Gegenstände im Völkerkundemuseum
misc. hoes

stool from Cameroon

wooden sculpture - Senufo

drum on a pedestal of figures
exhibition living in an oasis
exhibition "living in an oasis"
wedding dress, Siwa oasis
wedding dress, Siwa oasis
head adornment - Herero women
head adornment - Herero women
Lanze und Schild der Maasai
lance and buckler - Maasai
Tanzkostüm aus Kamerun
dance costume from Cameroon

Malanggan head from Papua New Guinea

Malanggan head from Papua New Guinea and Mask from Cameroon

Mallanggan-statuette from Papua New Guinea
Mallanggan-statuette from Papua New Guinea

The visitor of the exhibition is guided on a journey to a multitude of peoples of the Developing World. He is acquainted with items of the culture exemplifying what former generations in response to their socio-ecological environment have created or adopted by contacts with other cultures. These achievements have moulded the spirits, the characteristic features and the work of all those who lived after them.

The exhibition attempts a comparative view of different cultures. Goods of daily use and objects of art open an insight into the lifestyle of people and hint at activities which characterise their indigenous economies. They enhance understanding of environment-specific survival strategies. There is no clear-cut distinction, however, between goods of daily use and objects of art. Implements may be skilfully decorated and, hence be viewed as artefacts, like weapons, through abstraction, may become symbols of power and physical strength. Basic themes of art are objects of death and fertility which beats death and safeguards survival.

The collection comprises about 3.000 ethnographic objects, of which 1.400 have been donated by former students of the German Colonial School at Witzenhausen and its successor institutions, from about 1900 onwards. Other pieces originate from various sources, among which a great number have been contributed by the Museum of Natural History of Kassel in1979. These were originally part of the collection of the Count of Hesse which dating back to the 17th Century.

The "Stiftung Völkerkundliches Museum Witzenhausen" was founded in 1976 and is supported by DITSL and the Town Council of Witzenhausen. The exhibition permanently presents approximately 1200 objects. The main theme is human society in its close relationship to natural environment. There are examples of implements used for the production and processing of food, as well as of closing, jewellery and arms originating from agricultural cultures in West, South and East Africa, and from Melanesia, Polynesia and South America. Plates with photographs give explanatory texts. The presentation of economic systems allows for comparisons on how people adapt to their respective natural environment. Hence, passing by different cultures may symbolise a journey to the main ecological zones of tropical and subtropical regions.

The exhibition has been elaborated along principles of museum pedagogy. The objective is to enhance anthropological understanding and deepen knowledge on socio-cultural contexts. A didactic concept titled "Life in an Oasis" edited by the Hessian Teacher Training Institute is available for the use in school teaching. Furthermore, there is a music trail. Assisted by a cassette the visitor is acquainted with 16 musical instruments throughout the exhibition, comprising e.g. pan-pipe "Charango", "Kuntigi" or "Garaya", diverse drums with an explanation of the drum code, etc..

Life of pastoral nomads in semiarid and arid savannahs is exemplified by the Masai in East and the Herero in Southern Africa (Namibia). Here, the visitor is impressed not only by weapons of the Masai, with which they defend their herds, but also by the remarkable traditional leather clothing and the art of iron foundry of the Herero. A characteristic feature of many nomad people is their engagement in trading activities for which their way of life is particularly suited.

Cultivating tribes of East and West Africa, likewise, have a traditional practice of closely combining subsistence with crafts and art. Apart from implements used for soil tilling characteristic artefacts are found, like brass work, gold weights of the Akan, reed woven mats, wooden sculptures of the Makonde, and ritual masks of secret societies.

Under conditions of the pacific islands (Melanesia, Polynesia) fishing is, next to soil cultivation, one of the pillars of the subsistence economy. Catching fish does not only secure a supply of protein-rich food and earn income. A successful fisherman is first of all able to fulfil his numerous obligations in the framework of the social system and the church, from which he earns esteem. Apart from implements used for fishing and digging sticks, weapons for hunting and warfare are characteristic. Particular pieces are gun-shaped clubs from the Fiji Islands which the island people have made after they first came into contact with early seafarers. Also, the Malanggan wood carvings from New Ireland, Papua New Guinea, as well as ritual masks and sculptures symbolising ancestors, are of special interest.

Hunters and collectors who survive under extremely harsh environmental conditions are, among others, represented by the Bushmen (San) of Southern Africa and the Aborigines of Australia. These early inhabitants of the continents have, when not assimilated or extinguished by physically stronger and superior immigrants, retreated into hostile-to-man environments. These are semi-deserts and tropical rain forests (Pygmies), where they developed technologies and adopted behavioural norms safeguarding their survival in sustainable balance with nature.

A small collection of pre-Columbian pottery from the Moche, Chimu and Chavin cultures of Peru represents the complex civilisations characterised by a high degree of labour division already developed in past centuries. They witness remarkable achievements of early man from which later generations have benefited.

Opening hours:
April to October,
on Wednesdays from 3:00 pm to 5:00 pm
on Sundays from 3:00 pm to 5:00 pm
Group visits can be arranged on appointment outside opening hours.
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