Friday Two Cents: Ottawa Trip Part 2 – The Canadian Museum of History


 

twoCentsOldNew_George

The other location I made a point in visiting was the Canadian Museum of History. Formally named the Canadian Museum of Civilization, they have amazing artifacts from the early Peoples in Canada to the modern age. Yet this is not the reason why I wanted to visit this museum. They have a special exhibit entitled – The Greeks – Agamemnon to Alexander the Great.   This special exhibit has over 500 artifacts from Greek Museums that span from the earliest moment of the ancient Greek civilization up to Alexander the Great.  

The day I went to see the exhibit was one of the hottest days this summer and I decided to park my car in Ottawa and walk to the museum. However, if you know the capital region the museum is in Hull Quebec and I had to walk a kilometer in the 33o C with the humidity it felt like 40o C.   Yet for some reason I enjoy the hot weather and I relished the walk across the, Alexandra Bridge. It seemed appropriate for the occasion.

 

The Canadian Museum of History

 

Once at the museum I bypassed the regular exhibits (I have seen them when I came to Ottawa on an earlier trip) and went straight for the Greek exhibit. I have to tell you that I was in awe when I entered. They had artifacts dating back to 5300 – 4800 BCE with female fertility figurines. The amazing thing is that I saw similar artifacts in Malta from around the same time.

There were countless more artifacts that made me stop and take notice. Such things as urns with depictions of Achilles fighting and dragging Hector’s body. Statues of ancient heroes, birth of the Olympic Games, family seal rings, artifacts that depict the Iliad and Odyssey, ancient coins, head busts of Plato, Aristotle and Alexander and many, many more. In the end I cannot tell you all about each one. But I can tell you about a few that made me stop and in wonder.  

Boar-Tusk Helmet, Sparta, 13th Century BCE

One amazing artifact was an ancient Boar-tusk Helmet on display. This helmet was worn in battle and created from the tusks of up to 50 boars. The amazing thing about this artifact is that the warrior or hunter had to hunt down all the boars for the tusks. Imagine it’s the 15th century BCE and you’re hunting down 50 wild boars, each weighing between 75 – 100 kg, with ancient weapons such as spears and bows and arrows. It makes you think that our ancestors were made of sterner stuff.

The most impressive artifacts were made of, naturally, gold. One such artifact was something I knew about through my studies in university on the ancient Greek and Roman culture. Hienrich Schliemann found this amazing artifact in the ruins of Mycenae. He found many royal burial sites in the city, one that dated back to the time when the story of the Iliad probably took place. In one such burial site he found a death mask, which he called the “Mask of Agamemnon”.

A death mask is placed over the face of the mummified person. Schliemann associated the discovery to the Greek hero of the mythical conqueror of Troy. He actually discovered the top mask first and proclaimed “I have gazed upon the eyes of Agamemnon.” He later found a second death mask of a bearded man. Its beauty and detail convinced Schliemann to change his mind and associated this second mask to Agamemnon.

Funeral Mask – 16th Century BCE

The “Mask of Agamemnon” – 16th Century BCE

These masks were breathtaking and a wonder to behold. I remembered studying these moments in history in university and going over images of these artifacts but know I can see them in person. Many of these artifacts have never left Greece before now and it was a privilege to behold them in all their wonder.

 

Even though I enjoyed the Greek exhibit I did indulge in a couple of other exhibitions. There was the 1867 – Rebellion & Confederation exhibit that showed the events and motivations that brought the different regions of Canada together to create this great nation. Most of the events shown in the exhibit I knew about, but I had to stop and think that not many people in Canada take the time to actually look into how Canada was created. This was a great way to refresh my memory and for students and new Canadians to understand where we came from and why things happened.

The other exhibit I made a point on visiting was the Terry Fox – Running to the Heart of Canada exhibit. If you do not know about Terry Fox he is a Canadian legend who had cancer and decided to run across Canada to raise money for cancer research. The amazing thing was that Terry had his leg amputated and was running across Canada with a prosthetic lime. Today prosthetics are pretty advanced with amputees running and jumping like they never lost a limb. But in the early 1980s technology was not so advanced. His leg had a simple hinge that helped a bit with his running. But Terry suffered as he ran with his signature step hope but he pushed on. Today many people continue the run Terry started, raising millions for cancer research. The best part was the section where you can see all the letters and cards Terry received from people, including children, supporting him and just thanking him. On the back wall you can leave a note saying why Terry Fox is important to you. I left a note saying,

 

Terry showed you can do anything so long as put your mind to it.

Thanks Terry for giving me hope.   Paul Gauchi

In the end that is what this whole experience meant to me. From the birth of a civilization, to the struggle of a group of colonies coming together to create a nation, to the desire of a young man wanting to make a difference. That is what this museum will always have at it core. Hope for the human race, that we can do anything so long as we put our minds to it.

 

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Art Inspiration: The Greek Gods Distraction on Olympus: Athena


DistrationOnOlympus 

“Distraction on Olympus” is a project I worked on with my students at the school I work in.  It was the final project in a drawing club the children where in when I taught them how to draw in the style of comic and cartoon characters.  The class had decided to go with the theme of the Greek gods and I would help them draw a scene around that idea.

