My Tazzie friend Pip works at the British Museum and invited me and Grumpo de Grump to see the Moctezuma exhibition. I’ve lived in London for 6 years now and have been to the British Museum woefully few times, ridiculous because it’s absolutely gorgeous – a Roman-looking building in the heart of Bloomsbury with a central court designed by Norman Foster.
The exhibition is about Moctezuma, the last chief of the Aztecs before the Spanish came to Mexico. You are led through a series of rooms which start by giving information on how they lived, with impressive carvings, the Aztec sun stone, eagle murals, religious artefacts and Cities of Gold-style palaces. I particularly liked the gold jewelry (good replicas in the shop after – hello christmas presents) and jade- and turquoise-embossed god masks. I would have liked to know more about the human sacrificing and ripping-hearts-out-of-chests bit, but I realise my interest is very tabloid/late night TV, and maybe would distract from the main point.
And you get to the main point suddenly, the somber music playing throughout hinting at what is to come. The well designed set leads you through Aztec history to where it was all destroyed. The Spanish under Cortes invaded Mexico in the 16th century and did what colonialists did the world over – brought disease, massacred thousands, pillaged artefacts and gold, destroyed religious symbols and replaced them with their own.
I remembered the amazing murals in the Palacio de Bellas Artes in Mexico City depicting the torture of the Aztec chiefs and through work I did for Mexico Creativo I know that Mexico’s indigenous population is still suffering from discrimination and the eradication of its culture. At least you can still visit the ruins of this great civilisation in Mexico, and I seem to remember you could buy a sun stone painting on every street corner.
If you want to see the rest of the museum, I’ve heard that the curators are incredibly knowledgeable and do a sort of “best of” guided tour which takes in 10 or so of the highlights for £8. I’m the sort of person that can only do about 1 hour in a museum before feeling like a sit down/beer (is this bad?), and like others I’m not one for reading all the commentary, so this sort of guided, focused tour would suit me well. My friend Rach said the tour was fantastic and recommends Bea’s of Bloomsbury afterwards for tea and cupcakes, or you could do a short walk to Chinatown for some duck’s tongue and beer (have promised Pip not to mention where we went after which was FANTASTIC but which needs to remain a secret so we can still book a table!).