Monday, June 7, 2010


Saturday was a grey rainy day. Bored, we decided to get some bad coffee downtown. On our way out of the café we noticed something infinitely puzzling. Apparently, the Museum of Arts and Traditions, closed for the past three years, has re-opened! We rushed towards it and saw at least a dozen people wearing identical T-shirts with a collection of Gabonese masks. They must have been museum employees and their number suggested a very promising visit: the museum, located in a huge modern building, looked grand indeed. We were not stopped by anyone. On the contrary, we were actually encouraged to go in and, our curiousity rising, we did.

On entering the museum, we realised it consisted of a single room, and not a very big one, either. There was a big poster with some information on Gabonese masks and eight (eight!) masks described in more detail. This was accompanied by a few musical instruments, brief info on the materials masks are made of and a video presentation of a traditional dance with the use of masks (all chairs taken by some tired Gabonese who seemed to have spent their whole afternoon watching the video).

Despite the obvious scarcity of exhibits, we were not discouraged. As no catalogue was available, and by happy conincidence I had my camera with me, I started taking pictures of the masks and the information posters, to give you a blog tour of them later. When I was about to take my last picture, a big lady sporting the above mentioned T-shirt came running and, with anger worth a better cause, started shouting at me.

- It is strictly forbidden!
- Oh, I'm sorry, Madam, there is no sign informing that I can't take pictures.
- It is strictly forbidden! C'est pas bon!
- But why, Madam? I was not using flash.
- It is strictly forbidden! C'est pas bon! You must erase them!
I started "erasing" my illegal pictures, as she kept repeating I had to do it. Of course, I didn't really get rid of them, as I saw no real need for that. In the meantime, Jandro joined the conversation.
- Can we get a catalogue, then, Madam?
- No! It will come out! But we sell these T-shirts (she proudly pointed to her chest).
The conversation with the helpful lady did not end there, however. I was too curious to let go now. Pointing to one of the posters, I asked why it said that the exhibition had been open since 29th January if the museum had only opened a few days before. She managed to confuse me by the following answer: It was open but not to the public and now it's open to everybody so they can see our exhibition. This made me drop the subject. Nevertheless, as the poster informed that the exhibition would end on 30th June, I asked if they had an idea for the next one. Oh... We've just opened. We'll leave this exhibition till September, October... No, no idea yet. But we have a lot of good exhibits. I said nothing but I couldn't help thinking that yes, they had had a lot of great exhibits, before the French took them away to save them because they were rotting in Gabonese warehouses.

On our way out we were told that in a quarter of an hour, at 6, there would be a traditional dance performance. We hanged around until 6:25, when we saw a technician slowly starting to set the lights. We watched his deliberate, studied moves and thought we'd had enough for one afternoon. We went home, bitterly telling ourselves that we had to visit that African museum in Paris.

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