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Magic Museum traces history of magical arts around the globe
  • March 2014

Magic Planet to host first-of-its-kind exhibit

A caveman points his finger at the sky as a bolt of lightning streaks down while his ‘sorcery’, aided by a good knowledge of weather patterns, awes the people gathered around - it is a diorama representing one of the earliest known instances of misdirection and illusion that has developed over the ages into the fine art of magic.

At Magic Planet, the world’s first magic-themed edutainment complex being set up in Thiruvananthapuram, the diorama is the first of numerous exhibits at a unique museum that traces the history of magic globally.

“Magic as an art form was shrouded in mystery in order to protect its secrets, often being handed down verbally and to only a select few, but the magic history museum comes to life with stories and feats from some of the most fascinating performers the world has ever witnessed,” says Mr. Gopinath Muthukad, the Executive Director of the Thiruvananthapuram-based Magic Academy which has conceptualised the park.

Hundreds of rare vintage posters, photographs and engravings at the state-of-the-art History of Mystery museum will tell the visitor the story of the evolution of magic and its greatest practitioners from the middle ages to the 1950s.

A special section is dedicated to Indian magic recounting its journey from the craft of clever street and court magicians to the great master PC Sorcar Sr and Kerala’s very own Vazhakkunnam Neelakanthan Namboothiri.

The exhibits are complemented by graphics, micro-essays and historical notes and there are voiceovers telling interesting tales and anecdotes.

Mr. Muthukad points out that among the first written references of magical art is contained in The Westcar Papyrus, an Egyptian text dating back 6000 years.

According to magical historians, the Egyptian Pharaohs’ court featured magicians, as did the streets and marketplaces of ancient Greece and Rome. In Europe until the mid 18th Century most magic was performed outdoors with whatever material the magicians could carry and what the audiences had handy. In many places it was feared as witchcraft and viewed with suspicion.

The years between 1750 and 1930 are often called the Golden Age of Magic in Europe as magic gained respectability and links to scientific knowledge. Practitioners such as Prussian Gustavus Katterfelto and Frenchman Jean-Eugène Robert-Houdin, Englishmen John Nevil Maskelyne, George Cooke and the Americans Harry Kellar and Howard Thurston brought showmanship, class and wider audiences to magic. And then there was the renowned escapist Harry Houdini.

India has even richer traditions of magic with references to street jugglers and magicians in ancient texts and accounts of visitors from ancient China and Europe. The basket trick, the Indian cups and balls are some of the world’s oldest known illusions and sleights of hand.

The Great Indian Rope Magic, discredited by many western illusionists, is an act that existed and was successfully performed by street magicians in India, believes Muthukad.

“Indian magic has a heritage we all should take pride in. We had performers whose acts and illusions no one in the world has been able to replicate,” he said. “One of the primary objectives of Magic Planet is to preserve Indian street magic which is dying out because of the onslaught from modern techno-wizardry. “

Mr. Muthukad heads The Academy of Magical Sciences - Asia’s first institution to offer formal training in magic \" which has conceptualised Magic Planet as a space where children can engage in creative exploration and experience the magical aspects science, mathematics and literature through a number of fun activities.

The complex coming up at the Kinfra Film and Video Park, Trivandrum will house a number of other attractions including an underground tunnel, a mirror maze, shadow plays, psychomagic, street magic, a virtual supermarket to build mathematical skills, a children’s park, a food court, theatres for live performances and an R&D centre for conducting scientific research into magic.

Another major attraction at the centre will be a ‘magical’ recreation of William Shakespeare’s play The Tempest \" a work which has magic as its central motif. It is designed to help children understand and appreciate the beauty of literature.

Work on many of the attractions including the museum is nearing completion. Magic Planet will open to the public on October 31, 2014.

 
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