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Fallas - The Sculptures

What the fallas are, how the fallas are made, what kinds of fallas are there and what the fallas are about.

Originally, in the middle ages, the Fallas-Sculptures were just a pile of old junk that got burned after the winter. Then people began having fun - dressing the junk into old clothes, drawing faces on it and engaging in satire.

These days, making fallas is a multi-million industry. The Fallas-Sculptures are highly sofisticated works of art created by professional artistas falleros. It doesn't just take highly specific skills of working with such huge pieces, but there is also a lot of engineering - the fallas are constructed in a precise way, so that when they burn they collapse safely. The Fallas-Sculptures take many months to construct and can cost a great deal - the largest falla of 2006 came to 600.000€. All paid by the members of the Falla-Community, donations only.

What is a Falla-Sculpture

The Falla is made of papier-mache on a wooden carcass. It is then sanded and painted. Most Fallas-Sculptures are so big that they are never seen in entirety up until the assembly on the first day of the Fallas-Festival.

The Falla-Sculpture consists of ninots. These are the figurines that all together make up the multi-faceted story of the falla. There can be anywhere from a few to many dozens.

See example

Another example - ninots in the Fallas Museum

The Art of Fallas

Are Fallas-Sculptures beautiful, gorgeous, aesthetic? it's a complex question. What is art? Some people don't like the fallas. They come here with their own expectations of what good art is and they dislike the chaotic pile of the ninots in a falla, and the bright, striking colours.

You have to simply accept the fallas for what they are. They are not a form of sophisticated, intelectual scuplture. They are a unique form of art that exists only in Valencia. They are a pile of messages united by a theme, sprinkled with humour, sex and caricature. They are a focus of a people's festival, built to be understood even by simple folk, built to mount over the crowd and intrude into the daily routine. Yes, they are in bold colours, and yes they do resemble a row of caricatures, but this is what the fallas are. In addition, the fallas have their own framework of boundaries to consider. The wooden carcass and the papier-mache do have their limitations and the stuff that the artists finally come up with, considering they are not cutting-edge architects, is truly amazing.

This is not Tate Modern, this is Las Fallas. And, from another angle, Tate Modern ain't Las Fallas either.

What kinds of Fallas are there

Each Falla-Community commissions two Fallas-Scultpures - a Falla and a Falla Infantil (which is a much smaller falla for children - just above human height)

However, out of all 350 Fallas there are 15 Fallas Especial. These Fallas-Communities have more resources to spend on their Falla-Sculpture, so theirs are the biggest, the most impressive and the most popular. Every year one of the Fallas Especiales wins the first prize for the best Falla of the year.

It is recommended that you don't miss those.

However, the smaller Fallas are likely to be less concerned with pleasing important people, so they can be more radical.

Las Fallas fiesta in Valencia photos / images  - See our image galleries of Fallas-Sculptures 2006

Las Fallas fiesta in Valencia photos / images  -

Averages sizes of Falla Especial, Falla and Falla Infantil

Las Fallas fiesta in Valencia photos / images  - See our image galleries of Fallas-Sculptures 2006

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What the Fallas-Sculptures are about

Las Fallas fiesta in Valencia photos / images  - Traditionally, the Fallas are satirical. The foreign media coverage of the Fallas creates the impression that the Fallas are about mocking particular people, such as politicians, much like a row of caricatures. This is not true.

More accurately, each Falla-Sculpture has a broad theme. If something is mocked, it is usually a policy, a social phenomenon, a trend in the way of life, etc. The recognisable figures are only a small fragment of a bigger picture, pieces of the jigsaw puzzle of the Falla.

Las Fallas fiesta in Valencia photos / images  -

The 2007 acute themes
, for example, have been Fallas on environmental damage, immigration economics, urbanisation, property profiteering, unbalanced development, destruction of traditional communities, gay marriage, corruption, consumerism, the coming America's Cup, and others.

Las Fallas fiesta in Valencia photos / images  -
That's on the political front. But the Valencians also courageously and ruthlessly mock social trends in their own society. Things like machismo, fashion obsession, superficiality, greed, vanity, pretence, vulgarity, etc, those things are much, much more popular with fallero artists.

Las Fallas fiesta in Valencia photos / images  -
One thing you will definitely notice is how explicit the Fallas can be. Although there have been issues with censorship, satire gets really heavy and at times entirely politically incorrect. One aspect - sex references - is especially striking and at times gets close to pornograpic and even unrecognisably twisted and disturbing. The Fallas are definitely for mommy and daddy. Thats why the kids get Falla Infantil.

Las Fallas fiesta in Valencia photos / images  -
But the theme does not have to be satirical
. You can just as well get a falla about the benefits of travelling. Or various types of a kiss. Or a falla speculating on what modern art means. Or different kinds of music and what it means to us. This year's falla de Ayuntamento (the main Falla of the city) was inspired by John Lennon’s “Imagine” – a tranquil speculation about a better world for us all.

Las Fallas fiesta in Valencia photos / images  -
The Fallas Infantiles
– Fallas for the Kids – are, of course, much milder in their content. They are usually of an educative nature (it is good to study , eat healthy, care for your pets, etc) or just a feast for the eyes on any of those topics that kids love, such as fairies, pirates and crazy birthday parties.

Las Fallas fiesta in Valencia photos / images  - See our image galleries of Fallas-Sculptures 2006

Read our advice on How to See the Fallas-Sculptures

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© 2006