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Thursday, July 16, 2009

My dearest British Museum (I)

The British Museum is very favourite attraction in London.  Ever though entrance to the permanent exhibitions is free, I signed up as a Friend of the BM when I lived here, which not only allowed me to visit special exhibitions for free but also helped smoothen the guilt of frequent visits.  I used to come here almost every 2 to 3 weeks, sometimes just for half an hour to gawk at the magnificent Assyrian sculptures, in particular, the extremely life-like Royal Lion Hunt sculptures. 

 

The Pantheon, or Elgin Marbles also evoked some thoughts.  The Greeks and Chinese all have some valid points in wanting their artifacts back, but can we deny that their presence in the BM haven't exposed the world to the glories to these ancient civilizations?  If these treasures had remained in Greece and China, would they have survived the many wars and revolutions that had befallen these countries in the last hundred plus years? In the case of the Pantheon Marbles, they were bought legally by British diplomats from the Ottoman Turks, who were the then controlling power of Greece.  Can we ignore the legality of the transaction merely because facts on the ground have now changed?

 

This time, I also visited the Egyptian section – the mummies here are the only dead bodies I have seen again and again over the years.  In a macabre way, they are old friends!  On this visit, I also discovered a new hall added to the Egyptian section, one dedicated to the colorful murals of the tomb-chapel of Nebamum, a rich accountant who lived 3400 years ago.

 

In the African section, once again, I saw the artistic coffins of Ghana.  While travelling through West Africa in 2008, I visited the town outside Accra that manufactures these coffins.  I am glad that I can now relate more to these masterpieces of human imagination and genius.

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