Around 20,000 exhibits from the world-renowned collections of the Ethnological Museum and the Museum of Asian Art of the National Museums in Berlin open up new perspectives on the past and present cultures of Africa, America, Asia and Oceania on more than 16,000 square metres of the Humboldt Forum on the second and third floors.
Image above: Buddha (Pakistan, 2–3rd century) in the module “Buddhist Art in South Asia. Stupas, Buddhas, Bodhisattvas” of the Museum of Asian Art in the Humboldt Forum © Staatliche Museen zu Berlin, Museum für Asiatische Kunst / Stiftung Humboldt Forum im Berliner Schloss / Alexander Schippel
A house of assembly from Palau richly decorated with carvings, impressive boats from Oceania and sound documents from all over the world in the Berlin Phonogramm Archiv: The permanent exhibition of the Ethnological Museum focuses on both tangible and intangible heritage.
Take part in a Japanese tea gathering, immerse yourself in the beauty of Indo-Islamic gardens or meditate in front of Buddha statues: All this is offered by the presentation of the Museum of Asian Art.
20,000 objects on 16,000 square metres
The visit arouses curiosity about collection history, religious issues, contemporary art and the significance of craft techniques, addresses rituals, stagings and perspectives of indigenous communities in order to critically engage with the legacy of colonialism and the role of Europe.
The “bronzes” from the historic kingdom of Benin, which recently became the property of Nigeria, wooden figures and masks from Cameroon, aesthetically outstanding sculptures from the Congo, and clothing decorated with iron and glass beads from Namibia are among the best-known and most extraordinary works from Africa in Berlin. At the same time, many of them left the African continent as a result of colonial conquest and domination. The exhibitions of the African collections of the Ethnological Museum in the Humboldt Forum raise pressing questions: about the societies in Africa from which the artefacts originated, about the conditions under which they were collected, about the dilemmas in which the actors* in Africa found themselves, and about the cooperative confrontation with the history of colonialism and its effects up to the present.
The exhibition area paints a comprehensive picture of the historical and contemporary indigenous cultures of the Americas. Highlights include the holdings from the central and southern Andes region, the impressive Cotzumalhuapa stelae from present-day Guatemala, the two armorial posts of First Nations in British Columbia or the collections of early explorers from the Amazon region. The diversity of ceramics from North, Meso and South America as well as the collections from the plains and prairies of North America can be experienced in a separate foam magazine.
The third floor is dedicated to the arts and cultures of the largest continent on earth. Here, for the first time, the collections of the Ethnological Museum and the Museum of Asian Art enter into a direct dialogue, contemporary art meets centuries-old masterpieces. They make it possible to experience Chinese court art in a spectacular throne room, to follow a Japanese tea gathering, to admire reconstructed Buddhist cave temples painted 1500 years ago, to immerse oneself in the world of Indo-Islamic gardens, to trace the fascination of religious rituals around the divine sculptures of India or to get to know fantastic theatre traditions of Southeast Asia and the diversity of Islamic lifeworlds.
The Pacific is the largest ocean in the world and in the vastness of the sea, the islands of Oceania seem small and isolated. For the indigenous population, however, the sea has never been divisive. To this day, it is part of their identity for many. Their ancestors travelled great distances and were the first people to discover the Pacific islands. The watercraft in the Humboldt Forum bear witness to their outstanding navigation and boat-building skills. Other highlights of the Oceania exhibition area are the houses from Palau and those of the Abelam people from Papua New Guinea.
Contemporary artworks and interventions can be found in all exhibition areas of the Ethnological Museum and Museum of Asian Art. In addition to António Ole’s Township Wall and the expansive artwork by Marianna Castillo Deball, installations that deal with the effects of the colonial era in the African present are particularly impressive.
A permanent exhibition of the Ethnological Museum and the Museum of Asian Art of the National Museums in Berlin.
Museum of Asian Art