My first experience to the Bowers Museum on Wednesday January 14, 2015 has been an inspiring and enlightening visit. The sculptures on the anterior of the museum in the “Sculpture Garden” were exquisite, including the water fountains aligned in a row making it a serene environment. The front lobby lady was very informative and showed me a map of where everything is located, as well as the security guard there who said if I needed anything to let him know. Although I was having a difficult time walking through the museum, because I am in a medical walking boot from a broken foot.
I pleasantly was inspired by every piece of artwork and artifacts I saw. I enjoyed gazing at the incredible Mandala artwork in the Leo Friedman Foundation Galleria, each one was with precision. I visited the gift shop which is directly across from the Tangata Restaurant; the gift shop offered a variety of wonderful products. They have everything from ancient history to present day. I was a little disappointed because they had a few places that were closed off due to maintenance and I couldn’t view much in the museum.
I heard much great hype about Bowers Museum, and since I have never been here before I thought I would give it a try. I was surprised how small the museum was, some exhibit rooms were small compared to other exhibits. For instance, the California Legacies: Missions and Ranchos, First Californians and Pre-Columbian Ceramics rooms were small with beautiful findings but not many. I think if they didn’t close off a few places in the museum, I would have enjoyed more of what they have to offer.
The first room I saw when I walked in the museum is called the Spirits and Headhunters: Art of the Pacific Islands, in this room were masterworks from cultural regions of Micronesia, Melanesia, and Polynesia. Mostly focused on New Guinea, land of the headhunter and the artistic traditions into daily and ritual life. There were larger than life masks, finely crafted feast bowls, Sepik River men’s house, shell and feather currency, tools of the shaman, weapons of warfare and hum trophies taken in retribution.
The Wasekaseka Necklace from Fiji, Polynesia made from Sperm whale tooth and fiber was one of my favorite things I saw there. Pacific Islanders wore this necklace as a symbol of honor, wealth and power. These were people of high-status individuals who in many cases received them as gratitude for an alliance or for their political support or as a token of solidarity. It was extremely rare to obtain a whale beached on shore in the 18th century. I was surprised to find this out because I received a replica of a wasekaseka from a friend of mine who is Samoan.
The next exhibit I came across was a room with ancient horses, the Stirrups of the Heian Period, 794-1185 AD in Japan made of iron and lacquered wood was interesting. I am Japanese and this was something new to me, these stirrups but also known as abumi, and the Japanese abumis appear rather unwieldy, but would have represented a great leap forward for the mounted samurai. The slipper style of stirrup is visible on the small incense burner in the form of a horse. I knew the samurai’s been speedy and could control their weapons while on the horses.
But I never knew that it was because of their slipper style stirrups. The next exhibit I saw were West Mexican Ceramics which included one that I particularly enjoyed one piece because I am a dog lover, the Comala Phase. Colima, West Mexico from 200 BC – A. D. 300 made from fired clay. The people of Colima created pottery vessels in the form of a small breed of dog called Xoloitzcuintli, commonly known as the Mexican hairless. It is believed that often the dogs were fattened to be eaten at ritual feasts if they were not being used as watch dogs.
Following this exhibit I saw some artifacts in a glass called The First Californians, there were exquisite findings in here. Some findings I saw were basketry hat from the Gabrielino culture 19th century, Gabrielino is the Spanish name for the tribe. The Spanish named the so-called Mission Indians after the nearest Catholic mission. Gabrielino’s are known for their native basket weaving and soapstone carving. Unfinished soapstone sucking tube from the channel island culture 250-1700 A. D. which was used to make items of jewelry, religious objects as well as everyday utilitarian artifacts.
The tube was intended to be a shaman’s healing tube used to suck diseases from a patient. There was also rock crystals from the channel island culture from 250-1600 A. D. I now understand why my aunt collected so many rock crystals because of their meaning. The first exhibit I saw was in the California Legacies: Missions and Ranchos room. The design of the exhibit and the history behind each piece was properly explained. When I walked through the room, an experienced docent summarized a handful of pieces to me regarding what era and who the artifacts belonged to and how it was used.
On the right side of this room, closer to the middle against the wall, I came across the first artifact that got my attention. The first artifact was called a “Mission Indians dispatch pouch” from 1780-1820. This dispatch pouch is handmade with leather and California black bear fur. These dispatch pouches were used to carry messages from one mission station to another by Native American runners. The Native American runners were chosen by the mission padres for their speed and stamina. To be the bearer of religious doctrine was considered a great honor.
Many native peoples who converted to Christianity became known as “Mission Indians” in spite of their tribal affiliation. The Mission Indians is a term for indigenous peoples of California, living in coastal plains, adjacent inland valleys and mountains and on the Channel Islands in central and southern California. These tribes established peaceful cultures from 250 to 8,000 years before Spanish contact. In 1769 the Spanish Franciscan mission was built in San Diego and local tribes were relocated and conscripted into forced labor on the mission from San Diego to San Francisco.
