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a conversation with Linda Schele

In January 1998 Linda Schele gave a long, filmed interview in which she talked freely and frankly in her own inimitable style about her life, work, and philosophy. This has been edited, together with extra visual material, in order to make a 50 minute documentary tribute. Entitled “EDGEWALKER: a conversation with Linda Schele,” this film was shown at the 1999 Texas Maya Meetings and at the University of Pennsylvania Museum Maya Weekend. Video tapes of it are available for the purchase price of $39.95 (plus applicable sales tax and shipping). A substantial percentage of this price (50%) will be donated to the Linda and David Schele Chair in the Art and Writing of Mesoamerica at the University of Texas at Austin.

When she died of cancer in April 1998, at the height of her powers, Linda Schele was the dominant personality in the field of Maya studies – a subject of abiding fascination for a public enamoured of mysterious ruins and seemingly impenetrable inscriptions; an ancient culture which left behind a legacy of incredible images of beauty, power and terror.

Professor in the History of Art at the University of Texas, Austin, Linda Schele had become one of the best known communicators to the public of the extraordinary discoveries which have changed our understanding of this ancient culture. Through her many television appearances on Discovery, National Geographic, PBS, BBC and A&E; her groundbreaking exhibition Blood of Kings; and her best-selling and award winning books – Forest of Kings, Maya Cosmos, and most recently Code of Kings and Hidden Faces of the Maya, she revealed herself as a passionately communicative educator who believed the public deserved to share in the excitement of the work they were funding and delighted in presenting her discoveries directly to them. Others tapped into her inspirational gift for relating an ancient culture to our modern world and, amongst many keynote speeches at conferences and university commencements, NASA invited her to address their key staff on the relevance of understanding another world view.

An outsider, in her own words an edgewalker, all her career, Linda had been an artist and teacher when the Maya captured her imagination. She had erupted into the field as a young woman – “just some strange little painter from Alabama” – in an academic discipline dominated by male archaeologists, just at the time when the investigation of the so called ‘Mysterious Maya’ was about to become the most dynamic area in the rediscovery of the ancient past.

Linda was first captivated by the Maya on a chance visit to the ruins of Palenque in Mexico. At one of the most romantic archaeological sites in the world she found traces of a society “where art was central” – something of which as an artist and art teacher she had dreamed.

Like many who fall in love with Palenque she vowed to return. Unlike most, she did…again and again. In time, it was to be at Palenque that she was first to play a crucial role in ‘breaking the code’ of the Maya’s hieroglyphic writing system.

Her mission was to interpret and explain the historic Maya world of city states, kings, rulers, and religion to her own world. But, by working with the modern Maya peoples of Mexico and Guatemala, she began to understand the links between the Indian peoples own rich indigenous culture and their ancient past; and she began to hand back to these oppressed people the tools to repossess their history. This was what Linda Schele considered her most important work.

The film ‘EDGEWALKER’ pays tribute to Linda Schele by telling her story through her own words in the form of an interview in which she discusses her ideas by relating them to her personal life. This interview material is supported by a wide range of visual images including video footage of her talking to her tour groups on site at Palenque and Tikal, Schele family home movie footage, and photographs and the fine photography of Justin Kerr and MacDuff Everton. The film concludes with footage of the extraordinary ceremony, conducted by Maya priests, in which Linda was laid to rest overlooking Lake Atitlan, Guatemala, in the land of the Maya to whom she devoted her life.


Click here for a clip from the video.

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09/30/09 03:20