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Sep 6, 2006

Exhibition highlights Jades of Belize

Story PictureIt is a substance that evokes not only the beauty of the jeweller’s art, but the mystique of a remarkably advanced ancient civilisation. I’m talking about jade and for the next six months the nation’s best pieces will be on display at the Museum of Belize.

Jacqueline Godwin, Reporting
Nothing draws a crowd more than the showing of the country?s most precious jewel. That?s right, the jade head, formally known as Kinich Ahau, the Mayan Sun God, went on display at the Museum of Belize.

Prime Minister Said Musa and indigenous leader Gregory Choc, cut the ceremonial ribbon that officially opened the Jades of Belize exhibit. The display showcases some of the ancient masterpieces discovered at various archaeological sites across the country.

The jade head was unearthed at Altun Ha in 1968. It was found lying among the remains of this elderly adult male believed to have been an important ruler of the site during his lifetime. Archaeologists suspect that before this Mayan leader died sometime between 600 to 650 AD, he commissioned an artist to create the large carved object that represents the Maya sun God Kinich Ahua. It has given Belize the distinction of being home to the largest carved jade object in the Maya world.

To the ancient Maya, jade was the most prized of all stones. The pieces on display are predominantly in shades of milky white, red and green. To the Mayans, the colour red represents the rising sun and the green symbolizes sustainability, longevity and all things that nourished the earth. The exhibition at the Museum of Belize is the brain child of M.O.B.?s Director Lita Krohn and her staff. Krohn says her love for Mayan Culture dates back to 1968 as a student at junior college. She hopes the display will stimulate others to learn more.

Lita Krohn, Director, Museum of Belize
?It inspired me to find out more about the Maya and anything I learnt I wanted to share it. I hope that teachers and students will also be inspired and infused with pride of one of our many aspects of our heritage in Maya culture.?

The display according, to Institute of Archaeology Director Dr. Jaime Awe is a fitting way to celebrate Belize?s twenty-fifth anniversary of Independence.

Dr. Jaime Awe, Director, Archaeological Department
?The exhibit also includes beautiful funery masks from Caracol, Santa Rita, Cahal Pech, jewellery from Lamanai and Pusil Ha. And countless other objects from some of our major archaeological sites. This exhibition I believe is truly a celebration of our past cultural achievements.?

The ancient Maya used jade to make a variety of objects including weapons, tools and ornaments. Today jade continues to be mined in the Maya area and is still used to create some of the regions most beautiful jewellery.

Mark Espat, Minister of Culture and National Development
?We are here to celebrate jade and jade is the diamond of our ancestors. If diamonds are forever then we are here to celebrate the infinity of jade. Two thousand years before Jesus, jade was used as jewellery, as a mode of exchange, as offerings in tombs and buildings.?

Along with the spirit of celebration, however, there were some concerns raised about matters affecting the modern Maya. According to Choc, President of the Sarstoon Temash Institute for Indigenous Management, his invitation to the event was significant in more ways than one.

Greg Choc, President, SATIIM
?We are seldom asked to participate in activities that showcase part of our rich cultural heritage. Whether it be the opening of a newly renovated ancient Maya City or displaying our ancestors technology, writings etc.?

?The realities of the thousands of Mopan and Ketchi Mayas in Belize who are fighting for their social and political survival. We also want an equal share of the opportunities that some Belizeans have taken for granted, opportunities to equal education, good basic health to name a few.?

The opening ceremony was followed by the presentation of the ceremonial deer dance by residents of Otoxha in the Toledo District.

Greg Choc
?I also want to thank the B.T.B. and CARD for contributing substantially to the revitalization of our culture.?

The Jades of Belize is the M.O.B.’s eighth exhibition. It will run for six months, but if you want to see the Jade Head you better come soon because, for security reasons, the priceless object will shortly be returned to the vault.

Viewers please note: This Internet newscast is a verbatim transcript of our evening television newscast. Where speakers use Kriol, we attempt to faithfully reproduce the quotes using a standard spelling system.

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