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In the first dance theatre performance created especially for the Humboldt Forum, we trace the footsteps of one of the two men who gave the Forum its name: world traveller and author Alexander von Humboldt (1769-1859). Created by Cuban choreographer Maura Morales and German director Clemens Bechtel, this theatrical evening shines a spotlight on the contradictory aspects of the renowned explorer, whose achievements cannot be viewed outside the context of the oppressive and exploitative power structures of colonial times.

The Foyer of the Humboldt Forum will be turned into a performance space, as seven multilingual performers take the audience – who will be equipped with headphones – on a journey to some of the influential yet ambivalent episodes in Alexander von Humboldt’s life. During the course of the show, dance and theatre will intertwine, performers and onlookers will intermingle, languages and performance spaces will shift. Historical references, some taken from Humboldt’s own papers, will be set in a present-day context.

A chronicler of social inequality in a system of colonial oppression

Alexander von Humboldt became an acclaimed chronicler of social inequality, his voyages of exploration earning him worldwide renown. His documenting of enslavement on sugar cane plantations in Cuba, and the inhumane work of the ‘cargueros’ carrying wealthy people on their backs through the Andes, for example, portrayed the unvarnished truth of their lives. But equally, Humboldt’s discoveries and achievements are themselves based on a system of colonial oppression. This aspect of Humboldt’s legacy is reflected in, among other things, the ruthless invasion of hitherto protected spaces and territories that was only made possible by Humboldt’s close contact with colonial rulers. Even the fact that he was able to go on a world tour at all, going on to publish his experiences and research results, and gain widespread renown, was something Alexander von Humboldt owed to his friendly ties with the Prussian and Spanish royal families.

Against this background, how are we to interpret Humboldt’s inner compass, his attitude to all of this? Which side was he on – the side of the oppressed or the rulers? Or somewhere in between? What was he prepared to accept for the sake of his achievements and scientific discoveries? And not least: was he aware of his own conflict of interest?

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  • “2G” regulation (valid from 15 November 2021)

    In accordance with the Federal State of Berlin’s updated measures to contain the COVID-19 pandemic, please be informed that since Monday, 15 November 2021, the “2G“ rule applies to all visits to the Humboldt Forum. This rule generally applies to entering the building, as well as to visitors of exhibitions and participants of events, educational programmes, and guided tours.

    A digitally legible vaccination certificate or a digital recovery certificate must be presented as proof. A physical vaccination certificate without a legible QR code or a valid test certificate is no longer sufficient.

    Exceptions include children aged five and below, as well as children and adolescents aged 17 or below upon presentation of a student ID Unvaccinated visitors with a medical certificate are also exempt. These visitors must present a valid, negative PCR test result that is no older than 24 hours.

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    Visitors aged 6 and above, as well as all staff members, are required to wear a medical or FFP2 face mask indoors.

    The Berlin administration’s centralised COVID-19 information can be found here.

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    With the exception of children under 6, deaf people and their accompanying persons, all visitors are required to wear a medical face mask, FFP2 or KN95 mask in all indoor areas of the Humboldt Forum. Please bring your own face mask with you. If wearing a mask is not possible due to health restrictions (e.g. asthma, severe lung diseases, etc.), a doctor’s certificate must be carried and shown. In this case, we point out the increased risk of infection for you.