Südsee Ausstellung - 1
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“The Völkerkundemuseum possesses one of the world’s best Melanesia exhibitions … One feels transported to a distant corner of the world, transmitted into a foreign culture; one really feels the magic in these fantastic faces…” Hamburger Abendblatt

Masks from New Guinea, the Bismarck Archipelago and the neighbouring island states

Masks, dancing costumes, and ancestral figures from New Guinea, the Bismarck Archipelago and the neighbouring island states come together in this exhibition. These ingenious creations, some even made of vegetable and animal materials, create a blur of chequered colours and fantastic shapes. They allow visitors to encounter the world of spirits and ancestors from tropical islands far away.

Unique artefacts showing the cultural diversity and the traditional heritage of the islands’ inhabitants are plentiful in this over-100-year-old exhibit. In the 19th century, performances with these masks were a central component of social life – in many places this is still the case. The masks have many faces. Through their shape, the creatures of primitive times come to life, the ancestors meet their descendents and the wild spirits from the bush come among the people. The encounter with the masks allows insight into the religious conceptions and social relationships of these cultures: ancestor worship, patriarchal activities, cultivation cycles and coming of age rituals were often accompanied by performances with masks. Thus, these human experiences are dramatically staged. The fauna of Melanesia is also integrated in ritual artistic work in varied ways. Visitors big and small are invited to search for clues in the discovery circuit of the exhibition.

This exhibition was created thanks to generous grants from the “Friends of the museum”.


Texts are available in German, English, French and Tok Pisin. A small discovery circuit for children is included in the exhibition.


Dr. Jeanette Kokott
phone: (040) 42 88 79 – 536
fax: (040) 42 88 79 – 242

Weltkarte Südsee