• Words and Photos by John Domine

A Final Look at the Magic of Akumal

It has already been a week since the 2nd Annual Akumal Arts Festival came to an end, drawing over 100 artists who painted nearly 150 murals in a small village in Mexico's Riviera Maya. But for me, the magic that was created there by beautiful people from around the world, sharing love with the local community, will remain in my heart for some time to come.

I don't think I can fully articulate what a special place Akumal is or what an incredibly awesome event the festival has become in its short life. Nor can I describe the wonderful artists who chose to participate and give of themselves so openly over the course of an activity-filled week in this small village in the land of turtles.

But hopefully, through some images captured during my time there, you might just gain a glimpse of what it is all about. If you are an artist, perhaps you will consider applying next year. And if you are a fan of art, or beauty, or unadulterated love transformed by magic into the smiles of a community, you just might fancy taking a trip to this little slice of heaven on your next holiday. Either way, you are in for a real treat!

The work of @dgaleart painted at the community center in the pueblo

THE OPENING CEREMONIES

On the heels of a successful inaugural event in 2018, this year's festival kicked off with a barrage of color-infused smoke, stilt-walkers and drummers, together with a snaking parade of dancers, artists and revelers, all making their way from the center of the bridge into the Akumal pueblo, ultimately ending up at the heart of the town's social center, La Cancha, where the nightly festivities would take place, bringing fire dancers, puppeteers and even Mayan spiritual leaders together to share a bit of culture and maybe even a smile or two.

The celebration begins as the crowd traverses the bridge into the pueblo

THE BEAUTIFUL MURALS OF AKUMAL

The highlight of the festival for me and the primary focus over the course of the week, beyond the pure expression of love by all involved, was definitely the beauty of the walls created on the bridge and throughout the pueblo. From massive pieces requiring lifts and cherry pickers to more modest artworks painted on the sides of houses at the owners' request, each work of art is a gift of love to be appreciated long after the artists have returned to their own homes.

The Akumal water tower adorned by French artist @arkane.art is a centerpiece of the pueblo

THE BRIDGE WALLS

I've decided to showcase the walls by their placement around Akumal, grouping them together by those adorning the bridge followed by those scattered throughout the pueblo itself. If you find yourself in Akumal in search of art, you will be amazed by beauty at every turn, but the first ones you will see are those on the bridge. Here are the additions made this year (click on each for a larger view).

The work of Captain Kris on the south side of the bridge in the pueblo

North Side of the Bridge: @pezbarcelona, @chicadania, @sanguineskills, @woskerski, @turtlecaps, @si_mitchell, @_.peachzz._, @italo_flores_silva6, @tarboxx2, @keydetail, @eject1, @ashbury_levi and @alex_yopra

Under the Bridge: @pintaomueremx (@orozcomode and @_raffa_sk_) and @dazeworldnyc.

South Side of the Bridge: Rain, @lecogoyote, @merkaveli_, @funqest, @fraseonesf, @sheick_ubh_mp, @captainkris, @kiptoe1, @dan_qmoreno, @amy_frueh, @cosmovisual, @marianela_la_wife, @huetek, @anyamielniczek, @stetzism, @jasladiosa, @teikoner, @josediosok, @senseruthless10, @elrohho, and @slim33r.

THE PUEBLO MURALS

The bridge, although stunningly beautiful with the new paint, is only a small piece of all of the art that was created for Akumal. A large portion of the walls are to be found in the pueblo itself, painted on walls of the primary and secondary schools, the community center, local businesses, and even on the homes of the residents, giving a sense of community pride which couldn't be clearer, as witnessed by their smiles from ear to ear.

Although the work has continued since I left this magical place, as artists remained to create beauty in the pueblo, here is a sampling of the walls which were painted during this year's festival. It really is a marvelous gift, one given out of respect to a place and a people that have given so much in return.

The work of Zelva in the Akumal Pueblo

In the Pueblo: @zelvauno, @alex_yopra, @acool55, @adriana.delfin.art, @alejandrabarradasartist, @funqest, @danqmoreno, @rigoleonart, @klonism, @daniellebknyc, @danielguadaleo, @damien__mitchell, @heesco, @eldakpak, @culturedcuttlefish, @clairefoxart, @davisartprojects, @cecilia_paints, @bellaphame, @beah_creates, @yokaivakot, @artannabronza, @andytpea, @jpoart, @rory_eade_arte, @depoh, @jimvision, @jennamorello, @jusjayson, @grooseling, @stetzism, @lecogoyote, @esmeraldagarciaart, @emilyding, @mrprvrt, @dorithecreative, @dirkartnyc, @dgaleart, @denercolli, @deityart, @dazeworldnyc, @rarigrafix, @ramirostudios, @panick_kie, @outersource, @nscbstudio, @msyellowart, @mendezgray, @mariellguzman, @marilyn.inzunza, @melinainzunza, @el_chan_guri, @lexymakesthings, @theanunaki, @klyntatu, @xavierdemariaycampos, @yuzurabia, @the.lospanchos, @surfaceofbeauty, @snackd, @sinned_nyc, @riaburnswilder, @seca_one, @saramolano, @sana_gs, @rifrafgiraffe, @rcheatemartist, @registered_artist, and @arkane.art.

THE WORKSHOPS & STUDENT PROJECTS

Beyond all of the artwork created by local and international artists in Akumal, there were also community workshops led by creative locals and visitors alike, facilitating earth-based projects focusing on recycling and reusing materials. Children had the opportunity to create flags, lanterns and flowers which lined the pathway on the main road and filled La Cancha, providing a festive atmosphere throughout the event.

When I passed by the schools and the community center, there was a buzz of activity, as students learned dance routines, created "Love Rocks" and made all sorts of creations out of recycled materials. Some children tried their hand at spray painting on walls in La Cancha or on some of the official walls of the festival, with assistance from invited artists. There was even a drum circle providing an atmospheric beat as I wandered about the pueblo. The Akumal Arts Festival definitely has something for everyone.

A MAYAN WEDDING!

In addition to the public festivities and artwork created, there was also a very special, yet more intimate gathering celebrated at this year's Akumal Arts Festival. I was honored to witness the union of my friends, NYC artist @dirkartnyc and his beautiful and equally-creative bride @miz_rose (she made that dress!), who were blessed in a Mayan ceremony on Akumal Beach.

It speaks volumes that this couple would return to Akumal to not only express their love for each other but to also extend that love to the community by painting a wall and teaching a workshop. Akumal has that effect on people. Love perpetuates love.

Here are a few photos of their magical ceremony.

The lovely couple

Mayan celebrants

Incense and other items to solidify and celebrate the union

The Blessing

AKUMAL AND BEYOND

You could just go to Akumal Pueblo to see all the wonderful art and feel the love from all of the locals, and that would be enough to have enjoyed a wonderful holiday that will warm your heart for some time.

But, while you are there, you may as well explore some of the other beauties on offer in the region. With white sand beaches where you can snorkel among turtles, to natural cenotes for swimming through bat-filled caves, or jungles leading to ancient Mayan ruins, there are myriad choices for relaxation and adventure at your fingertips. Go with an open heart and sense of spirit and you will come away with so much more.

The Land of Turtles has always been a place of natural beauty. Today, it is also a place where you can find man-made beauty thanks to the wonderful work of the community of locals and artists who have given so much of themselves to create the Akumal Arts Festival.

Come for the views and stay for the art. Who knows? You may even fall in love with Akumal.

It wouldn't be the first time.

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