The Olmec cosmogony is revealed at Quai Branly
The scene takes place in 1965 in the Mexican village of Las Limas. Two children break coyol nuts, a kind of palm tree, on a rock stuck in the ground. Wanting to free it, they realize that they are banging on the head of a buried statue. Carved in serpentine, an olive-colored stone, it represents a character sitting cross-legged holding in his hands resting on his knees what at first glance seems to be a baby. It does not take more for the parents of the little discoverers, in this Catholic Mexico, to see a Madonna (although it is clearly a man …) presenting a baby Jesus, and take the statue home with them. who will become, in this Christian interpretation, the Lord of Las Limas.
In reality, even if the “baby” is indeed a god, it is not at all the one this family had in mind, because it was sculpted several centuries before Jesus Christ… He welcomes visitors to the Musée du quai Branly -Jacques-Chirac, in Paris, at the entrance to the exhibition devoted to the Olmecs and the cultures of the Gulf of Mexico. “All the Olmecs are in this work, likes to summarize the Québécois Steve Bourget, responsible for the Americas collections at the museum and one of the two scientific curators of the exhibition. If we understand its symbolism, its ideological proposal, we have understood everything. “
“A soft god”
The seated individual holds the primordial god of the Olmecs, god of rain, fertility, regeneration and corn, recognizable by the strange V-slit that he sports on the top of the skull and by his grimacing face which evokes that of a jaguar. Another oddity, his flabby body which almost seems to flow on either side of the arms which support it, like a camembert that is too thick or a soft Dali watch. “He is a soft god who has no bone structure. It is so old that it precedes the creation of bone in the body of animals and men ”, complete Steve Bourget.
Cora Falero Ruiz, curator of the exhibition: “It took seven flights to bring to France works considered to be the quintessence of Olmec art, three quarters of which are coming out of Mexico for the first time”
The latter, attentive to a sort of body topography, also points out that, on the shoulders and knees of the seated man, are engraved figures – avatars of the god tattooed or scarified? “If we connect them by diagonals, they cross at the navel. ” This staggered arrangement, similar to that of the 5 of a playing card or a dice, is reproduced on the divinity’s chest and abdomen, with two large Xs inscribed in cartridges: “It symbolizes an axis of the world that we find everywhere among the Olmecs”, reveals Steve Bourget.
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