The musée du quai Branly - Jacques Chirac, named after the former French President
who commanded its creation, is definitely what a 21 st century European temple dedicated
to works from Africa, Asia, Oceania and the Americas should look like. If you look at it from
the Seine, it is covered with many different types of exotic plants, defying the laws of
gravity. From the other side of the building, Rue de l’Université, you can grasp a glimpse of
the warm coloured cubic shapes spreading from the facade, like curious mushrooms that
would have been planted on the horizontal wall. In the courtyard, you’ll have to wind
through a ruffled garden, in the shade of impressive columns, dice, circles, open spaces
and crowded spaces. Colossal. Spectacular. Bold. All this right next to the Eiffel Tower and
designed by famous Jean Nouvel.
Created in 2006, this titanic space welcomes the former ethnologic collections of the
Musée de l’Homme (Museum of Man) and Museum of African and Oceanic Arts located
Porte Dorée (the now called Immigration Museum). In a desert-like atmosphere, with the
typical colours and rough shapes of the Colorado desert, we travel through different
continents and centuries, meeting treasures from the other side of the globe, including some anthropomorphic dogon statue from 10 th century Mali, masks from Gabon, Vietnamese tunics, Aztec figurines or feathered costumes from Peru. The museum hosts a vast and rich permanent collection, as well as several temporary exhibitions throughout the year, dedicated to contemporary art and the promotion of these far away lands’ civilizations.
Before the Incas. Gods and Kings in Ancient Peru
Splendour and wonder of pre-Inca Peru
Peru is known to be the land of the renowned and great Inca empire, whose fame and greatness are symbolized in its impressive Machu Picchu site. However, before that, it was the home of four civilizations, as eminent as ancient Greece. Indeed, four rich and prosperous societies successively settled between the Andes and the Pacific Ocean. The Musée du quai Branly – Jacques Chirac honours these now-forgotten cultures, which are, for some reason, too often passed on. Thanks to recent archaeological investigations, we know more about the first cities of this region, the northern coast of Peru. Archaelogists’ patient work enabled to dig up some objects, presented in this exhibition, which proposes a unique insight into these societies, in order to decipher and understand the origins and the organisation of power within them. Spectacular cities with lordly castles, anthropomorphic gods sculpted or painted on jars, kings’ and craftsmen’s graves filled with offerings, priestesses and governors with their symbols on… These are the elements that, brought together, question and manage to inform on how men conceived their social rank into society. Besides the huge amount of painted ceramics, which display the representations of the people’s ideas and realities of that time – fauna and flora, war, the gods… -, this exhibition also displays unusual objects, such as jewels and tools. Thanks to the scenography and the informative materials, we can perfectly grasp the meaning and power of their presence.
A rich yet accessible exhibition, Before the Incas opens up a historical breach, giving these cultures the credit they deserve, in a scientific and beautiful way.