It's the last month before the end of the exhibition, so I felt the need to get there before I acquired still another lost opportunity..
One of the many things I fantasized about doing when I retired, but will probably never have the accumulated coin to make happen, was to go to England and spend long lovely days just wandering about in the British Museum, gazing upon what our forefathers raped and pillaged from every country in the "mighty" British Empire. These days, accordng to reports, the flower of British youth wanders the streets in a drunken, drugged stupor; it's more like Drool, Brittania...
Still, this exhibit, called "Treasures From the British Museum", promised at least a taste of what I was missing, and for 28 bucks was a cheap enough around the world tour.
I have to admit that I smiled alot...many of the things on display were those I had seen pictures of in the past, the things that made me dream of actually seeing those objects in the flesh...and here they were. There was a funerary portrait of a man that was two thousand years old, a small painting probably sewn to his mummy wrap, yet his eyes glittered as if it had been painted yesterday, and his austere but very much alive looking demeanour spoke of his existence in a world not very much different than the one of the woman gazing on his portrait.
There were original Mayan gold objects, exquisite in their workmanship-nice that the conquistadors hadn't melted down everything for it's gold content... growing up in California, I could remmeber pictures in my history books of these objects, and how wonderful they seemed to a small child who would again experience that awe on seeing the real thing.
My favourite object was a life-sized charcoal grey basalt figure from Egypt
of a lion-faced woman goddess-the power and the beauty of that statue will stay with me forever.
Is a picture worth a thousand words..some, probably more, but the thing that struck me the most about so much of this accumulated loot was how the lesson of our shared humanity was the most significant concept I took away from the collection. I saw objects from Ireland, ancient torcs (neckpieces) and shields, that looked as if they came straight from Africa. Of course, the eerie similarity to much of Meso-American Art - Mayan, Incan, Aztec-to Egyptian and other Asian civilizations' art is a commonly recognized truth...but having Irish ancestors, the commonality with African art of these truly ancient pieces, found on what is now Irish soil, made me wonder about how much we have to learn about where we really come from.
The universal urge to create and make sense of it all- and the resulting similarity of object and process- is what I took away from that exhibition.
Well, that and the question everyone with any understanding of history and politics must ask- how much would the people, who truly are the inheritors of all this beauty, like to have it repatriated? I saw some First Nations objects from our part of the world and found myself angry for them; there I was, the descendant of the exploiters, drooling over all that beauty and, with that all too human contrariness, simultaneously wishing that those items could find their way home.