Passing on a Tradition


What is an everyday ritual to some, is a fascinating activity to experience for others.

La Maya Tradition by Daniel Ochoa de Olza

For women and girls in one Spanish village, the accessory carries significant meaning and is a centerpiece of a beautiful cultural tradition that dates back hundreds of years.

Each year in May, in Colmenar Viejo, Spain, locals celebrate the Las Mayas tradition; a tradition that has its origins in pagan ritual. Central to this celebration are the Maya girls, young women from the village who are adorned with flower crowns and who must sit at the staged altars for hours as a representation of the coming of springtime, renewal and fertility.

The festivity of the Maya comes from pagan rites and dates from the medieval age, appearing in ancient documents and takes place every year at the beginning of May celebrating the beginning off the spring. A girl between 7 and 11 years is chosen as 'Maya' and should sit still, serious, and quiet for a couple of hours on an altar placed on the street and decorated with local flowers and plants. While La Maya is hieratically sitting on her chair a local band plays music and other young girls dressed in white offer sweets bakery to the visitors in a festive atmosphere, afterwards they walk to the church with their family where they attend a mass ceremony.” — Daniel Ochoa de Olza

Traditional Opera in rural China by Kevin Frayer

Sichuan opera is a distinctive, centuries-old tradition, conveying stories of tales of love, tradition and family honour, in rural China.

A central part of Sichuan culture, Sicuan Opera originated and was initially developed in the city of Chengdu, which is now the capital of the province and is well—known as the ‘Hometown of Opera’ in rural China.

Kevin Fraser travelled to Cangshan in Sichuan province to watch the Jinyuan Opera Company perform. He told IBTimes UK: "As a photographer it was a lovely experience. The performers were warm and inviting and I greatly admire their dedication to keeping this tradition alive."

African Masks by Phyllis Galembo

Phyllis Galembo’s interest in the masquerade traditions of Africa and its diaspora began when she first encountered people wearing masks in Nigeria in 1985. Since then, she has travelled widely in west and central Africa and regularly to Haiti, and has been documenting the transformative and powerful masks of this nation. Galembo’s resulting book, Maske, was first published in 2010 but has since been updated and then republished by Aperture in 2016.

Historian and curator Chika Okeke-Agula, who participated in masquerades when he was a child growing up in Nigeria, introduces the book, and describes the tradition:

“Her subjects are participants in masquerade events, both traditional African ceremonies and contemporary fancy dress and carnival, all of whom use costume, body paint and masks to create mythic characters – sometimes entertaining and humorous, often dark and frightening, and always powerful and thrilling.”