In the process of creating the scene, the children asked to be represented as the gods in the project.  They would choose who they wanted to be drawn as from the Greek gods.  There was one girl in the class that had the intelligence and grace that you would associate with the goddess Athena.  When I told her that I chose Athena for her she was excited because that is who she wanted to be drawn as.

Athena’s birth is one unlike any other in antiquity.  Her father Zeus had relations with her mother Metis (meaning “wisdom”) and she became pregnant.  Zeus, fearing that she would give birth to a son that would eventually over through him devoured or swallowed Metis. 

Soon after Zeus began to have a terrible headache. Since aspirin wasn’t invented then, he instead got Hephaestus to split his head open with an axe.  Talk about your spitting headaches.  Once the head was open, a full-grown, beautiful woman dressed in full armor and carrying a spear, came out and yelled out a fierce war cry at her birth. 

From her birth we can see her divine characteristics.  She was the goddess of wisdom but also the goddess of war.  However unlike Ares, Athena was the honorable side of war that had tactics, strategies and glory from war and combat.  She also had a strong relationship with her father.  Probably because she was born of him and not from the traditional woman born.  Also another aspect of her character is she remained a virgin.  

Her accomplishments and symbols were numerous but I will touch on a few. 

  1. Her animal symbols where the owl and snake.  Hmm. wise owl interesting.
  2. Her other symbols include her armor, helmet spear and aegis or shield that had the head of Medusa on it. 
  3. She was also seen with a small winged female with a crown of garland of success.  Her name was Nike meaning victory.  Hmm Nike – victory. Fascinating!
  4. One of her incredible tails include a contest with Poseidon for the control or patronage of Athens.  The contest had both deities give a gift to Athens and the people would decide.  Poseidon struck a rock with his trident and a salt-water spring or horse came out.  Athena touched the ground with her spear and an olive tree came out.  Upon seeing the tree they proclaimed Athena the winner.  In the Acropolis, across from the Parthenon, the marks of where the trident struck can be seen, as well near by the olive tree.   This began the bad blood relationship between the two deities.  This was also the catalyst for the tragic story of Medusa.

  I decided to draw Athena like the other female characters with an hourglass figure.  Yet you usually see Athena dressed in a long dress or robe, so I did the same.  I did not add the owl, it seemed too Harry Porterish, but I did draw her with her helmet, spear and aegis with the head of Medusa on it.

   I told the story of Athena to the class, abridged of course and they were very pleased with the results.  The girl particularly love her character. 

 

I hope you enjoy Athena, goddess of Wisdom and War, as much as the children did. 

Athena goddess of Wisdom and War.

Athena goddess of Wisdom and War.

Art Inspiration: The Greek Gods Distraction on Olympus: Aphrodite


DistrationOnOlympus 

“Distraction on Olympus” is a project I worked on with my students at the school I work in.  It was a final project in a drawing club the children where in when I taught them how to draw in the style of comic and cartoon characters, they were most familiar with.  The class had decided to go with the theme of the Greek gods and I would help them draw a scene around that idea.

In the process of creating the scene, the children asked to be represented as the gods in the project.  They would choose who they wanted to be draw as from the Greek gods.  In the class just about every girl wanted to be drawn as Aphrodite.  It was a difficult choice but I had to choose by flipping a coin so not to upset the girls.  The girl who was finally drawn as Aphrodite was happy and I told her a bit of Aphrodite’s story.  Not the whole story, I abridged a great deal.

Aphrodite (or Urania) was born when Uranus’s genitals were cast into the sea and she arose from the foam as the beautiful and irresistible goddess we see today.  Her name comes from the Greek word for foam (aphros) because she arose from the sea-foam where she was born, yet she was also described by other terms.  Since her father was Uranus, god of the heavens, she was also known as Urania meaning Heavenly and Celestial. 

As you may have gathered, Aphrodite is known as the goddess of beauty, love and marriage.  She was a very powerful goddess.  She was also worshiped for many things ranging from marriage to prostitution.  She has inspired many artists to create works of art, music and literature. 

Many deities also attended Aphrodite. Some include:

  1. The Three Graces – the Charites are females that represent the aspects of charm and loveliness. 
  2. The Hours or Season –  the daughters of Zeus and Themis: Horae meaning hours, then time and then seasons.  There are four that represent the beautiful qualities of the different times of the year. 
  3. Eros – in Greek Myth he is named Eros but many today know him by his other name, Cupid.  In Greek Myth he came out of Chaos and then attended Aphrodite when she was born.  In the Roman or other texts he was the son of Aphrodite and Ares.  He was a handsome god of love and desire, but in either case he was Aphrodite’s closest friend and confidant. 

I drew Aphrodite with long curly blonde hair as many have done.  The good fortune is that the girl I modeled her after had the same type of hair.  She is mainly drawn in the nude or partially nude but with the children, I drew her with a dress, with the colour of light blue like the sea she was born from.  If you look carefully she is wearing sea shells as jewelry also from the birth from the sea.  She has her hand on her heart and looking down at someone, looking very pleased.  You’ll see why in a few weeks. 

The girl was very pleased with the drawing and enjoyed it tremendously.  I hope you enjoy irresistible Aphrodite as many have. 

Aphrodite - the Goddess of Beauty, Love and Marriage

Aphrodite – the Goddess of Beauty, Love and Marriage

 

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