Humboldt Forum
© Staatliche Museen zu Berlin,Ethnologisches Museum/ Stiftung Humboldt Forum im Berliner Schloss, digitale Reproduktion: Jester Blank GbR
© Staatliche Museen zu Berlin,Ethnologisches Museum/ Stiftung Humboldt Forum im Berliner Schloss, digitale Reproduktion: Jester Blank GbR

December 5, 2018, 7:30 PM

Humboldt Forum Highlights

Feathers, Lacquer & Break Dance

@ Gemäldegalerie

Free admission, registration required

in German

Encounters between people from different regions of the world give rise to a variety of forms of cultural expression. Dance styles, music, objects and unfamiliar materials meet and inspire one another. The known melds with the new, and innovations emerge – often engendered by pure curiosity and deep mutual esteem, but sparked mainly by a very specific interest in changing people’s opinions, conveying prestige, encouraging reflection, attracting attention or causing a stir.

In the course of three talks, experts will provide insights into how cultural techniques are exchanged, both now and in the past, using as examples two of the future Humboldt Forum Highlights: the featherwork Madonna (currently in the Gemäldegalerie) and the Coromandel lacquer screen (currently in the Kunstgewerbemuseum). A performance of music and dance by the co-founder of the breakdance crew Flying Steps, Kadir [amigo] Memiş, and the musician and composer Nevzat Akpınar will give the audience an impressive demonstration of these processes in practice.

Talk 1: Feathers

The first discussion concerns the featherwork Madonna. Artfully composed of feathers from at least thirteen species of bird, the portrait of the Madonna testifies both to Christian missionary work and to traditional pre-Columbian art. The curator of the American archaeological collection at the Ethnologisches Museum, Maria Gaida, will be talking with art historian Sven Jakstat and taxidermist Jürgen Fiebig about the origin, function, iconography and manufacture of the featherwork Madonna.

Talk 2: Lacquer

Exotic objects from the Far East were highly popular in Europe. Royals adorned their porcelain galleries with lacquerware, and the Berlin Palace was no exception. Monika Kopplin, the director of Lackmuseum Münster, will be discussing the fascination of lacquer and the place of lacquer in the Berlin Palace of the past, as well as just what makes the Coromandel lacquer screen so unique, with Arisumi Mitamura, the director of the lacquerwork programme at Tokyo University of Arts.

Talk 3: Breakdance

We find cultural techniques becoming closely intertwined in dance and music, too. The New York breakdance scene of the early 1970s, for instance, has led to the emergence nowadays of numerous new genres all over the world, coming from the most diverse cultural influences. Verda Kaya, who is curating the Hip-Hop section of the Berlin Exhibition at the Humboldt Forum, will be talking to Kadir [amigo] Memiş und Nevzat Akpınar about Berlin hip-hop, the Anadolu Break and the Zeybreak, developed by amigo.


Nevzat Akpınar is not only a Berlin-based composer whose works include music for plays and dance theatre, but also a baglama player and ethnomusicologist. As part of the Berlin in Lights Festival, he performed with the Nevzat Akpınar Ensemble at New York’s Carnegie Hall.

Jürgen Fiebig has investigated the featherwork Madonna’s feathers and is a taxidermist for the scientific bird collection at the Museum für Naturkunde – Leibniz-Institut für Evolutions- und Biodiversitätsforschung.

Maria Gaida is curator for American archaeology at the Ethnologisches Museum (Staatliche Museen zu Berlin). Her research focuses on the pre-Columbian cultures of Mesoamerica.

Sven Jakstat has explored transcultural processes of appropriation and is a post-doctoral student in the research study group BildEvidenz: Geschichte und Ästhetik at the Kunsthistorisches Institut of the Freie Universität Berlin.

Verda Kaya is a community-work coordinator for the Berlin Exhibition and curator of the Hip-Hop section. Her interests focus on subcultures, migration and transnational ties.

Monika Kopplin as the director of Lackmuseum Münster is an expert on lacquerware art who has also studied the Chinese Cabinet in the Berlin Palace.

Kadir [amigo] Memiş came to Berlin as the son of Turkish immigrants. As Urban Nomad he creates choreographies and dance calligraphies that are inspired by the city’s gestures, lines, movements, smells, colours, sounds and lights.

Arisumi Mitamura taught in the lacquerwork faculty of Tokyo University of Arts until he retired last year and is a member of a group of maki-e artists who produce lacquerware employing the traditional Japanese technique.

Humboldt Forum Highlights

The first 15 of these Humboldt Forum Highlights were being presented between October 2018 and May 2019 in two formats: in an exhibition as well as during conversations that will be held at various locations in Berlin. The exhibition on Museum Island has been extended until the end of September 2019.

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