Thoughts-Altering Substances Subject of Exhibit at Berkeley Museum • Excessive Instances


The Phoebe A. Hearst Museum of Anthropology on the College of California, Berkeley is exploring the world of medication in an exhibit referred to as Pleasure, Poison, Prescription, Prayer: The Worlds of Thoughts-Altering Substances. The college’s school members and undergraduate college students contributed analysis for the exhibition, which calls into query why substances equivalent to sugar and caffeine are socially acceptable, whereas others like peyote and opium are unlawful and stigmatized.

Pleasure, Poison, Prescription, Prayer options objects from the Hearst Museum’s everlasting assortment of historic objects which have historically produced, processed, saved, or had been used for consuming a wide range of substances, together with however not restricted to alcohol, tobacco, cannabis, betel nut, kava, and coca. The exhibition showcases objects starting from a pre-Incan portrait jar from Peru and a Hookah from 1960s India to a 20th century Japanese sake gourd. Different objects embrace elaborate snuff bottles, water pipes, and specialty scissors used for chopping betel nuts, which have traditionally been used as a stimulant.

Betel Scissors/ Gavin Lee

In regards to the significance of the exhibition’s title, Katie Fleming, Gallery Supervisor & Schooling Coordinator, and Adam Nilsen, Head of Schooling & Interpretation, inform Excessive Instances: “Whereas every of those substances has a novel historical past and cultural provenance, one factor they’ve in widespread is the multifarious position they play in society. Every substance highlighted within the exhibit has the potential for use recreationally to offer pleasure, will be toxic if consumed in extra, has a medicinal perform or has the capability to heal, and performs a task in spirituality or non secular apply. We needed to spotlight the often-overlooked incontrovertible fact that there are a variety of grey areas in relation to how individuals use or choose substances.”

A number of the oldest objects within the exhibit are a group of 3000-year-old Historical Egyptian beer cups. “Beer was the staple drink of Historical Egyptians and was consumed by individuals of all courses and ages,” Fleming and Nilsen clarify. “Getting drunk on beer was additionally part of non secular devotional rituals to Hathor, the goddess of pleasure, celebration, kindness, and love. It was thought of so vital that individuals had cups like these buried with them in tombs to take with them to the afterlife.”

Beer Cups/ Gavin Lee

One of many exhibition’s most uncommon objects is a bilbil: a small ceramic jug from the island of Cyprus that’s formed like an upside-down poppy — the one considered one of its variety within the Hearst assortment. “What makes it so fascinating is that archaeologists have discovered traces of opium in bilbils like this,” say Fleming and Nilsen. “The truth that they’re discovered all around the Mediterranean tells us that there should have been a big opium commerce within the area.”

Different objects on view embrace artworks which are impressed by or symbolize using mind-altering substances, together with yarn work from the Huichol of Mexico, with religious motifs and depictions of the peyote cactus.

When requested what they hope guests take away from the exhibition, Fleming and Nilsen imagine it’s vital that individuals grasp the origins of the substances, in addition to their social and cultural trajectories.

“Understanding the structural powers at play and the indigenous roots and traditions surrounding these substances is important in inspiring empathy for customers and respect for the facility of those numerous substances. We hope this exhibit leaves guests questioning their preconceived notions and empowered to proceed to study.”

Snuff Bottles/ Gavin Lee

Pleasure, Poison, Prescription, Prayer: The Worlds of Thoughts-Altering Substances is on view by means of December 15th, 2019 on the Phoebe A. Hearst Museum of Anthropology at College of California, Berkeley.


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