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Carlotta - the museum database

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1Amulet in the shape of a cross from Songololo territory. The text accompanying the object from the Mission Covenant Church of Sweden’s exhibition reads: “A memory of the first Catholic missions of the 15th, 16th and 17th centuries.” Today, many researchers would claim that this object is not a copy of a European symbol. Rather, it is a hybrid, a kind of material crossroads where older Kongo symbols meet the Christian cross, and Congolese and European belief systems intersect. When this cross was collected in the early 20th century, it was called a santu – from Portuguese santa cruz, “holy cross” – and was used to provide good luck in the hunt. A priest would bless the object, and every time a hunter brought down a large prey animal, he would splash a bit of its blood on the “heart” of the cross – the little hole in the middle. Crosses were usually hung on a wall or from the ceiling when they were not in use.
1Amulet or power object in the form of a white mussel shell. We don't know today what function the shell may have had, but it might have been used on its own or as part of a necklace together with other shells. Living mussels in its shell were a metaphor for the living human featus in the womb and shells were thus used in rituals promoting the health of pregnant mothers and safe childbirths.
1A piece of copal with medicinal properties. Copal derives from tree resin (Copaifera) and is a fossilised amber that is common along the Congo River. Previously, copal was used as an ingredient of varnish, but it was also used as a medicine with supernatural properties in the Lower Congo. It is said to alleviate pain.
1Archaeological terra cotta object depicting a two-humped camel. The typical finds at Khotan are precisely such small terra cotta figures depicting people or animals – often monkeys. This object was purchased from the local population by explorer Sven Hedin. Between 1893 and 1897, Hedin travelled through the Pamir Mountains, the Tarim Basin including the Taklamakan Desert, and northern Tibet. In 1895, while crossing the Taklamakan, he discovered the ruins of two large Buddhist cities buried under the dunes. Their murals showed Indian, Greek and Persian influences. He also explained the course of the Tarim River and how the migrating Sea of Lop Nur functioned. The sea dried up in 1972, forming a salt desert. In the salt desert around Lop Nur, China carried out several nuclear weapons tests, starting in 1964 and continuing until July 1996. In 2012, China decided to begin clean-up of the site. Today there are gas and oil extraction operations in the uninhabitable Taklamakan Desert.
1Broom or whisk (sesa) from Ngunza Khaki, a prophetic movement. From the 1920s on, many religious groups grew up around a prophet (ngunza), especially in the areas of the lower Kongo where Swedish missionaries were most active. This broom belonged to the prophet Kimbongila Antoine and was used in the Khaki church to cure the sick. The “helpers” (minsadisi) splashed holy water on the sick with brooms to drive out the spirits that caused illness. The same method was used on people who had lost their faith to win them back. To increase the spiritual power of the broom, it would be left on a grave overnight. Though Ngunza congregations had a Christian message, their belief also built on the local idea that all solutions to people’s problems come from the spirits in Mpemba – the land of the dead. Similar ideas were behind the purifying baths that are also part of their rituals. Members took part in the bathing rituals because bisimbi – nature spirits with great powers – were found in the waterways and could aid, strengthen and cure people.
1Copper jug purchased in the 1890s in Baku, which is situated along one of the ancient trade routes from the Central Asian steppes to Europe. The city was a port for all goods that were shipped via the Caspian Sea, north over the Caucasus and beyond via the Black Sea to Istanbul. The Caspian Sea has been a trade link between Asia and Europe since the Roman era. Baku developed as a hub for trade and other exchanges, a link between the steppes and the West. This is reflected in the buildings and monuments of the historic city, which bear traces of the Sassanid, Arabian, Persian, Ottoman and Russian cultures, all of which had a hand in shaping contemporary Baku.
1Dark green cap from the city of Andijan. It is made of cotton with black edges and white silk embroidery at the crown. The embroidery is composed of Arabic characters. Andijan is one of the oldest cities in the Fergana Valley and was a vital hub, along the northern route, of the Silk Road. In the year 751, the Battle of Talas was fought between the Tang Dynasty and the Abbasid Caliphate and was won by the Abbasids. This, increased Muslim influence in the area and introduced Islam.
