Today I planned only a visit to the local Dom (cathedral) which silhuete I can see every day during my runs along the Main river but since I’m feeling some slight time pressure, I also decided to go to the Weltkulturen Museum (conveniently located on the Museumsufer, a long street full of many different museums by the river).
The current exhbition is ‘Foreign Exchange (or the stories you wouldn’t tell a stranger)‘ focused on the history of collecting artifacts for the museums and everything related to it (colonialism, white ethnocenrtism, racism, ‘saving’ and exploiting traditional cultures, ways to perceive the museum collections and how they were/ are created/ stored/ presented).
Right after buying my ticket I was informed that I wasn’t allowed to take any pics, so even though I had my phone all out and ready, I don’t have even one picture of the exhibition. It’s a shame in a way but on the other hand, when we take pictures something gets lost – we focus so much on photographing our adventures that we don’t have enough of our time and attention to really experience here and now!
The exhibit isn’t big, just a few rooms but it contains many interesting artifacts and photographs. I liked the way some of the photographs were described (in German) – nouns, verbs, adjectives barked at the visitors, a stream of conscience of sort not only to inform but also move and show how objectified the ingenious people used to be and how ‘other’ they still might seem to ‘us,’ whatever ‘us’ means (although it usually means ‘white/ middle class/ relatively well off’). The photographs are in a few different sizes, from big posters to just ‘thumbnails’ showing copies of old photographs from the times when ‘white man’ was always better, wiser and stronger than anyone else. Kenyan girls selling bead necklaces by the road, passed/ stared by a group of white people in an automobile, amused and curious of the Other; a group of black girls clad in the white man’s fashion taught by a white noun in the middle of African nowhere, a black, long gone man in some traditional clothing and a lip plate. Who were these people, what were their stories, how come that the only trace of their existence is now not even on original photographs but on scans, copies, something to be stared at?
Other visitiors stared at me, I did stare at other visitors… a fleeting encounter only to switch to different experiences, places and people. Bored guards making sure no one takes any pics and yet surrounded by them.
A very cool, intense experience. If I got to read more about the exhibit beforehand, I’d have experienced it so much better, tho! :)