Nov. 20th, 2016

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I've hardly used my British Museum membership this year, mostly down to health reasons, but also because of lack of motivation due to the overcrowding of recent exhibitions and the fact that I don't like the space in the new Sainsbury Wing.

That led me to look for reviews of Sunken Cities before I booked a coach ticket.  The only one I got as far as reading was the Guardian's - they hated it, but it was one of those reviews that was so sneering and mean-spirited that it just made me want to go.  At one point the reviewer admitted that they hate Egyptian and Hellenistic culture.  So why would you even - oh, never mind.

As it happens, this is the first time I've been impressed with what they've done with the exhibition space.  It's quite dark, the walls are all painted dark blue.  (But not so dark that I had trouble seeing everything, and I have fairly extreme difficulty getting enough light to see things properly on a good day, so clearly they know what they're doing).

The exhibition showcases finds from two "lost" cities of the Nile delta, Thonis-Heracleion and Canopus, which were founded in the 7th century BC and gradually sank as the channels of the Nile changed, were subject to earthquakes, etc, but are believed to have been inhabited as late as the 7th century AD.

There are lots of large monumental scuptures as well as the largest collection of ritual items ever found.  (In other places the metal would have been melted down for repurposing as they became obsolete).  Many of these are shown alongside videos of the archaeologists uncovering them.  This is something else the Guardian reviewer hated but I personally get excited watching underwater archaeology at work.

Then the exhibition takes a turn into telling the story of the Osiris myth.  I thought it was a bit of a non-sequitur but, like any good geek, I *love* that myth, and there were a number of excellent statues that normally live in Egypt, including several that I've seen in textbooks so it was fantastic to see the real thing.

The reason for telling this story becomes apparent when you turn another corner and the exhibiton takes you through the ritual that was done surrounding the Osiris myth every year.  We know about it from various sources but in Thonis-Heracleion and Canopus they have found physical evidence for the ritual.  So that was pretty exciting too.

There was a bit of a crush at the beginning of the exhibition but as I went on it was still busy but far less crowded, which made for a nice change.

I was going to buy the book as it's very nice indeed but I'm aware that I've been haemorrhaging money lately so I declined.  I can always order it later.

Definitely recommended, but it's only on for another week.
inulro: (Default)
I was less excited about this exhibit but I thought I'd pop in and see it while I was in the area.  I timed it well; I didn't get there till after 4 (though it's late opening day) and it was practicall empty.

It's a bit of a mess because it features art from the area that became South Africa from the very beginning to the present.  I really enjoyed the early stuff, as I've been reading a bit about neolithic art and rock art generally lately.

The other interesting aspect was the contemporary art - three pieces in particular are jaw-dropping, stop you in your tracks stuff that were worth the price of admission alone.

Although the narrative of the exhibition was at great pains to explain that African art during the period of white settlement is difficult because what survives was collected as curios rather than art, but it still feels that it's being displayed as ethnotgraphic artifacts rather than as art.  (Though that could be the result of 40-odd years of only seeing this kind of material displayed in that way).  I did not know that African people continued to do rock art into the modern period, and the pieces where they painted the early Dutch ships and the white settlers were really cool.

I skipped pretty quickly over the parts explaining apartheid - I suppose it's aimed at people who are too young to have spent the 80s protesting against it and being taught about it in school.

I stil enjoyed it, but less than the Sunken Cities.  Which probably says more about me and my interests than it does about the exhibtion itself.
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54. Saint's Blood by Sebastien de Castell

Book 3 in the Greatcoats series.  I have reviewed the first two recently.

I am definitely not the best person to write a critical review.  Regular readers will remember how much I love the series in general and the main character Falcio in particular.

This book continues to be action-packed with a duel in nearly every chapter, and Falcio discovering new enemies coming out of the shadows right, left & centre.  This time it's the religious orders, who were pretty irrelevant in the series up till now.  The gods and saints are being killed and the Greatcoats have to figure out why as well as stop the perpetrators. Falcio gains some new allies in this one, but continues to pay an extremely high price for fighting for what he believes to be right.

De Castell doesn't kill off characters often, but when he does it really packs an emotional punch.  This book has All The Feels and I loved it very much.


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