Friday, August 1, 2008
Musée du Quai Branly (by Lisa)
I highly recommend this museum. It is fairly new, being the legacy of former President and Paris mayor, Jacques Chirac. It is sublime in its serenity. It is located just up from the Tour Eiffel and at first you pass a massive wall of green. One of the outside walls has been vertically greenscaped and in this heavy summer heat the many varieties of thriving plants appear lush, like a carpet you could roll on and steal a bit of dew. You then enter a garden area and immediately the sounds of traffic, of multi-tongued tourists, of cheap trinket hawkers is gone. And on this summer evening (choosing very wisely to go during the extended hours) we are nearly alone. A lone kitty greets us in the garden. The building was inviting in its cool moderness, both inside and out. We specifically went to see a temporary exhibit on Polynesia. We didn't know what the museum was about. It is very much 3D. It contains artifacts and art from various indigenous people all over the world, divided into vast areas--Oceana, Africa, Americas, Asia. The skulls were creepy, the carved figurines with a little door for housing bones interesting, the buffalo skins familiar, the jewelry made with human hair odd.
The Polynesian exhibit was very interesting, covering the far reaches of the South Pacific, and included Hawai'i, which I was very excited to see. We learned that the items came from the collections of the Europeans who were given them or stole them. Polynesians are giving and generous. Despite this it surprised me that a feathered cape and helmet of royal Hawaiian colors (red and yellow) would be given to a European admiral. Many items were "collected" by missionaries, who brought their prizes back as trophies, proving that they had won over the Polynesians who were now giving up their idols in favor of the white man's god. Unfortunately there were no items related to Hula--no ipu heke, puili, ili ili, or kala'au. So I have to wonder--the missionaries did their best to rid the Hawaiian islands of Hula, maybe the Hawaiians didn't so easily give this up and hand over dance implements to them. They kept them when the Hula went underground, thankfully to be revived. Or maybe I just have my history wrong--early Hula was chanted so the key to its survival was survival of the stories and language and the implements were added later. Don't know. In any case, I'd like to bring an image to those of you who have been to Hawai'i and driven the many Kamehameha roads and seen the familiar royalty signs of the robed and helmeted warrior in profile. I've now seen the robe and helmet in person, in France!!