(Post)colonial acquisition histories and meanings of objects

(Post)colonial acquisition histories and meanings of objects of Kurt Strümpell's Cameroon collection from the German colonial period

In the PAESE sub-project at the Städtisches Museum Braunschweig, the acquisition circumstances of the collection of Kurt Strümpell (1876-1947) under the conditions of German colonial rule in Cameroon are being researched. Between 1901 and 1908, Strümpell gave the museum in his hometown about 700 objects for the ethnographic collection. These include objects from West, Southwest and Northwest Cameroon as well as today's Adamaoua, North and Extreme North Cameroon and parts of Nigeria. Due to its acquisition in a colonial context, the Strümpell collection can be classified as historically sensitive: Strümpell was an officer of the "German Schutztruppe" in the former German colony of Cameroon from 1900 to 1912 and was involved in numerous violent military interventions against the local population to consolidate German rule. Initially, he was stationed at various stations in the so-called grasslands. From 1906, he acted as resident of the then administrative district of Adamaua. The study will examine how Strümpell acquired the objects, what acquisition modalities existed and how these were related to German colonial rule. Contexts of violence, as well as the diversity of forms of acquisition and the complexity of interactions in the colonial context will be taken into account.

 

Using written sources from the colonial period at the museum and other archives, an attempt will be made to reconstruct the acquisition histories for particular objects. In addition, descendants of representatives of communities of origin and Cameroonian experts will be interviewed in order to de-centre the Eurocentric perspective of the colonial-era sources. In the question of acquisition histories, gaps in the transmission are also taken into account as are changes in the meaning of objects: Which acquisition histories were recorded in written and oral history and which were not? What meanings were given to the objects as part of the collection in colonial times? And what meanings are attributed to them today by representatives of communities of origin? Can the objects in the collection as carriers of postcolonial entanglements become the starting point for new relationships and dialogues? The project aims to contribute to both postcolonial provenance research and critical institutional history.

Contact:

Researcher: Isabella Bozsa

Museums Director: Dr. Peter Joch

Head of the Subproject:  Dr. Rainer Hatoum, (former head of Subproject: Dr. Evelin Haase)

Academic Adviser: Prof. Dr. Brigitte Reinwald (Universität Hannover)