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Mesoamerican Ballgame Exhibition Opens in South Africa Before the World Cup
Discus from Toniná, Chiapas. Photo: INAH.

MEXICO CITY.- The Ballgame was for ancient Mesoamerican peoples an allegory of the access to the underworld as well as a possibility to reborn, and it is present as part of the FIFA World Cup celebration in South Africa through the exhibition Worldview and Skills: Ballgame in Mesoamerica, an archaeological collection about this practice.

The show was inaugurated in May 6th 2010 at the Mapungubwe Museum at the University of Pretoria, in Johannesburg, and will be open until June 10th 2010. South Africans and visitors will be able to admire Mexican archaeological heritage from different museums part of the National Institute of Anthropology and History (INAH).

The Mexican Ambassador to South Africa, Luis Cabrera, and the Dean of the University of Pretoria, Professor Cheryl de la Rey, presided at the inauguration ceremony, attended by officers of the South African Government, members of the Mexican diplomatic corps, academics, and members of the community.

Ambassador Cabrera mentioned that this exhibition is presented for the first time in Africa thanks to the joint efforts of INAH, the Mexican Foreign Affairs Ministry (SRE) and the Mexican Embassy at South Africa.

He remarked that the 13 Prehispanic pieces exhibition is also part of the Bicentennial of the Independence and the Centennial of the Revolution commemorations.

Among the Totonaca, Maya, Mexica and Western Mexico pieces made out of terracotta, stone and alabaster, there are replicas of a temple and a court, a ring and representations of the ball, padlock, rail, yoke and other items part of the game.

Curatorship of Worldview and Skills: The Ballgame in Mesoamerica was in charge of archaeologist Laura Pescador Canton, where the nearly 3,000 years of history of this practice are accounted. Until now, more than 1,500 Ballgame courts have been located, distributed from the south of the United States of America down to Honduras.

Four sections integrate the show: The Ballgame; The Practice; The Court, and Rituals and Ceremonies.

The Ball Game
In the Mesoamerican world and in ancient Mexico in general, the practice of a complex ritual known as the Ball Game (“Juego de Pelota”), was very common and it summarized the understanding of the universe known to the ancient Mexicans.

The ritual included a series of ceremonies in which the characters that played ball were involved. Among the ceremonies was fasting and physical preparation, the purification of the body, the confrontation between players on a court built for this purpose and finally the sacrifice of a player by decapitation or removal of the heart. Players were sworn in as cosmic deities and warriors and their preparation required skill, competitiveness and profound knowledge of religion and of the worldview of the society to which they belonged.

The Practice of the Ballgame
In this section you will be able to learn about the spatial and temporal distribution of the practice of the ball game throughout ancient Mexico, as well as who the players were, the variations and the various methods of practice, general rules of the game, and clothing and instruments necessary for the game, including the ball as the focus of the ritual. It is important to note that some variations and patterns of the ball game are still practiced in several states of modern Mexico and are traces of those that were implemented before the arrival of the Spanish in the New World.

The Court for the Ballgame
This part of the exhibition is devoted to the description of the architecture and decorative elements that relate to the practice of the Mesoamerican ballgame. It analyzes the different types of architecture, its meaning, and the healing elements of it, as well as buildings that relate to the ball game. The tour will be by region and period, showing the different types of courts and its distribution.

Rituals and Ceremonies
This item will present the different meanings of the ritual of the ball game, and the change of its meaning for the ancient Mesoamerican societies, which was related to the vision of the universe, with fertility, war and the struggle of opposites as a means of preservation and continuity of life.

Mexico | National Institute of Anthropology and History | Mesoamerican Ballgame Exhibition | FIFA World Cup |

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