Thursday, April 28, 2011

Exhibitions -- Indigenous Peoples of North America, Rosenheim, Germany

By Ruth Ellen Gruber


This looks like a terrific exhibition -- and I'll try to go there next month. The curator, Christian Feest, is tops in the field, and the authors of the essays in the catalogue are excellent. Bravo to all involved!


INDIANS - INDIGENOUS PEOPLES OF NORTH AMERICA

Lokschuppen Rosenheim
8 April - 6 November 2011
Mo-Fr 9 am - 6 pm, Sa, Su, legal holidays 10 am – 6 pm

Until 6 November, the Lokschuppen in Rosenheim, a large exhibition center southeast of Munich, is showing “Indianer - Ureinwohner Nordamerikas” (Indians - Indigenous Peoples of North America).

Curated by Christian Feest, the exhibition uses 550 objects dating from the eighteenth to the twenty-first century from sixteen museums in Austria, Belgium, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Norway, Switzerland, and the Vatican and nearly 200 images to convey a sense of the cultural diversity, historical complexity and ongoing vitality of indigenous peoples in the United States, Canada, and Greenland.

The exhibition is arranged in twelve chapters, which tell very specific stories, but which together are embedded in a framework of the effects of globalization processes of the last 250 years for indigenous peoples. After discussing the European concept of “Indians” as an artifact of the colonial encounter, it looks at the first-contact situation on Vancouver Island, when the ancestors of the present-day Nuuchahnulth were visited by Captain James Cook in 1778. The issue of indigenous lands is examined in a section dealing with the American Revolution, in which the future of Indian lands was to be decided, and when the German mercenaries fighting for King George could see the effects of land loss and cultural adaptation among the peoples living along the St. Lawrence River. Greenland provides an example, in which colonization ultimately led to autonomy, whereas under similar circumstances the peoples of Russian America (Alaska) fared very differently. The western Great Lakes region in the mid-nineteenth century provides a case study for the encounter with Christian missionaries and for the emergence of Indian Christianity. The Sioux and the Apache are shown as contrasting examples for the origins and effects of the “Indian Wars” of the late nineteenth century (with the Comanche looking over the shoulders of the Apache not only as their eternal enemies in Karl May’s novels, but also as the only group of Native Americans who signed a treaty of peace and friendship with German colonists). Hopi katsina religion stands as an example for the complexity indigenous worldviews and ritual practice. A chapter on glass beads illustrates that Western trade goods (and ideas) did not necessarily lead to a leveling of cultural differences and serves as a introduction to the section on indigenous arts and their encounter with the Western art world. The final segment of the exhibition looks at aspects of the contemporary Native American experience.

The exhibition is accompanied by a richly illustrated 270-page book with essays by the curator and Cora Bender, Peter Bolz, Matthias Dietz-Lenssen, Henry Kammler, Sylvia Kasprycki, Christer Lindberg, Sonja L├╝hrmann, Gawan Maringer, Hans-Ulrich Sanner, Tom Svensson, Marthe Thorshaug, and Christine Zackel.

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