1Dervish bowl in brass, with copper and silver inlays. On the outside, decorations and Arabic calligraphy can be seen. Dervish means poor in Persian and it is a concept used for members of different Muslim Sufi orders or brotherhoods. One of the most well-known Sufi orders is the dancing Mevlevi Dervishes from Turkey, who ritually whirl to flute music. In Arabic, Sufis may be called Fakir, which simply means poor. Needing to ask for help creates humility. The bowl, which also has a spout, is used for carrying water and begging for alms.
1EM 1901.22.0082 Coins These copper coins were collected by Swedish missionary Lars Erik Högberg. He was active in what is now the Chinese province of Xinjiang from 1894 to 1916. He belonged to one of the first Swedish missionary groups, which founded a mission in the oasis city of Kashgar in 1894. He probably acquired older coins during his years in the city as well. The city of Kashgar is situated in a fertile oasis at the base of the Pamir Mountains, between a vast desert and an enormous mountain chain. Since its founding, the city has been an important hub for various trade routes. Roads from Central Asia, India, Pakistan and ancient Persia all met here. The caravan routes from eastern China, which ran north and south of the dread Taklamakan Desert, intersected again in the city. Here one could rest, trade, reload, or switch from yaks to camels. Today the city is the northern terminus of the Karakoram Highway linking China and Pakistan, the world’s highest asphalted road. It is a popular tourist destination due to its altitude and proximity to the highest mountain peaks.
1Funerary mask of a sheet gold alloy in three parts with eyes made of seashells. The mask is painted with a red pigment of cinnabar associated with protective properties. Several holes are made on both sides of the mask which is likely to be sewn on the textiles covering the mummy. In the Andean world, deceased individuals of high status hade commonly one or several metal masks placed on the mummy bundle. Depending on the person's status the masks were made in different materials and they also varied in thickness, metal composition and embellishment.
1Handkerchief (muchuali) with embroidered cross that belonged to a member of a prophetic movement. From the 1920s on, many religious groups grew up around a strong leader or prophet (ngunza) in Kongo. The handkerchiefs were worn by ordinary members to signify membership. Wrapped around the head, they functioned as medicine against sickness, and functionaries (minsadisi) could treat the sick by dipping a handkerchief in holy water and touching the patient with it. The prophets based their teachings on both African and European ideas. Important elements included healing, ecstatic rituals, exorcism of spirits and belief in an African messiah, as well as explicit resistance to colonial power and missions. The colonial administration imprisoned leaders of the movement and tried to prohibit membership in the congregations.
1In December 1895, Swedish explorer Sven Hedin arrived at Khotan, one of the most important oases along the southern Silk Road, situated in the southwest corner of the Tarim Basin. The city had a Buddhist past, with rich monasteries and temples. Buddhism spread to East Asia by way of Khotan. During the first millennium AC, Khotan was inhabited by the Saka people, who spoke an Indo-Iranian language, before the Uyghur population, with its Turkic language, drove them out. Hedin visited Yotkan, a site outside contemporary Khotan where archaeological finds had been made. He found nothing himself, but was offered objects from the site for purchase. Typical of the objects found at the site are small terra cotta figurines of people and animals – such this Bactrian camel with baggage.
1Iron stirrups decorated with black pigment and silver inlays. It is difficult to determine their exact age, but they were probably manufactured before 1910. The invention of stirrups was a significant advance in the art of war and had a major influence on history. The horse was domesticated over 6,000 years ago, but stirrups came much later. It’s not easy to say where in Asia they were introduced – whether their use spread from one place or the idea originated in several different places. The first illustrations of a kind of stirrup come from India and date from the 3rd century AD. They depict a variant with a loop of rope in which the rider’s big toe rested, something that could only have worked in a warm climate. The closed stirrup with a crosspiece on which the foot rested probably came from China. Such stirrups have been found in graves from the 4th century. Their use was spread westwards by the nomadic peoples of Central Asia and reached Europe in the Middle Ages.
