Exhibit showcases Eastern spirituality

By Cynthia Cheponis

People will have a chance to experience the beauty of Indian and Tibetan art this weekend at the New Acropolis’ Treasures of Tibet and India exhibit.

The show, which runs until Nov. 25, features more than two dozen statues from India and Tibet. The two centrepieces are a large, traditional Buddha figure done in gold and set up as a shrine and a large bronze gong upon which people can make a wish. Other pieces include the Hindu god Shiva and the Phurbu ceremonial dagger.

Christine Cadovius, who has travelled in India, says the artwork and the information plaques fascinated her.

“I always like to refresh my understanding of Hindu philosophy,” she says. “I think this helps us see there are other cultures just as valuable as ours.”

Cadovius says she largely accepts Eastern beliefs, which place more emphasis on the spiritual side of human experience, rather than the materialistic emphasis of Western culture.

“This is something we all need to realize, especially after the events of Sept. 11, that the spiritual does matter,” she says.

“We want to show every ancient culture had the same basic ideals,” says Pierre Lemasson, assistant director of New Acropolis’ Ottawa branch. Those ideals include a love of knowledge and art and a belief in the need to live in a way that incorporates both the spiritual and the secular into people’s lives.

The New Acropolis is a philosophical society that aims to bring different cultures together. Lemasson says the exhibit began in Montreal and will move on to the Toronto centre after the Ottawa tour. The pieces are about 10 years old and were brought back from the East by members of the New Acropolis when they attended spiritual workshops.

The art exhibit is accompanied by a series of workshops, including one on the teachings of Mahatma Gandhi.

Lemasson says he hopes the workshops will allow people to understand Eastern cultures and the similarities between the East and West. Lemasson says both cultures have a desire for happiness and progress, but they have different emphases — the East still focuses on the need to have a spiritual side while the West believes material goods are more important.

The exhibit itself is set up in a progressive order. Viewing begins with Tibetan art and moves onto Indian art. At the end, there are pieces from other ancient cultures, such as Greece and Mexico, to show similarities in ancient cultures. People can also read detailed descriptions of the purpose of each piece.

Lemasson says he believes the workshops will attract approximately 80 people altogether. More than 20 people attended the opening night on Nov. 14.

The Canadian Museum of Civilization held an exhibit entitled India — The Living Arts last year. Marilou Prud’homme says more than 300,000 people visited that show during its 10-month run.

Lemasson says he visited the Civilization Museum’s exhibit twice but its success was not a determining factor in deciding to launch the show.

“We’re trying to give people a clear view of what their (Indians’ and Tibetans’) vision of the world is,” says Lemasson. “They have a larger perspective that doesn’t remove the spiritual from their everyday lives.” The artwork focuses on spiritual representations, which demonstrate the importance religion still plays in the everyday lives of Eastern peoples.