Museum tour: The Bardo

In place of anxious worries or food ecstasy (or my various rants between the two), today I’m going to treat you to a museum tour. Not quite like the tours the real museums are organizing, but still good. I almost couldn’t take a bad picture in this place.

The Bardo Museum in Tunis was the site of a terrorist attack in 2015, which of course has affected how many people are willing to visit. The museum is a real gem – big enough to be a showcase of Tunisia’s antiquities and wonders, but not so big to be overwhelming. It is filled with light, both from windows and skylights.

This hall features statuary of early civilization leaders. I learned something interesting here: many times only the statues’ heads were replaced when the leader died. That is good stewardship of your marble! Also, Interchangeable Heads would be a good name for a rock band. (Rock band? See what I did there?)

But the real star of the Bardo is the collection of mosaics. These come from all over the national territory and have been lovingly preserved. Where there are sections missing, the curators have lightly traced in what you can’t see in the panel, like adding the head of a horse to its body or showing the wine amphora someone is carrying. (Tunisians have always made wine, it seems!

Many of the larger mosaics – covering an entire gallery floor, about 25 X 25 feet I would guess – were like quilts, and each square had to do with food of one sort or another. Our guide said they were menus – showing what was on offer, like octopus, pears and pheasants. And, of course, wine.

Others were more storytelling – like running a daycare center, gods, hunting, ostriches and wolves staring each other down, and the world’s only depiction of a female centaur.

We also saw brilliant pattern work, a feature of Arab architecture and art (like the Alhambra in Spain) all around the world. Lots of texture and painstaking crafting.

If you can get past the vertigo from me filming this literally upside down, it comprises 48 of the most stunning seconds we spent in the museum. I have no idea what is wrong with me and the camera, but it’s still worth seeing.

There were lots of depictions of women in different formats – in addition to the mosaic centaur. There were holy ones and leaders, but also common women and men doing day-to-day things we all do – like standing under an oyster shell, swaying gracefully, boxing, and standing on our sheep.

While I sadly took no pictures of the treasures from a shipwreck, that was one of my favorite exhibits. They brought up a ship from the deep that was full of Roman urns and weapons and statuary that had sat on the sea floor for a thousand years.

I hope you’ve liked this tour of the Bardo!

Blog Comments

I give interchangeable heads a 10. Female centaur, hmmm, interesting. The mosaics are spectacular. I’m sure the photos don’t do them justice.

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