For months now, the poster for the Royal Ontario Museum’s showcase The Forbidden City stalked me. I mean, every bus shelter had a poster of it. I would see the commercials on television, people would talk about it on Canadian morning shows and every time I go to certain websites, there would be banners for the exhibit. But even the first time I saw the poster at a bus shelter across from my work I knew, I wanted to go.
At thirteen years old I moved from the small Island of Jamaica, to Canada. In Jamaica there weren’t many different cultures–or visible cultures. Sure there were the Jamaicans, and Chinese but that was about it. From time to time I would see others, tourists but not many because I lived in the country. Now imagine, a curious child, moving to a mosaic like Canada and is thrust into Russian, Sri Lankan, French, Spanish – all these cultures that are so breath-taking and intricate!
Lately, I’ve been obsessed with Asian cultures. When my birthday rolled around, I decided as a treat to me, no matter the cost, I would go and see the Forbidden City. I didn’t ask any of my friends to go because I know they weren’t into cultures as crazy as I was. On a beautiful, hot, Thursday, after meeting my friend, we’ll call her Number Tew (inside joke there) and gave her some yummy mangos my dad brought back from visiting his mom, I paid my way into the ROM and stood for a moment staring at the giant, am talking GIANT dinosaur. The guide at the entrance told me to take in the Forbidden City first then roam the rest of the museum so I headed downstairs.
You aren’t allowed to take pictures inside The Forbidden City, so put away those cameras people.
But this place is splendid. The exhibit was vast and covered everything from fashion to plates and vases and jewelry. There is also information on music, ritual, laws, rules. Then we sat in the section for the music history and the significance of the bells and was at peace. Why? The beautiful melodies of the bells were soft and soothing and I didn’t want to leave that area. After I circled around, reading about the Emperors and see how they dressed and lived – I stopped in the gift shop and bought a couple of things then circled back to the music area. There, I sat for half an hour, breathing, relaxing and just enjoying being amongst these things that were so many years old.
Afterward, I exited the exhibit and made my way upstairs, passed under the dinosaur’s neck and entered a whole other world of Korean, Chinese, Japanese and other cultures. There were giant Buddha, Korean pottery, Japanese Samurai war wear, coins from China, an archway, the front of a Chinese building, the Judges of Hell and their servants – and a whole replica of a village! Each piece coming with a story–a history filled with colour and life. It was as though I was walking amongst these people and living with them their lives as they went through spiritual and superstitious rituals.
Please find below, some other pictures by me at the ROM