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Carlotta - the museum database

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1Between 1927 and 1935, the explorer and geographer Sven Hedin (1865-1952) found himself back in China realising his last major expedition. This time he wasn't alone but had a large number of colleagues with him from several different countries. They were largely scientists, but this time there were also ethnographers and archaeologists. The archaeological collections were returned (repatriated) to China in the 1950s while the ethnographic collections were exported with the permission of the Chinese authorities, and today are primarily at the Museum of Ethnography. Sven Hedin participated in acquisitions but, for the most part, objects were tracked down and bought by Gösta Montell. He had, in turn, the help of colleagues who spoke Chinese and Mongolian, knew temples in Inner Mongolia, antique stalls in Beijing, and had the contacts to enrich the collections – F.A. Larsson, Georg Söderbom, Joel Eriksson, and Ferdinand Lessing. The large collection therefore consists of many sub-collections from many different places. They have very varied contents, but were primarily intended to support the Hedin's project to present northern, Tibetan Buddhism to a Western audience.
1David Hummel among the Tebbu Tibetans
 The eastern flank of the Tibetan cultural region consisted, before the communist takeover in China, of a patchwork of small Tibetan kingdoms and monastic states. Furthest to the northeast lay Choni, a kingdom with a famous monastery containing one of Tibetan civilization's large printing works. The southern part of the realm was inhabited by Tebbu (Tewo) Tibetans who, during troubled times, served in the army as the king's foot-soldiers. They had to fight against other Tibetans, against Chinese Muslims, Hui, and against bandit armies. In 1930 David Hummel (1893-1985) braved hardship and turbulent roads to reach this area, primarily to collect plants and insects. He was Sven Hedin's doctor during his last expedition, but also carried out his own research. In Choni he met Swedish-American missionaries, who took him to the Drakana valley, south of the high Min Shan Mountains. In this long, isolated valley with its four villages and common monastery, he made a unique collection of the Tebbu Tibetan's material culture.
1Gustaf Bolinder was granted 15 000 SEK for his and his wife’s journey to Southern Africa in 1948-49. During their journey they visited Portuguese West and East Africa (Angola and Mozambique), South Rhodesia (Zimbabwe), Swaziland and South Africa. They brought home over a thousand objects for the museums of ethnography in Stockholm and Gothenburg respectively. The money, granted by King Gustav V through the Royal Academy of Science, was taken from the so-called lottery funds. For those Swedes who were the most active explorers it was a big concern how to finance their travels. The expeditions often involved collaborators like assistants, photographers, local translators and guides who cost lots of money. The journeys were often very long, there were costs for technical equipment and for purchase and shipping of the collected objects. Very few expeditions were given financial support from the Swedish state. The Vanadis and the Vega expeditions and some of Sven Hedin’s expeditions are examples of expeditions supported by the state. Most expeditions were financed by a mix of private sponsors, foundations and scientific societies like The Swedish Society for Anthropology and Geography and last, but not least, through purchases of objects made afterwards by the museums of ethnography.
1In limbo between hinduism and christendom Bishop Johannes Sandegren tells us how, during his missionary work he in the 1920’s, he had been handling a fire tongs that later were brought to Uppsala, Sweden. Magic wand is the term Sandegren uses in his text. He also tells us that this type of object was a kind of fire tongs made of metal, with rings at one end, and that it was used by holy men. These particular tongs were a gift from Gurusaami from Usilampati. According to the description, the relation between Sandegren and Gurusaami was relatively friendly. For a period they met regularly and talked about religious matters. Gurusaami was being taught by a guru. The guru gave him three gifts that were significant for his in-depth knowledge of Hinduism; a fire tongs and two pictures of gods. Sandegren, on his part, presented Gurusaami with a Bible. After some time Gurusaami thought that he no longer needed the pictures of Hindu gods. He felt that he was granted equal power by the Bible and its message. As for the fire tongs, however, they would according to the guru give Gurusaami life as long as he was carrying them, and for that reason he didn’t want to dispose of them. Sandegren goes on telling us that Gurusaami then read in the Gospel of John that he who believes in the Christ will not die. After a long time of doubt Gurusaami broke up with his guru and gave the tongs to Sandegren. He wanted to be baptized, to get strength and protection from his new guru, the Christ. But the baptismal ceremony never took place. We get to know that payment was requested, and that Gurusaami didn’t have the means, and so he withdrew. But what happened after that? What was his life then like, in this state of limbo, without the strength and protection of Hindu or Christian community? Why couldn’t he be baptized and safe without payment? The further fate of Gurusaami is unknown to Sandegren. However, in an anthology on the missionary work of The Church of Sweden, Bertil Envall writes about the reason why payment was requested for the baptism. By demanding a formal application and payment the missionaries were trying to avoid accusations of buying converts who wanted worldly favors, such as a well, health care, schools and better housing. New Christians could get help to have these things. The missionaries felt there was a risk that they were accused of using material favors, especially in the districts where a mass movement of conversion had been created. The missionaries considered the payment, one rupee - corresponding to one Swedish krona – as a first sacrificial gift to Jesus. The fire tongs and other objects that were presents from the new Christians form part of the conversion process that the missionaries were working to achieve. Considering the importance of these objects in the Hindu everyday life of these people, they could be regarded as a first sacrifice to Jesus. In addition, the stories told by the missionaries demonstrate that the conversion process implied mutual negotiations on the institutional as well as individual level, where the exchange of objects played an essential role.
1This smock was made by Khanyisile Mjwera. She had to leave school in the fourth form at the death of her brother, who was the breadwinner in the family. She got work as a house maid. She learned how to sew on a machine and started to make clothes for sale, but had difficulties in finding places where she could sell them. She first tried in Johannesburg, then in Durban. Since 2001 she now rents a lot on a pavement in the city center for 10 Rand a month. Some white marks on the pavement indicate her area. Her hours of work are long in the traffic noise of Prince Edward Street, but she makes a profit. Before she got her marked rectangle on the pavement there was always a problem with the police. The neckline she made up herself, but she can see that it is mimicked by others. She can sew the pattern because she has got an Overlock machine. She bought it in 2003 when she heard about a shop offering this machine for R1000. By then she had been saving up for years to buy a modern sewing machine. Her first machine was bought with money she had saved by the household work she had been doing. That was in 1990, and twelve years later she had got her little business working. She buys her fabrics at seven rand per meter from Kwa Mtapuna Stoho Shop in the same street. She has got smocks in pastel colors; puce, pink, lime green. However, “as for colors, the best seller is apricot.”
1When it´s time to roll up our sleeves It’s a dress, obviously. More than that, it’s a work smock and the everyday wear of many, many Zulu women. When something has to be tackled you put on your work smock. It’s like rolling up your sleeves. “It’s my own. It’s something quite different from the uniforms the employers offer those who are working in their houses. Young women are told to wear those uniforms and they really hate them. Our smocks are our own!” This kind of garment can be included in marriage negotiations. When a young man wants to get married, he often presents the girl’s mother with a nice smock, sleeved (of course they are more expensive than the sleeveless ones). That’s not enough, but it should be included in the concept. And it must be nice-looking. You can’t come up with one that is too plain or simple.