Maya: The Exhibition highlights living legacy of Mayan civilization
By Monica Rubalcava
Los Angeles, Apr 1 (EFE).- The California Science Center in Los Angeles is hosting Maya: The Exhibition, which seeks to connect the estimated 7 million living Maya with their glorious past.
“There are many, many Maya living in this region now in the United States and we think it’s really important both that we share that with the people who are here now from Maya backgrounds and ancestry and for the broader population to learn about them,” center director Jeffrey N. Rudolph told EFE.
The exhibit gives visitors the opportunity to immerse themselves in the culture and cosmovision of the great civilization created by the Maya in Mesoamerica over the course of more than 2,000 years, culminating in the classic period, AD 250-950.
“There are different aspects that make the Maya culture so special, above all their enormous achievements in the field of science, architecture, and hieroglyphic writing,” curator Nikolai Grube said.
“The Maya were the only people in the (western) hemisphere who recorded their entire history,” the University of Bonn professor said.
Notable elements of the exhibit include an imposing sculpture of a jaguar-masked warrior that measures 3 m (9 ft) long, a mask of jade and obsidian, a ceramic censer in the form of a Maya goddess, and a stela.
Also on display are vases, cooking utensils, jewelry made from precious stones, and textile creations of the contemporary Maya, all meant to convey a cosmovision based on the organic convergence of nature, the divine, and science.
“One piece that stands out from them all, without question, is the great stucco figure of the jaguar,” Grube said.
The sculpture was extracted illegally from an archaeological site by farmers who tried to sell it on the black market, but the jaguar ultimately ended up in the hands of Guatemala’s La Ruta Maya Foundation, who worked with the Guatemalan government and Austria-based MuseumsPartner to put together the exhibition.
“We are still not sure what this jaguar represented, it might be a deity,” Grube said. “The Mayas thought that the sun transformed into a jaguar at night to be born later as the sun, but it could also be a warrior.
The largest concentration of Maya is to be found in Guatemala and those indigenous people are well-represented among Guatemalan migrants in the US.
“I think that (the exhibition) is a good way to recognize that we indigenous populations still exist. The exhibition shows what we were, but there is a part that teaches that indigenous people continue existing,” said Genesis Ek, executive director of Indigenous Communities in Leadership (CIELO), a Los Angeles nonprofit.
Grube expressed the hope that the exhibit will awaken feelings of empathy among US residents opposed to the influx of immigrants from Latin America.
“I am sure that this exhibition, which is focused on the present as well, can show that migrants nowadays are not people without history and without culture, but that they are rather the heirs of a millennial culture and that their motivation to migrate is the precarious conditions in which they live,” the German scholar said.