Arts

Gods on display at the Museum of Civilization

WHO DO YOU pray to? It’s a simple question that I was left pondering after leaving the Gods exhibit currently on display at the Museum of Civilization. Canada’s multicultural mosaic has left us with many different religions being practised every day. Whether it’s the monotheist practices of Christianity, Islam, or Judaism, or polytheist worship in Hinduism and Shinto, Canadians are following a number of beliefs.

“We’re constantly bombarded [with] ideas about religions. Sometimes [it’s about] religious conflict, sometimes [it’s about] religious movements in various parts of the world, and I think people have questions about those,” says Stephen Inglis, curator for the exhibition  Gods in a video on the museum’s website.

Globalization and immigration may be two explanations as to why religion is becoming a more prevalent issue in our society, but Gods doesn’t aim to discuss religious foundations or spark any debate. Walking through the exhibition, visitors will get the feeling it isn’t designed to emphasize the sheer number of religions practised, but rather speaks about the subject of faith by relating it to human experience.

“This is an exhibition about the lived manifestation of religion at the popular level. It’s not an exhibition dealing with the theological nuances of the religion, nor is it an exhibition detailing the history. Rather, the focus is on how people live their lives religiously, what objects do they employ in their rituals, in their worship,” says Noel Salamon,  professor of humanities at Carleton University, about the display in a video on the museum’s website.

Walking away from the exhibition, one thing many people will take away is that our beliefs are more similar than they are different. Whether it’s prayer, baptism, marriage, or death, most faiths have rituals associated with the many passages of our lives, and Gods looks into each of them.

Gods compares and contrasts spiritual beliefs and the exhibit teaches its visitors about religions that aren’t encountered in everyday lives. The display is also more than just a compilation of photographs or artefacts. Gods boasts a film series and scheduled discussions led by expert panellists to complement the exhibition. One film, Mystic Brain, attempts to explain religious practices through science. It will screen on March 22. The discussions aim to engage visitors and offer a question and answer period afterwards.

Gods’ approach to religion is unique because it divides the broad subject into themes such as worship, divinities, and rites of passage, while juxtaposing all faiths and making it easier to understand unfamiliar religions.
This isn’t a display about whether you believe or not. It’s also not meant to be about conflict, but rather coexistence. Regardless of your religious background, Gods will attempt to give you a new perspective about faith in Canada.

Gods will remain on display until Sept. 3. To view all events related to the exhibit check out Civilization.ca/gods.

Sofia Hashi