1Lamp with heart-shaped, hinged lid, purchased in Constantinople. It is commonly believed that the western terminus for Silk Road trade was Rome. Rome was certainly an important destination for silk from China during the first two or three centuries AC, but the city to which all roads truly led from the 5th century on was Constantinople, the capital of the Byzantine Empire. The city of Byzantium was founded as a Greek colony in the 7th century BC, controlling both sides of the entrance to the Black Sea. In the 4th century AC, Emperor Constantine renamed the city Nova Roma, making it the capital of the Byzantine or Eastern Roman Empire. Following his death, the city was called Constantinople. Eastern Rome was where the wealth was, and its geographic location gave it a major role in trade with the East. Oddly, Eastern Rome has never enjoyed the same prominence in the West, despite the fact that it outlived Western Rome by almost a thousand years. Over time, the Byzantine region declined in significance, and with it the city. Renamed Istanbul after its conquest by the Ottoman Empire in 1453, the city once again became the capital of a major empire, and played a central role in East–West cultural and economic interchange.
1Metal barrel from Marakwet in the Kerio valley, Kenya collected in the end of the 1970s. The sheet metal barrel has been used for carrying water. By a rope around the barrel, it is carried by women and children on their backs. The most remarkable feature in Marakwet is the centuries-old irrigation system which is managed essentially the same way. Ingenious system of how water is allocated, joint decision-making processes along with an advanced agriculture based on sustainable technology. An irrigation system that has been able to survive drought, war, mudslides and development projects; an irrigation system whose resilience and sustainability are a combination of flexibility and permanence
1Multi-coloured stone with attached white shell. This power object or nkisi was used by the Mbenza cult. An nkisi is a spirit from the land of the dead that has been bound to a power object, which is also called an nkisi. Participants in Mbenza rituals typically painted their bodies the same red and white colours as the ritual objects. They would apply paint around their eyes and sing: O, lines around eyes, Eyes of understanding. White they are, Mark them with chalk. Priests and cult members painted rings around their eyes with white pigment to symbolically enable themselves to see into the white world of spirits that was called Mpemba.
1Necklace or amulet with five small wooden crosses. The object was newly made in the early 1900s, and had not been consecrated by a ritual specialist. We do not know exactly what purpose the necklace was produced for, but crosses were sometimes used to cure chest pains and other diseases that were considered to be caused by witches. Diseases like sleeping sickness were taking a heavy toll on people in the region around the turn of the last century, and were exacerbated by food shortages and migrations caused by colonial military operations, plundering and forced labour.
1Photo by John Möller. The motif shows a beach in Nuuk and how the catch is cut. At the beginning of the 20th century, a trading post was established at the settlement Uummannaq by the polar explorer Knud Rasmussen, which was named Cape York Station Thule. Since then the area came to be known as the Thule and the expeditions was named Thule expeditions, as they frequently originated from or was financed with funds from the station. Qaanaaq is the name of Thule today, and it is the main town in the northern part of the Qaasuitsup municipality in northwestern Greenland. If climate change continues, it will be difficult to remain living in these areas since much of catching and transport is all about sea ice is navigable for about nine months a year.
1Photograph by John Möller, taken sometime before 1917. Photography taken sometime before 1917 by John Möller. The photograph belonged to the botanist Thorild Wulff and was donated. Wulff took part in one of the Thule Expeditions intended to explore Greenland, but never returned from this trip. His fate was sealed by melting ice. It was unseasonably warm, and the expedition was stymied by rivers flowing through the glacial ice. Without food, Wulff eventually grew too weak, and without ice and snow, the others could not pull him on the sledge. On 29 August 1917, he made a final entry in his journal. “Settled in at 7 p.m., for I did not wish to impinge upon my colleagues’ freedom of movement, on which their rescue depends.”
1Photograph from Western Greenland in the summer of 1915, by artist Ossian Elgström. Approximately 90% of the population lives in the Western parts of Greenland. When the photograph was taken, much of the older catch methods, architecture and clothing were still in use. Although a lot of changes began to take shape in the early part of the 20th century, which is described as an epoch in the history of Greenland. Now more than a hundred years later another break time is approaching, with climate change and the melting of ice caps. With the help of laser scanner from the satellites is estimated that 277 cubic kilometers of Greenland's ice disappears every year. An ice melting that will give higher sea levels, which means a direct threat to many island nations ' existence. But for the Greenlanders it can also include that the melting of the ice entails a way to independence from Denmark, with opportunities for oil extraction and mining. All over the world are companies taking advantage of the new opportunities that arises when climate is changing.
1Photography from West Greenland taken by Ossian Elgström in 1915. Imagine a little boy kayaking . The word kayak/ qajaq mean “boat for men”. They are often made to fit the owner’s measurements and thus becomes an extension of the body. It was very important to be able to precision maneuver and roll the kayaks. Being able to right a capsized kayak in the cold waters of Greenland was a skill that would save your life. In Greenland roll contests, points are awarded for 36 different types of roll.
