Sunday, January 18, 2009

Passages at the Bowers Museum

I set a culture and arts goal for myself of 12 museum visits in 2009. I made my second visit over the weekend. The Bowers Museum in Santa Ana has Passages on exhibition until August.

surma Presented in large format color photographs, photographers Carol Beckwith and Angela Fisher’s images of African ritual practices are vivid, rich, intimate and intense. This dynamic exhibition of images from around the African continent is divided into six themes: Coming of Age, Courtship and Marriage, Beliefs and Worship, Masks and Masquerades, Royalty and Power, and Spirits and Ancestors. Six videos bring to life the song, dance and movement of related ceremonies and, objects of personal adornment similar to those as in the photographs will be included. Three-dimensional objects from the Bowers Museum’s permanent collection of African objects will also be on display. Beckwith and Fisher have traveled and lived within Africa together and independently over the last thirty years prolifically documenting tradition and ceremony.

The show is large. It contains images and artifacts from African tribal rituals  It is organized to mark the the various phases on life, from coming of age, to courtship, marriage, and then death. I found it much like walking through a large scale National Geographic magazine.

The photography is technically perfect and visually stunning. I’ve known of the work of Beckwith and Fisher for years. Their contribution to our understanding of the African continent is impressive. Not to mention the endless stream of stunning pictures gracing the pages of various magazines and books.

The Bowers has turned the corner is becoming an impressive museum. This is my third visit in as many years. I love the old California mission style of the place. It feels solid and has what I call a California feel to it. I’ve resisted the temptation to hit the Ringing Rock in front patio. I’m willing to bet hundreds of children do it every weekend. I don’t like the new space as much, but I forget all about it when I’m looking at 200 year old quilts (did I say that?).

I posted on Shea Nuts as a learning experience from my visit. I also have a new ambition. I want to see the Reed Dance in Swaziland. OK… a guy can dream. It must be good to be the King.

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