General Aztecs Maya Tocuaro Kids Contact 28 Feb 2021/5 Monkey
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World Gallery of the Horniman Museum London

Horniman Museum, London

The 80,000 objects in the World Cultures collection and the 7,000 musical instruments kept at the Horniman Museum in Forest Hill, London, have officially been given Designated status to show their national importance, and include an impressive number of Mexican artefacts, particularly folk masks and instruments.

Pic 1: Zapotec mask, World Gallery, Horniman Museum, London
Pic 1: Zapotec mask, World Gallery, Horniman Museum, London (Click on image to enlarge)

The recently (2018) launched World Gallery of the Horniman is a beautifully presented exhibition area, containing several objects from Mexico, such as the fine Zapotec mask shown here (pic 1) - but you’ll have to hunt to find them! The Americas section focuses heavily on North American peoples and cultures, and many of the Mexican artefacts are not currently on display.
In the museum’s collections, for instance, are some 20 carnival and dance masks from Mexico, including a particularly striking “snake devil mask” collected from a group of Concheros dancers by Rodney Gallop over 80 years ago.

Pic 2: ‘Revival’ Aztec wooden teponaztli tongue drum, Horniman Museum
Pic 2: ‘Revival’ Aztec wooden teponaztli tongue drum, Horniman Museum (Click on image to enlarge)

Mexico is quite well represented in the Music Gallery, with instruments ranging from an armadillo-shell-backed jarana guitar to a modern (“revival”) copy of an Aztec teponaztli (tongue or slit drum) (pic 2). Oddly, if you grovel on the floor you’ll notice that the finely carved dark wooden teponaztli is solid rather than hollow - and the carving, peculiarly, is of a Maya self-sacrifice ritual: not very Aztec, but it looks good!
However it should be pointed out that the Music Gallery is - we would say - excessively DARK! It’s impossible to read many of the object labels, and to see many of the instruments themselves, which rather defeats the object...

Explore the World Gallery of the Horniman Museum online
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