London Korean Links

Covering things Korean in London and beyond since 2006

Shades of Shamanism: Chuseok celebrations at the British Museum

Peter Corbishley‘s sketch of the BM’s Chuseok festivities.

Times change. The small but significant Korean Collection at the British Museum includes a Moon Jar which so inspired the English potter Bernard Leech. But the drum beat of Shamanistic trance was not perhaps what Dr Sloane or the Smirke family had in mind for the front lawns in the shadow of the sedate and august portals of the British Museum.

Yet this year’s Chuseok ‘harvest’ festival took place against, and indeed surpassed the Chinese terracotta army and the current Japanese offering at the Museum. The festival was not clockwork or regimented but more like an affair between building and culture that moved into and out of the building climaxing in the sunshine outside. The afternoon was a strenuous bricolage. Korean Film, TV, printing, sculpting, a wishing tree, music in the sarangbang and the drummers in the courtyard. Unmeasured exuberance. Differently rhythmed, differently sounding. Engaging. Cacophanous. With a brace performance from a challenged artist challenging cruder sensitivities. Dynamic, certainly not sparkling, the event ended with the embroidery of the maypole pole. Korean or English or a syncretism of both? with hanbok, jeans and high heels, Korean and non-Korean weaving up and down, in and out. A tribute to London and the 2007 London Korean surge. With a special thanks to the chief Shamans Seungmin Kim and Gina Ha.


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