Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Bogotá's Most Original Museum!

Jaime Barranco in his doorway.
Bogotá has the Botero collection - so, why not the Barranco, or the Macumba collection?

Find Macumba in the Teusaquillo neighborhood, on 19th Ave., about two blocks directly west of the Gaitan Museum. Look for the big sun object on the wall and Mr. Barranco seated in the doorway. And once you've found it, you won't forget it. Bogotá Bike Tours visited the other day.

Words such as varied, disparate or eclectic don't come close to capturing Macumba, with its collections of  indigenous sculptures, perfume bottles, Barbie dolls, African masks and chinese artifacts. But perhaps the most interesting item on display is Jaime Barranco himself, the museum's creator, collector and organizer, as well as the inventor of the sometimes-fanciful, always colorful, stories behind the objects.
Click for a slideshow

Jaime Barranco plays his drum

Barranco, who says he's in his 80's, but looks decades younger and often displays the enthusiasm of a teenager, recounts that as a young man he traveled throughout Latin America collecting stuff. He hasn't told me how he got the things from Asia and Africa.

There are the dozens of marble eggs. The shelves of perfume bottles, the bedroom walled with Chinese fans. Even the kitchen's a display area. Sure, the Barbie doll, the 1970s wigs, plastic birds perched strangely above a plastic Jaws shark and weird and silly. But in Mr. Barranco's home they just seem quirky.

Possessing this trove of objects and a small apartment, Barranco turned necessity into a virtue by converting the apartment into a sort of museum (he rejects that word, perhaps because it suggests a static collection. He also doesn't like the words 'teaching' and 'learning,' preferring to talk about 'incorporating knowledge.'

Many of Barranco's explanations for his objects sound a bit fanciful to me, although they're interesting nevertheless. Others might have a real base in anthropological science, like his explanation of the four phases of human life, each represented by a different animal's qualities. Then there's the indigenous sculpture of a half-monkey, half-boy mastubating, which I won't detail.

An indigenous sculpture of a youth at work

By Mike Ceaser, of Bogotá Bike Tours

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