Cultural Safari

Animals have been featured in art and culture since the early neanderthal cave paintings. In this Balboa Safari we will go on an adventure connecting us to the cultural representation of animals around the globe. This eagle can be found in the facades above the visitors centre- as you walk around the park can you find any others?

There she blows! This California gray whale can be spotted at the San Diego Model Railroad Museum, having been designated the State Marine Mammal in 1975. The very first organized whale watching dates back to 1950 when the Cabrillo National Monument of San Diego was declared a public venue for observing gray whales. Now whale watching has become an important part of San Diego's culture, with the peaceful and intelligent mammals attracting many tourists in recent years.

Slithering into our next stop in the San Diego Natural History Museum there is a deadly Rattlesnake. The Native American tribe of Kumeyaay (who has inhabited San Diego for 12,000 years, seeing 600 generations) is known to study the constellations, with Awii (Rattlesnake) seen to represent the conveyor of punishment for improper deeds.

Close by to the Rattlesnake we can find a granite night lizard. In the mythology of some Native Californian tribes, such as the Pomo, lizard was one of the major figures of creation who made humans partially in his image. In other tribes such as ones on the Plains; lizards are associated with protection (especially of children), prosperity, renewal, and good luck.

As we make our way to the Spanish Village Arts Centre we encounter a Great Horned Owl! Found all over North America this bird has strong cultural connections to many Native American tribes. Traditionally, it is thought that evil medicine men/women could transform into this particular breed of owl and stealthily fly through the night spying and even entering the dreams of sleeping victims. The Cherokee use the word 'Skili' for both witches and Great Horned Owls.

Over at the San Diego Museum of Art, we can see a pair of camels. Camels were an essential part of China's history with the silk-road, due to their ability to walk vast distances with little water and food. Horse-drawn carts would require a higher level of infrastructure such as roads that weren't available at the time.

Heading upstairs, we approach Agnus Dei (The Lamb of God -1635-40) by the Spanish born Francisco de Zurbaran (1598-1664). The sacrifice of lambs played a very important role in early Jewish religious life, with the lamb commonly used as a symbol for purity, renewal, gentleness, tenderness, and innocence. The significance of the lamb carries over to Christianity with Jesus Christ often symbolized as a lamb.

From the lamb to the lion; This lion can be found among the 'Animals in Egyptian Art' exhibit at the Museum of Man. In Ancient Egypt, lions were associated with many gods and attributes; symbolizing strength, leadership, royalty, ferocity, war, healing and beauty.

Heading over to the Japanese Friendship Garden a large collection of koi can be found. In Japan, the koi is a highly respected and very symbolic fish that has been closely tied to the country’s national identity from as early as the 17th Century. Koi signify perseverance and strength, due to its habit of swimming upstream ‘against the flow’. The varying coloring of the koi represent numerous meanings, whilst all koi represent longevity due to their life span of around 50-75 years.

Whoa there, at the Mingei there is a Japanese Horse! Horses were used by Samurai ( who worked for the Daimyo - lords ) in warfare. They also have strong cultural connections in Tibetan Japan. "Tasso" meaning Windhorse are believed to carry prayers to the heavens and back whilst also bringing their owner stamina, endurance, beauty, elegance and freedom.

Just down the hall we will find a collection of Japanese Votive Plaques. Monkeys are a common motif in Japanese Buddhist culture. They are seen to be calculating, intelligent, yet mischievous, vain, and restless. In 8th century Japan monkeys were seen to be mediators between Gods and humans due to their similarity with the human spirit and passions. However, the attitude towards the monkey in Japan has changed over time.

Rounding off our trip we approach El Cid & his horse Babeica; 'The most famous horse in the history of Spain'. This white Andalusian Spanish pure breed was El Cid's faithful companion, leading him into successful battles for 30 years. This breed derives from the Iberian Peninsula and was selectively bred by King Phillip II from 1567 using his private stables. Nicknamed ' The Horse of Kings' it represents nobility, wealth and grandeur. Thus evoking a sense of national pride, it was used as the emblem for the Spanish Empire.

Thank you for joining us on the Cultural Safari! We hope you have enjoyed the trip.