Before it closed I visited the Living with Gods: Peoples, Places and Worlds Beyond exhibition at the British Museum. The exhibition was timed to coincide with a Radio 4 show on the same theme, but as I never listen to the radio, I can’t comment on that. I did enjoy the exhibition – even if I didn’t always agree with it.
This fascinating exhibition looks at how people over time have represented their religious beliefs. Christianity, Islam, Judaism are all represented, are as lesser-known and older religions from all corners of the globe. The exhibits are arranged by theme, with seemingly different artefacts displayed alongside one another as they are said to reflect similar aspects of belief. I particularly liked the inclusion of cheaper everyday items alongside valuable and unique artefacts.
The exhibition begins with the Lion Man, the oldest known figurative sculpture in the world that dates back 40,000 years. However, does it necessarily reflect religious belief as the exhibition claims? Regardless, it’s a fascinating talking point.
There is an impressive Judas-devil figure used in Mexican Day of the Dead processions. Masks from the Congo, Jewish prayer caps and Japanese phalluses linked with fertility prayers are among the varied items displayed. One of the most moving is a cross carved in 2014 from a wrecked refugee boat that carried 500 refugees; at least 360 are known to have drowned. Towards the end of the exhibition, we see how Communist regimes in China and Russia directed religious feeling towards the regime leaders and away from traditional religion. The exhibition is incredibly interesting and thought-provoking, and I’m glad I made the effort to go before it closed.