One in a million
PUBLISHED: 09:00 16 February 2014
Tony Eccles shares his favourite object from Exeter's Royal Albert Memorial Museum (RAMM)
Words: Emily Feltham
Photo: Kate Mount
Every month someone from behind the scenes at Exeter’s RAMM chooses their favourite item from the museum’s collection to share with Devon Life readers and explains why they have picked it.
Curator of RAMM’s World Cultures gallery, Tony Eccles, chose masks that depict Tecun Uman (right), a Maya hero who led his people against Pedro de Alvarado (left) in the Spanish conquest of Guatemala in 1524. “These masks exemplify the history of persecuted people,” Tony explains.
Although the resistance was unsuccessful, Tony is inspired by the determination of the Maya who continue to promote their culture and their history.
The masks are used in an annual dance festival which is integral to upholding Maya identity through celebrating their traditions. These colourful dances involve the whole community maintaining history by storytelling, as well as providing entertainment; a joyful event commemorating a national tragedy.
Tony’s passion for Latin America led him to travel through Guatemala, where he acquired the mask from the maker’s workshop, so it’s an authentic piece of dance costume. “The masks symbolise “a connection between the present and the past, with a hope for the future”. n
The World Cultures collection consists of 12,000 items and is a Designated Collection of national and international importance. You can see Tecun Uman on permanent display in the Central Americas case. RAMM: Home to a million thoughts, exeter.gov.uk/RAMM.