Many of these tribes died from diseases, starvation, over work and torture. Quite many of the tribes were forcibly converted and baptized as Roman Catholics by the Franciscan missionaries at the missions. The tribes represented were, Pomo, Hupa, Yokuts, Miwok, Maidu, Wintun, Shasta, Karok, Yurik, Costanoan, Salinan, Chumash, Cahuilla, Chemehuevi, Panamint and Mono. [Dav14] The next piece that caught my attention was the cornerstone from grijalva adobe, which is located in the Missions and Ranchos room towards the middle of the room.
This cornerstone is from 1800 and was the first adobe building and the first secular building in Orange County outside the limits of Mission San Juan Capistrano. Don Juan Pablo Grijalva was a soldier, settler, rancher and pioneer who came to California with the Anza expedition in 1775. During that time there were only five missions, two presidios and a single Rancho of 120 square yards. Don Juan Pablo Grijalva created the first Rancho in what became Orange County. Juan Pablo Grijalva was second corporal of the Presidio Terrenate when appointed by Juan Bautista de Anza as Sergeant of the Expedition to Alta California.
Just outside of the Missions and Ranchos room, I saw a fireplace with a Comal hanging from the left side of it. This “Comal” is significant to our history by Don Juan Forster c. 1830. The word Comal comes from the Aztecs culture that was located in Mexico. The purpose of the Comal is well known in their cultures of the making of tortillas, the frying of different kinds of meats and to toast coffee and cacao bean. Although many textbooks do not talk about Don Juan Forster, he is an important person to know about. Many people in the 1800’s used Comal’s or some type similar to cook their meals on in their daily lives.
John (Don Juan) Forster became a Mexican citizen of early California and was one of the largest landowners in California. The Mexican government appointed Forster captain of the port of San Pedro in March of 1843. Forster and brother in-law of both the California governor Pio Pico and the commander of the insurgents determined that the pragmatic thing to do was to offer assistance to the Americans in the Mexican-American War. The California Gold Rush created a demand for southern California cattle, and Forster profited by supplying that demand. Dav14] The next finding I saw was the model of the Diamond Tally-Ho Stage Coach from 1870, made from wood, iron, leather, chain and cloth. The Tally-ho coach would run between San Diego and Julian carrying mail and passengers. During that era, people needed to find a ways of transportation and by all means the people would take the tally-ho stage coach, or other means of transportation. I then walked down the hallway and saw a wells fargo strong box from 1855, made from wood, iron, leather and chain. The safe transfer of money was necessary for the building of the new American cities.
This gave the new settlers a sense of security. From 1855 through 1866, Wells Fargo expanded rapidly, becoming the West’s all-purpose business, communications and transportation agent. Wells Fargo’s company developed its own stagecoach business and participated in the Pony Express. I also thought the Mexican Brandy Still was interesting. The still belonged to Don Juan Forster from 1776-1831 made from copper. Don Juan Forster purchased the brandy still during one of his sea voyages. Don Juan had a reputation for producing fine liquors and his wine could not be surpassed.
Brandy was manufactured by the missions and early rancheros for exchange with foreign traders. Brandy and alcoholic liquor distilled from wine or fermented fruit juice, was frequently used as a medicinal or curative liquid. The main interest in the room was the statue of Saint Anthony of Padua from 1800. Saint Anthony of Padua was also known as Anthony of Lisbon, he was a Portuguese Catholic Priest and friar of the Franciscan Order. Saint Anthony was noted by his contemporaries for his forceful preaching and expert knowledge of scripture and the patron saint of finding things or lost people.
He was the second-most-quickly canonized saint after Peter of Verona. He was also proclaimed a Doctor of the Church January 1946. St. Anthony became a Franciscan in the hope of shedding his own blood and becoming a martyr. St. Anthony is called the Hammer of the Heretics, his great protection against their lies and deceits in the matter of Christian doctrine was to utter, simply and innocently, the Holy Name of Mary. St. Anthony wanted to profess the Catholic Faith with his mind and his heart at every moment and time. St.
Anthony served as envoy from the general chapter to Pope Gregory IX, his preaching at the Papal court was hailed as a “jewel case of the Bible” and he was commissioned to produce his collection of sermons. In 1691 Spanish missionaries came across a small Payaya Indian community along what was then known as the Yanaguana River on the feast day of Saint Anthony, June 13. Throughout our history, religion was the utmost main concern. Between 1780 and 1850 had been characterized by John Bossy as representing the ‘birth of a denomination’ for Catholicism.
There were about 80,000 Catholics in England in 1770; by 1850 this had multiplied ten times to about three quarters of a million. Catholicism developed in areas where it had been barren since the Reformation. Especially in the early years, religion caused separation of beliefs from state to state. There was a lot of doubt between each religion, which caused quite a few arguments. People will always look for another way of finding out a solution and if they can’t come up with one or they tried everything in their power and failed, then they would look to a higher power for guidance.