On Friday night (19th January) I had a few hours to spare before meeting friends for dinner in Oxford Circus. Luckily for me, Friday nights are when the British Museum shuts late (8.30pm) so I decided to take a stroll through it.
I’ve been to the British Museum too many times to count. I went as a child in primary school, again in secondary school, on family days out, and I would often walk around it when I had spare time in London between work and study. I have always classed the British Museum as one of my favourites – if not my favourite – museum in London. This time, I have to be honest, I was tired from work and cold and simply wanted somewhere warm to sit, away from the elements and crowds. Initially, I’d just planned on going inside, browsing through the gift shop (which I always gravitate towards) and getting a drink.
After drinking my drink and listening to the DJ playing South African music in the Great Court, I decided to get up and have a look around. I ended up in the Sainsbury Galleries – Room 25: Africa. I’m not entirely sure why I hadn’t been down into these rooms before, or if I have done, I have no recollection of it. There are five rooms dedicated to paintings, sculptures, clothing, etc. from the African continent. When you first walk down the steps you are greeted by a large, colourful, representation of African languages (which can be seen below).
There were so many beautiful objects that represented the different African cultures as well as so much information that I’ll definitely be going back to read more about it. There was information about ‘brasscasting’ which is the use of brass as the molten metal and was used to make royal regalia. Brass was also important for trade. There’s also so much more information on topics such as death and ancestral sculptures.
Some of the more interesting pieces were the Tree of Life, which was an extremely provocative model of a tree made from guns; a beautifully carved wooden chair, intricate jewellery, and traditional hats. My favourite object was, however, a simple dolls’ house made out of clay, simply decorated and made in the late 20th century. It’s easy to miss, and not very exciting, but there was just something about it that felt quite homely.
It’s such an interesting permanent exhibit. It flows beautifully and there is such a wealth of material to look at and learn about. Unfortunately, it appears to be quite overlooked; whilst there were only a few people in the galleries (including customary, loud, teenage tourists messing around) the rest of the museum seemed to be much more lively. Perhaps this is also another reason why I quite enjoyed my time spent there.
The one thing that absolutely made my
day week was the British Museum staff member who, after I’d asked him a question about the exhibit, gave me two complimentary tickets to a paid exhibition of my choosing. He said that they would just go to waste as he wouldn’t use all of them, but I cannot get over how lovely he was. It was a real act of selflessness in a city where it is so easy to be self-absorbed. I don’t know, his generosity was, and still is, greatly appreciated. I don’t think that I can put into words how it made me feel – grateful, I suppose.
I will definitely be returning to the Sainsbury Galleries when I have more time and, with my two complimentary tickets, I plan on continuing the theme and visiting the ‘South Africa: The Art of a Nation’ special exhibition that finishes on 26th February 2017.
Also, I apologise for the quality of the pictures. I’m not a professional photographer by any means and I also just tend to hurriedly take the pictures on my phone.