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Mariano Pineda Matus and Marta Turok Wallace
Marta Turok Wallace and Mariano Pineda Matus are charmed. They stand, with their judges' guidelines in hand, taking in the energy and wit of "The Devil Knows More from Being Old than from Being the Devil" by Antonio Sosa Cruz. It's 17 July 2016, and the occasion is FOFA's 4th Concurso (Competition) for Young Folk Artists of Oaxaca.  The site, as always, is MEAPO (Museo Estatal de Arte Popular Oaxaca), the handsome Oaxaca State Museum of Popular Art. Here's a piece to reckon with, the judges' expressions tell us: a dynamic figure made from cornhusks, suspended in the air. But is it the best in its category (Varios/Other modalities)?
Chloe Sayer 
Cecilio Sánchez 

Two other international experts on FOFA's 2016 panel - - Chloe Sayer and Cecilio S
ánchez -- also appreciated the vigor and technical skills of the artist. However, when the panelists compared notes and their individual scores, they awarded the piece an Honorable Mention. The prize for Varios went to Moisés Ruiz Sosa, Antonio Sosa Cruz's cousin, for his dazzling piece, "Dancer with Devil's Mask."
Moisés's Winning Piece in Varios (Other Modalities)
Art competitions, like the one captured here, are occasions for delight, surprise, puzzlement, loud or suppressed cheers - - and occasional sighs of disappointment. There's so much to look at, as we can see in the background; and there are five different categories of work to keep separate; ceramics, textiles, woodcarving, decorative painting of woodcarving, and "varios"/other modalities. In addition, a prize is awarded for the best work of art by an artist 16 or less. Of course, as is always the case with folk arts, there are attention-grabbing forms, dazzling colors, subtle variations on the tradition, and refinements in conceit and construction. Judging is exacting - - even as it is exciting. In fact, the panel of four judges examined works by 106 young folk artists from age 5 (yes, that's correct: the youngest competitor is five years old) to age 30.
Contest Participants (left to right): Lucero Cristina García Mendoza (6 years), Emanuel Fuentes Gómez (12 years) and Laura (13 years) and Montserrat Raymundo Sanchez (23 years)
An awards ceremony was held five days later. Winners, like Moisés Ruiz Sosa, received cash prizes of 10,000 pesos; and recipients of honorable mention were given 1,000 pesos.
The exhibit, featuring works by 6 winners and 54 recipients of honorable mention will open officially at MEAPO on 5 November 2016. All works of art will appear in an 88-page full-color catalogue tol be presented at that time. 
Over the next few months, we will be bringing you stories about some of these artists and their approach to this year's theme "Honoring our Roots, Exploring our Dreams."
Moisés Ruiz Sosa at Contest Award Ceremony
Consider, for example, the inspiring tale of Ruiz Sosa. Moisés learned from his mother to work artistically with cornhusks (totomoxtle). The two share a workshop. His prize-winning piece, "Dancer with Devil's Mask," involves a fusion of Spanish and indigenous influences. Moisés's familiarity with his subject derives from the Guelaguetza, an annual dance festival that is a crucial part of life in Oaxaca. The Devil, Moisés says, speaks to his Roots and his Dreams: his historic, interior identity (roots) and his personal sense of self (dreams).
Dancers from Santiago Juxtlahuaca in Guelaguetza Procession
Moisés, who won honorable mention in the 2013 competition, is thrilled to have been a part of the FOFA community of young artists. FOFA's courses on Mexican and Oaxacan art, he reports, gave him depth of knowledge and greater sensitivity to his craft." Only the values reflected in folk art," he says, "can counter the brutal side of man." Thanks to support from FOFA, he sees new opportunities for himself as an artist and a professional.  While Moisés is now studying architecture, he continues to work with totomoxtle.


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