As outcome of her research project “Material Expressions of West African Spirituality in the Americas: Transatlantic Continuities in Haiti” Zainabu Jallo’s conversation with Holger Jebens (Frobenius Institute, Goethe University Frankfurt) on “Acquisition and Display Ethics”, dealing with object transfers, methods of ethical investigation, and display, was published in PAIDEUMA Zeitschrift für kulturanthropologische Forschung 68, Reimer: Frankfurt am Main 2022.
publication Material Culture in Transit Zainabu Jallo Niklas Wolf
Material Culture in Transit: Theory and Practice (Routledge 2023) – new Publication out now (DOI: 10.4324/9781003282334)
The book was edited by Zainabu Jallo, featuring a contribution by Niklas Wolf.
The study of artefacts, objects, and things – or in whichever term the material world is described – is not only restricted to their physical attributes but engages in an interplay between people and things. (…) This stresses that Onthology, unlike semiotics, is geared towards being and experiencing. (Zainabu Jallo, Moving Matter: Worlds of Material Culture, DOI: 10.4324/9781003282334-1)
Material Culture in Transit: Theory and Practice constellates curators and scholars actively working with material culture within academic and museal institutions through theory and practice. The rich collection of essays critically addresses the multivalent ways in which mobility reshapes the characteristics of artefacts, specifically under prevailing issues of representation and colonial liabilities. The volume attests to material culture as central to understanding the repercussions of problematic histories and proposes novel ways to address them. It offers valuable reading for scholars of anthropology, museum studies, history and others with an interest in material culture.
In probing various representations of Vodun objects within European museums, cyberspace and other non-religious domains, Niklas Wolf scrutinises the agencies of West African Vodun objects in the political contexts of migration and globalisation. The „Material Culture of Vodun“ offers some indications of the meanings and instrumentality of a contemporary and globalised Vodun. Wolf raises questions on issues of „(im)mobilisation, appropriation, and continuous actualisation“ while introducing aspects of steadfast connections between Vodun’s display and material culture in West African shrines. (Niklas Wolf, The Material Culture of Vodun. Case Studies from Ghana, Togo, Germany and In-Between, DOI: 10.4324/9781003282334-11)
Research Niklas Wolf 2022 Nkyinkyim
While Western curators still use the very specific and mostly misused term „Voodoo“ — a term that often “is fraught with racist categories about black religious practice […]” (Desmangles 2012: 26) — to frame the multitude of spiritual practices, networks and epistemologies of Vodun, artistic and academic research starts to highlight the many meanings of Vodun in a globalized world. Contemporary institutions of displaying African spiritual and knowledge systems, like the Nkyinkyim Museum in Ada (Ghana), founded by artist Kwame Akoto-Bamfo, are rewriting those narratives, opening up international spaces between the sacred and the secular, leaving terminological and functional restrictions of the museum as well as the ones of a shrine behind.
Desmangles, Leslie G. “Replacing the Term ‚Voodoo’ with ‚Vodou’. A Proposal”, Journal of Haitian Studies, vol. 18, no. 2, 2012, 26–33. Web.
image: Nsiso or Nsodie (Akan), portrait-like memorial heads at the Nkyinkyim Museum. © Niklas Wolf 2022
Research Niklas Wolf 2022
Back at the desk, back at home, reflecting on the many conditions of traveling, of seeing and being seen, the research, privileges, questions and time spent waiting in-between as well as the many conundrums (Landry 2019, 25) involved with such a journey.
Sites visited in Ghana are among others the Mamishie Rasta shrine in Dzita (Volta), led by Mami Wata priestess Mamishie Rasta, and Hunua Adoglos shrine in Volta (both of them publicly displaying visualisations of Vodun), the Afrikan Magick Temple in Accra (led by Christopher Voncujovi, publicly educating on Vodun, using social media and the catch-phrase ReVodution), and the Nkyinkyim Museum in Ada, combining aspects of a shrine and a museum, addressing local and global communities.
In Benin the Foret Sacree de Kpasse Ouidah (a museum and shrine, site for tourists and initiates at the same time), Daagbo Hounon Houna II, king of Vodun as well as the Mami Wata shrine at the Door of no Return were visited.
Traveling was accompanied by reading on the conundrums other researchers starting off as outsiders to the imagery and spirituality of Vodun have faced, and reflecting on their ways to dealing with the many questions rising: Landry, Timothy R.: Vodún. Secrecy and the Search for Divine Power, Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2019 (Print).
image: shrine next to the Door of No Return (Mami Wata), Ouidah. © Niklas Wolf 2022
VAD Conference: Afrika-Europe: Reciprocal Perspectives.
We will participate at the VAD conference (Vereinigung für Afrikawissenschaften in Deutschland) with this years headline: Afrika-Europe: Reciprocal Perspectives. https://nomadit.co.uk/vad/vad2022/ Albert University Breisgau 7-10. June 2022
On Wednesday 8 June, 16:00-17:30 (UTC+2) we will talk about Artistic Freedom and Responsibility Today and share Some Questions We Ask Ourselves.
Research wall with images of Vodun objects
From storage to work station. Research wall with images of Vodun objects from the Ethnographic collection of the Frobenius Institute, Frankfurt Germany, where the objects reside.