, the smaller bell-like cala lily representing the cathedral’s campanile.
In every procession, there are at least two brass or military bands setting a rhythm and a melodic resonance for the procession. Generally speaking, a band will either lead or follow the Jesus tronos, and a second will either lead or follow Mary. Here the representation of the bands follows the road traffic theme, with old fashioned car hooters and police ribbon making up the first band, while roundabout drums with sides made up from a road’s diagonal warning lines (which warn of an approach to a junction or crossing) make up the second.
The depiction of Jesus
For me, the depiction of Jesus came as easily to my mind as the traffic cones – I used the “crossroads” symbol to represent the crucifixion carried on a tronos, while before it, the signs carried by Nazareños represent, in order: the crucifxion (cross roads); pilgrims (elderly crossing); the disciples (pedestrians); Jesus on a donkey; the Holy Trinity (roundabout); the crusades (explosives); no U-Turn i.e. do not turn your back on Christ; and Give Way – to the Catholic faith as the one and only true religion.
The depiction of Mary
Mary is depicted using the “motorway” symbol which, with the addition of a small bridging line at the top, resembles a figure with a veil over her head. Meanwhile, the parade which precedes her includes signs with the following meaning: Mary, Mother of Christ (M1); the immaculate conception (no through way); Mother and Child; the ascension; pilgrims (disabled – such as those visiting Lourdes to visit the shrine of Mary).
Finally the painting ends with a sign signifying the end of the “controlled zone”. Hence the title of the painting, “Road Traffic Control”.
I hope you’ve enjoyed the painting and have a great Easter Day, wherever you are.
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