1Photography taken by Ossian Elgström 1915 at Sukkertoppen, Western Greenland. The traditional kayak or 'qajaq' as it is called in Greenland are still an inspiration for modern boat designers. In some places there is still a requirement that whaling for narwhals must take place in the traditional manner - i.e. from a traditional qajaq and with handmade lances and spears. Building a kayak was earlier a job for both men and women. The man was responsible for the kayak frame, and the kayak was shaped specifically to his body shape. The women's job was to sew the fabric together from 3-4 skins of the harp seal, which was stretched out over the frame. Nowadays most kayaks are made of fibre glass.
1Plastic mug from Kenya. More than half of Nairobi residents live in informal housing arrangements where poor sanitation causes major health problems.
1Plate from Tunisia decorated with Arabic texts. Collected by Aly Ben Salem. Aly Ben Salem was born in 1910 and grew up in Tunisia. He studied art in Tunis and Paris. While in Paris, he came into contact with Swedish artists and visited Sweden, in the 1930s. From the end of the Second World War, until his death in 2001, he spent most of his time, while in Sweden, in Stockholm. He was politically active, and participated in meetings and demonstrations on issues concerning his homeland. He also collected objects for the Museum of Ethnography and participated in spreading knowledge of the Arabic culture, religion and language. Here, in Sweden, he was an active artist and his paintings occasionally show up at auctions. His artwork often portrays female figures or fabulous animals done in gouache.
1Power object, nkisi, in the form of a cloth bag. The bag contains some 70 smaller objects that are completely coated with yellow pigment. An nkisi is a spirit from the land of the dead that has been bound to a power object, which is also called an nkisi. In the northern part of the Kongo-speaking peoples’ area, simbi spirits were often called nkita. Rituals involving them tended to have similar content and mythology, and were intended primarily to solve “female problems” involving childbirth and reproductive health. They were often led by female priests, which was otherwise uncommon. Priests and members of the nkita cult were required to follow a range of strictures on their behaviour, language and eating habits. As long as these were followed, the spirits sent health and good fortune to the clan, but if the rules were broken, terrible misfortune might befall the entire group. Made of raffia fabric, various plant parts, animal parts, stones and yellow pigment.
1Power object (nkisi Nsasi) consisting of an amulet with several small appendages on a string. Both the spirit and the amulet--its physical body--were called nkisi. Among its many parts are snail shells, seed pods, a mussel shell, an insect nest and a small horn. The objects represented different traits of the spirit and the actions which the priest wanted to have the spirit perform for the client. A wooden bell decorated on one side with a clear cross may imply that nkisi Nsasi was used to track down witches. Similar bells were usually hung on hunting dogs and would also be used by priests for hunting invisible beings.
1Shell that was probably attached to a ritual object. Health and fertility rituals involved use of power objects – stones, twisted roots, snail shells and river shells – that were believed to attract simbi, or nature spirits. Simbi were believed to be the wellspring of life itself. Many rituals dramatised meetings with simbi. Participants were painted white and were treated as if they were dead and had been turned into simbi themselves. When they returned from such rituals, they were often painted white and red to underline the fact that they were passing from one state into another.
1Short staff that served as an amulet (macanon) and sign for a member of the Khaki prophetic movement. All followers owned such an item, which they carried with them or buried in their house as protection against witches and evil forces. The brass or iron pins hammered into the end of the staff gave it the power to “shoot” witches (bandoki). Prophetic congregations emerged in the very areas of the lower Congo where Swedish missionaries were most active. The missionaries were extremely ambivalent about the prophetic movements, which were believed to encourage sin and which recruited members away from the missions. Yet the Ngunza movement led to a revival in the Protestant churches in both Kongo states. Eventually this affected the Swedish mission congregations too, which for the first time began permitting “African elements” such as drums and ecstatic expressions in their services.
1Slate with dikenga cross, which may have been used as a kind of sign and a symbol of the Mbenza ritual community. According to a Kongo evangelist named Lutete from Lolo, Mbenza was a cult that sought to “open the womb to copious offspring” – they wanted women to have many children. Only people who were parents could be initiated into the cult, after which they would be secluded in a house with the priest. There they communed with benevolent nature spirits (simbi), which had assumed material form in stones collected at particular natural sites, and which could bless them with many children.
