Sunday, 10 January 2010

Brighton Museum and Art Gallery, part 2





The Brighton Museum also has a very good collection of 'ethnic' artifacts, such as ritual native costumes from around the world. I'm always fascinated by these, and have been ever since I saw such things during the 1980s in the former Museum of Mankind in London. (I believe that museum has now been absorbed by the British Museum: please correct me if you know better)

Some of these costumes, masks and carved figures are grotesque; others are frightening. You can feel their power. I can quite understand how, in a claustrophobic tribal world of gods, powerful priests, strict rituals, hypnosis-inducing incantations, drumming and dancing, an ordinary person would feel caught on a swaying tightrope stretched over an unimaginable abyss. One slip, and you fell into the waiting jaws of devils. At night, these creations, lit only by firelight, or perhaps brooding in menacing silence inside a dark hut or cave, would inspire terror beyond any withstanding.

I am only mildly superstitious. It extends only to wearing my 'lucky' jewellery, without fail, and (almost frivolously) saying 'White Rabbits' as my first utterance on the first day of each month, for good fortune. My PDA reminds me to. I have no lucky numbers. I scoff at having a heart attack if the salt spills. But I do avoid walking under ladders. And I wouldn't like to put any 'serious' piece of superstition to the test. If spending a night in a haunted house, I'd prefer to do it inside a pentacle, whatever reason tells me, and risk being called a daft old woman in the morning. I wouldn't face a night amid a stone circle of ill repute, or murmer the words to a spell if it just might bring forth some demon. I know, any 'demon' would be entirely conjured up by my own imagination; but if it seemed real, what's the difference? Why drive myself mad with fear?

In the modern world we have moved away somewhat from the old biblical representation of Awful Beings From Hell. More recently it has been Something From Outer Space - the Alien - or the Intelligent Computer That Gets Out Of Control. Nevertheless I think that the ancient primeval fear of dark nights, odd noises and strange happenings is not far away in our minds. It's easily aroused. And there is the related fear of People Who Are Not Like Us. Anyone can be a witch. Anyone can be pointed at and set upon in the name of Community Safety.

5 comments:

  1. I love a good gallery or museum... must have a good coffee shop as well tho :)

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  2. The Brighton Museum has a jolly good little restaurant on a balcony overlooking the large hall in which the modern furniture and decor items are housed. I've eaten lunch there several times. You'd be all right.

    Lucy

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  3. First of all, what interesting exhibits, lovely pictures.

    I was quite comforted not long ago by a radio programme about the devil. How our perception of an evil being has changed over the centuries. Todays devil takes the form of a businessman/banker surprise, surprise!

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  4. Love love loving the Brighton Museum posts!! really inspired me to go and visit! Looks great.

    Lovely to have an intelligent blogger reviewing interseting things!

    I've been reading your blog since stumbling in after an internet search and today I gave you an award! come over to my blog to claim it!

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  5. I have read lots of post on this Brighton museum and Art Gallery. I like everything about this outstanding and most vibrant place on the earth. I like the museum in Brighton and the beaches. I have read and heard a lot about this, now I want to go there and see all these.

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