British Museum (Africa Galleries)

I will slowly conquer the British Museum, bit by bit. I will. I can’t leave here saying I lived a stone’s throw from the British Museum for four years and didn’t.

The first problem was that every time I used to go in, I’d get sucked into the Egyptian or Greek sections, and get absolutely exhausted by these alone. The second problem was that they had to go and make that wondrous Great Court, and I started wandering in simply for that, cutting through the museum on my way home but not actually seeing exhibits other than by Norman Foster. The third problem, well, there is no third problem. I’ve just taken it for granted all these years. (No doubt because it’s free. When I went to the Louvre I was determined to get my money’s worth, and nearly had to be carried out.)

So on Friday I headed to the Africa galleries with Russ (just one part of another happy leisurely indulgent-yet-frugal afternoon. We had lunch, went to one of the greatest museums in the world, and spent hours reading in the Borders cafe. I think we spent about £5). Apart from the incredibly beautiful artefacts on display or the fact that I learnt a lot, what really struck me was how appealingly everything was laid out and presented. Throwing-knives encased in a wall of glass. Shark masks used in traditional masquerade ceremonies suspended in the air, as if in water. Brassworked panels dominating one side of a room, the stark, simple blocks of shadows they cast on the walls only emphasizing their intricacy. Everything meticulously labelled and explained.

Duly wowed. Next stop: the Orient.