An Afternoon at the Museum, an Evening at the Ballet

This was a day of cultural overload!  We spent the afternoon at the Durban City Hall, which houses both the Natural Science Museum and the Durban Art Gallery.  Although the exhibits were rather small, it was a great place to see some unique local exhibits!

The Natural Science Museum featured many realistic displays of the different animals and insects indigenous to the region.  I especially liked a series of displays that essentially documented the evolution of man throughout the various periods of the Stone Age.  These exhibits showcased fossils of skulls and weapons used in KZN during these ancient times.  It was incredible to see how some of the earliest human origins could be traced back to South Africa!

The art gallery also did not disappoint.  Most of the featured art was created by talented local artists, and it was clear that photography and mixed media pieces were the most popular types of artwork in the exhibit.  Below are some of my favorite exhibits from both museums.

After an eventful day, we were excited to spend the evening at the historic Durban Playhouse for a beautiful showcase of select dances from the Ballet Russe performances.  We saw dances from some of my favorite ballets, including Scheherazade and Sleeping Beauty.  I was also thrilled to see a few classic performances from Don Quixote and Ne Me Quitte Pas.  One of my favorite pieces was a scenic cantata called Carmina Burana, which was inspired by the medieval poem collection of the same name.  The primary symbol of the cantata was the wheel of fortune image that appeared on the first page of the original manuscript.  According to the program for tonight’s show, “The Wheel of Fortune are the human characters: one – evicting up, second – situated at the top, third – precipitating down and forth – spread at the bottom.  There is a sign correlating with it: Regno, Regnavi, Sum sine regno, Regnabo (I am reigning, I have finished reigning, I am without reign, I shall reign).”  The dancers illustrated this allegoric symbol by performing in a cycle of acts that highlighted the dramatic expressions of love, springtime, and hedonism.  This uniform motion throughout the scenes, clearly demonstrating the Wheel of Fortune motif, resulted in the creation of a stunning tableau vivant of theatrical fantasy.  Finally, the night ended on a humorous note with a fantastic rendition of the Can-Can that had us all laughing out loud!  It was such a wonderful experience to see a wide variety of different cultural exhibits and performances today; it is clear that South Africa is filled with extraordinarily talented individuals!

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