Temporary Exhibition: Gifts from the World. New Non-European Exhibits in The National Museum in Szczecin

The exhibition entitled "Gifts from the World. New Non-European Exhibits in The National Museum in Szczecin" shows new acquisitions of the Department of Non-European Cultures. The objects presented at the exhibition origin from South America, Africa and Oceania. All of them have been donated to the museum within the last two years.

Their presentation, apart from the appreciation of the donors, is also an opportunity to present great richness and diversity of cultures inhabiting distant parts of the world. Creating museum collections is a long-term process, however, the years 2017-2018 were exceptionally lucky for the non-European collection, which increased by 967 objects during this period. Of these, as many as 763 monuments are gifts obtained thanks to the generosity of our benefactors. The largest group of museum exhibits origins from Africa. This domination of African artifacts is also reflected in the exhibition. To a large extent, this is the merit of Oleńka Darkowska-Nidzgorska, who, at the beginning with her husband, Denis Nidzgorski-Gordier (RIP), and now on her own, has been supporting the Museum with her knowledge, experience and monuments. Thanks to this long-standing friendship, the Museum collection has been enriched with objects of art and handicrafts from the areas of Central Africa, so far poorly represented in the NMS collections. The exhibition will show a group of masks and figurines made of wood, stone, ivory, mainly from the Democratic Republic of the Congo. There is also jewelry of West African shepherd peoples and unique collections from Rwanda: woven agaseke baskets, once used during wedding ceremonies, which nowadays, in Rwanda, healing wounds of the devastating civil war, became a symbol of peace; as well as wooden milk bottles and clay figurines – the work of contemporary folk artists. In 2017, the Museum obtained the collection of Annick Turner, an artist born in French West Africa, on the territory of Ivory Coast, currently living in Canada. Apart from traditional African fabrics called bogolans, the collection includes 10 works bythe artist inspired by Bogolan Kasobané - a modern African art group. The exhibition will show one of them – "Terre Première" from 1996, symbolically showing the harmony that followed the Earth's creation as a refuge for people. A. Turner, like members of Bogolan Kasobané, uses traditional African materials and techniques when creating her works.

Two further African collections have been donated to the Museum by Poles: Africanist Jacek Łapott and traveller Marek Matysiak. These are art objects (masks and figures) from West Africa and Cameroon. Particularly noteworthy are the latter, mainly due to their large, natural sizes. These types of figures are placed in the palace rooms of the kingdoms of western Cameroon. They are a testimony to the history of the kingdom and a guarantee of its duration. During the exhibition, "News from the world" are planned – an exchange of some objects aimed at presenting the largest possible range of gifts. Cameroonian figures will be shown as part of this cyclical event. Their presentation is planned for autumn.

Recently, a group of objects from Peru and Bolivia also appeared at the Museum. It was donated by Théodor Vogel, an American photographer currently living in Chile, but they were collected by his wife Sabina Hargous, a French Americanist who died in 2003. The exhibition will present clay figurines, called conopas, which, when placed on the roofs of houses, are to guarantee happiness and wealth to their residents, as well as dance masks, including a leather chuto from Peru, representing a Mestizo or a Native American who, during the dances, accompanies his patron and drives away the curious audience, and a woolen mask of the religious holiday of Qoyllurit'i, also known as the holiday of the stars.

The last, very interesting group is the gift of Kazimierz Keller, a Polish traveller. Most of them are objects acquired in the Indonesian part of New Guinea. These hard-to-reach areas, mostly covered with dense tropical jungle, are inhabited by numerous groups of Papuans, many of whom still have very limited contact with the outside world. The collection includes a large number of weapons, polychrome, carved shields and ornaments, both female and male, made of shells, bones, teeth and feathers. Part of them will be displayed at the exhibition.

The history of collecting non-European exhibits in Szczecin is long – it reaches back pre-war times. In the post-war history of the Polish Museum, the landmark event for the development of the non-European collection was the "exploratory expedition" to the West African countries, undertaken in 1962 by the Museum's employees with enormous support from the Polsteam Company. From that time, the Museum began to accumulate collections, to establish scientific contacts and to conduct its own archaeological and then ethnographical research. The non-European collections at The National Museum in Szczecin were growing rapidly. Today they are one of the most important in Poland and testify to the opening of Szczecin to other cultures and traditions. Although the exhibition presents the gifts obtained in recent years, it is a tribute to all our benefactors.

Gifts from the World. New Non-European Exhibits in The National Museum in Szczecin
The National Museum in Szczecin, 3 Wały Chrobrego St.\
May 18th 2019 – February 2nd 2020
Curator: Ewa Sitarek
Organizer: The National Museum in Szczecin