Past: March 6 → May 13, 2012
Rain: it is forecast, it is sought, it is feared, it requires protection, it is hailed as the greatest gift of all. It is depicted in innumerable ways: realistically, figuratively, abstractly, through symbolic or metaphoric representations. It is also associated to musical, or in an even broader apprehension, sound analogies. Ultimately, rain is deified.
As a meteorological phenomenon, rain is also an integral part of the universe’s global system and, as such, fits into the cosmogonic theories that different societies have developed. Therefore, “Putting rain on display” requires a range of approaches: symbolic, religious, artistic and material.
With almost 95 pieces and iconographic documents from the quai Branly museum’s collections, the exhibition explores these varied aspects through a selection of artefacts from Africa, Asia, Oceania and America, where objects with a strong emotional and aesthetic charge coexist with ordinary or strictly functional objects. The trivial and the spiritual, the profane and the religious, are thereby united and confronted in a contrast that stands almost as a metaphor of life itself.
Film excerpts complete this selection, along with audio archives relating to rituals and to music that constitute analogical representations of the rain. Snapshots, taken by some of the collectors and showing the objects in situ, provide greater insight into of these objects and their use.
As an introduction, three objects are presented that reveal the general orientation of the exhibition: a “magic stone”, a cloud-like New Caledonian concretion of magnesia along with a zoomorphic sculpture and an engraved plate from Mexico. These three objects, together with a recording of rain sounds, introduce the visitor into the multicultural world of the exhibition and its “climatic” atmosphere.
Section 1 — Under the rain.
The first section of the exhibition shows some of the forms created by men to shelter and protect himself from the rain.
Coats and rainwear, including accessories (hats, umbrellas, etc…) bear witness to a craftsmanship that can, at times, be very sophisticated.
Section 2 — Rain
This section illustrates the vital need for rain and the importance given to means of assisting and controlling its coming. As related means to ensure the survival of social groups, soil fertility and the fecundity of women are often combined with rain rituals.
These rituals highlight the link that binds men, gods and their natural environment together. They are either based on the depiction or visual and sound evocation of the rain, or they are based on results by mimesis.They are used to make the rain come, to call it, or, on the contrary, to stop and control it. A great variety of objects are used for rituals: masks, sculptures, offerings, musical instruments, etc… And they are the vectors of this link, and the basis for the actions of men over nature.
Finally, this section ends with a screening of documentary films on rain rituals by Jean Rouch.
Section 3 — Symbols and metaphors of the rain
Rain is an element that fits into a whole cosmogonic thought system; in turn this system is the subject of representations that give it a material translation. Rain, along with its symbolic representation — the rainbow — is the link between the infraworld and the superworld.
This section allows visitors to explore animal representations associated with the rain either through their physical presence or through their symbolic value. It is mostly amphibians — frogs, toads — and reptiles — snakes, dragons, turtles, crocodiles — that are related to humidity and the rainy season, and appear on objects and textiles.
This section also grants special importance to minerals whose appearance evokes the rain or related meteorological phenomena: translucent “rainbow spirit” quartz, obsidian, New Caledonian concretions of magnesia… Some of these minerals were interpreted by men as having dropped from the sky in a similar way to rain, as evidenced by the names they are called: thunder-rocks, lightning stones.
The final sub-section focuses on the divinities, myths and conceptions of the world associated with the rain. A selection of objects figuring divinities and mythological beings gives an insight into the different conceptions of the Ceremonial bracelet universe in various cultural contexts. Rain, essentially a propitious occurrence, can also be evil: it is therefore necessary to earn the goodwill of higher entities. Some cultures have clearly identified rain divinities while, in others, rituals are aimed at maintaining a balance between the conflicting forces of nature, thus guaranteeing the survival of mankind.
These rituals then become part of a global conception of the universe. A series of bark paintings from Arnhem land, in Australia, reflects the wealth of Aboriginal myths related to meteorological phenomena.
At the end of the exhibition an accumulation of Nepalese kites designed to drive away the rain are presented; an allusion that overlooks a humorous video showing artist Marcel Broodthaers trying to write in ink under the pouring rain “The Rain”.
37, quai Branly
T. 01 56 61 70 00
Tuesday & Wednesday, Sunday, 11 AM – 7 PM
Thursday – Saturday, 11 AM – 9 PM
Full rate €9.00 — Concessions €7.00
Billet jumelé (collections permanentes et expositions temporaires) : tarif plein 11 € / tarif réduit 9 €