I went to Bowers Museum today. It’s a nice place, if you don’t know what it is. It’s a cultural arts museum, meaning they have art from various cultures across the world; it’s a wonderful experience. Anyway, among other things, I saw a mask from somewhere in ancient Oceania. It was made of clay, had a long pointed nose and a somewhat startled/frightened/vaguely spooky expression on it, covered the entire face in what looked like it must have been a very constricting way, and was apparently of a very unusual style for its culture; as far as we know, there is only one other of its kind in existence. The other mask was nowhere near it and there’s no overwhelming reason to believe they’ll be in the same place at the same time.
So I saw a mask that was almost the last of its kind from an ancient civilization whose art is not entirely dead but certainly dying out. And not only was it almost the last of its kind, it was in a place apart from the other one. Its only potential relative, the only thing it has anything really in common with beyond associations like culture or shape, is separated from it, and there’s no overwhelming reason to believe they’ll ever be in the same place together.
Except for one other, that mask was the last of its kind in known existence, and it’s highly unlikely there will ever be another one. And even if a new one was made, it wouldn’t be the same because it would be made as a response to the first one’s loneliness, and anyway, they would really be from two separate worlds. No fact is going to erase the mask’s loneliness. No wonder it continues to look so frightened and haunted. That loneliness would be unbearable, especially for something so old that continues to live without the only other of its kind.
Even without that personification, the mask was rather haunting, as was the fact that it was one of only two in existence. I tried to look it up online, but I realized there wasn’t anything I could really look up. I didn’t even remember what culture it was from. I have the feeling this thing is going to stick with me for a long time.