Saturday, September 13, 2014
The Mystery of the Vanished Maya Glyphs
(Or: Miracles Do Happen in Honduras)
In March of 2012 I painted a series of Maya Tzolk’in calendar glyphs for a friend of mine who lives in Costa Rica. After emailing back and forth about colours, size and dates, we agreed on six glyphs representing the birthdays of herself, her husband, their wedding date and their three kids in colours that fitted the paintings’ future surroundings.
I happily went to work and my friend was pleased with the picture of the results I emailed her. There was no need to send the paintings to Costa Rica, because she was planning a trip to Honduras soon, even though she probably wouldn’t be able to make it to Copán Ruinas. No problem, I wrapped the six canvases neatly up, wrote both her and my contact details on the front and was ready to send it off by bus to the capital where she could pick it up.
But in the end she came to Copán anyway, so I hand delivered her the package. Much safer, we both thought. She didn’t even want to open the package since it was such a nice and tight fit.
My friend left Copán soon after, back to the capital to catch her flight back home.
And that’s when things went terribly wrong.
Minutes before boarding the plane, my friend made a last pit stop to the bathroom. She had the paintings with her as carry on luggage (so nothing would happen to them) and placed them on the water reservoir behind her while using the toilet. That’s when she heard a last boarding call for her flight. She quickly finished her business and ran to catch her plane.
It wasn’t until the plane was about to take off that she realized that she had left the paintings in the bathroom…
As soon as she got home she called the airport in Tegucigalpa. Alas, no report of a found package. Next she wrote to me, to confess she had lost the paintings, which made me laugh more than anything else, because her recount of the incident was hilarious.
Despite it being slightly funny, it was also a big loss so my friend never gave up. She had never even seen the paintings! She kept on calling and emailing different offices at the airport in Honduras, with no results. She called a many-times-removed-cousin who happened to work at the airport, but the woman in question was just as unsuccessful in her efforts to retrieve the paintings. My friend updated me almost daily on the progress, which was still nil and made us wonder…
Where the hell were those paintings???
Had the package been considered suspicious and maybe destroyed in a controlled explosion by a group of disposal experts?
Unlikely. Which idiot of a terrorist would write his or her address on it? And security in Honduras is just not as secure as it is in the US.
Had it been lost I the Lost & Found department?
Had a cleaning lady found the package and taken it home? Maybe. It that case it was quite likely that my canvases of ancient Maya glyphs were now hanging upside down in someone’s toilet or being used a placemats.
Had another passenger taken the package with him or her and after opening it thinking the paintings were worth a fortune? (Unfortunately they’re not. A small fortune, yes, but not quite worth hanging onto a bunch of highly customized date glyphs made for someone else.)
Had somebody maybe thought the package was part of a drug exchange deal??? Unlikely. Too flat, too big.
Was it all a scheme on my part in order to re-do the paintings and make more money???
Interesting option, but I wouldn’t know how to pull that off. I mean, how do you make someone forget something at the right time and place???
Many scenarios crossed our minds and were exchanged per email, but that didn’t change the fact that the paintings had vanished into thin air.
We waited for weeks and then for months. Finally my friend decided she did want those paintings on her walls, so she asked me to make a new series.
And so I did. You see, it was a lucrative deal for me after all, even though I gave her a big “Disappointment for Reasons of Disappearing Discount” on top of the “Friendship Discount” she had already gotten in the first place.
This time we didn’t take any risks. The new paintings were handed over personally and attached to my friends wrists with a pair of handcuffs. Well, so to speak. And yes, this time they did make it to Costa Rica…Happy ending for my Maya Glyphs and a satisfied customer.
End of story.
Well, not quite!
Yesterday morning my friend got an email from Interairports (whatever that maybe. Maybe a place in between airports where long lost items are stored?) Anyway, the sender said he had paintings from Carin Steen addressed to my friend right there in his office and to email him back for more information.
Can you belief that, after two and a half years???
So in two weeks time my friend is coming back to Honduras and will pick up the paintings personally. That is, if she’s not required to pay a huge ransom, fine, deposit fee or bribe.
For now I keep my fingers crossed. I’ll really belief this miracle the moment my friend will mail me a picture of her having the paintings in her hands. And then she will have two sets of basically the same paintings.
I still wonder where those paintings have been all this time…