1Staff (mvwala) with inset ivory that belonged to a highly placed member of a prophetic movement in Kinshasa. The prophetic movements were complex organisations with different grades, functions and symbols that could only be used by members with a certain title. The prophets derived their legitimacy both from ancient Kongo traditions – like the spokesmen for the chief – and from the prophets of the Old Testament. Other influences were the Salvation Army (uniforms), the Protestant missions (teachers) and the bureaucracies of the colonial administration (membership cards). An important historic predecessor of the prophets was the religious leader Dona Beatrice Kimpa Vita, who led a Christian revival and resistance movement in the old Kingdom of Kongo until she was burnt at the stake by the Portuguese in 1706.
1The banner is placed farthest up at the top of the pole that bears the banner. Decorated banners were used and are still used, during religious ceremonies, in much of the Muslim world. This is from Moussoro, in, what is today, Chad. It lies close to the vanished historical capital city of Nijmi, in the old Kanem-Bornu Empire, which became Muslim between the 11th-13th century. It was an area traversed by different trans-Sahara trade routes, from the 6th century A.D. and on. The same routes were also used by pilgrims.
1The final years of the 1927–35 Swedish–Chinese expedition to Central Asia were financed by the Chinese government with an eye to exploring the possibilities of building automobile roads along the former caravan routes. Astronomer Nils Peter Ambolt, who participated in the early years, from 1927 to 33, collected these old coins, threaded onto twine. In China, like many other places in the world, it is believed that the oldest type of “coins” were cowry shells, initially in their natural state and later as images copied in metal, such as bronze. Later coin types were in the shape of spades and knives. Around 200 BC, the currency system was standardised and all local variants were banned. The coins were round with a hole – a design that Chinese coins retained for centuries. Besides coins, there were other currency systems, such as rice and bolts of silk, that were commonly used in trade with foreign parties, or as payments or bribes to nomadic groups to avoid conflicts. Paper money began to be used more widely in the 10th century, during the Song dynasty, but it was Mongols who introduced fiat money for the first time in the 11th century. Fiat money is currency that does not rest on a reserve of value, such as gold. Instead, its value is guaranteed solely by an institution – in practice, essentially always a state. Today, most currencies are fiat money, from euros to American dollars to Swedish kronor.
1These two weights are said to have come from Tbilisi, Georgia, between the 12th and the 14th century. These and a variety of other archaeological items were purchased by Swedish orientalist and art dealer F.R. Martin in the 1890s. Weights are both an example and a symbol of trade and exchange. The city of Tbilisi was founded in the 5th century at one of the crossroads where Asia and Europe meet. The city was often subjected to attacks and conquered by various powers, yet trade flourished, as it benefited from close proximity to trade routes and competing countries. Recurring conflicts between the Sassanid Empire and Byzantium made it more difficult and less profitable for caravans to follow the old Silk Road route. One possible new route went north from the Caspian Sea and across the Caucasus Mountains, eventually reaching Byzantium by way of Georgia. It is known that the first caravan loaded with silk took this route in the year 568. Sometime after the 14th century, the route declined in importance and the big caravans stopped coming this way. The period between 1122 and 1236 is often referred to as Georgia’s golden age, when the country reached the peak of power and development. The golden age gradually slipped away due to constant invasions by nomadic peoples and the spread of bubonic plague.
1The water in this bottle comes from the pond in the Taklamakan who saved the life of explorer Sven Hedin, during his first expedition to Central Asia. In his own travel stories he writes how he, after leaving the rest of the caravan to die, alone find their way to the water, and use one of his boots to carry water. A good story to tell even if exaggerated.
1This book contains the first, of the thirty sections, of the Quran (Koran). Islam’s holy scriptures, the Quran, consists of 114 chapters (sura), but it is also divided into thirty nearly equal-sized sections called juz. The edition that you see, in the display case, shows the entire first, short opening chapter, the Al-Fatiha (The Opening) that is recited during each Muslim time of prayer. The first thirty chapters extend to the second sura, Al-Baqarah’s (The Cow’s) 141 verses (ayat). Al-Baqarah is the longest chapter in the Quran. It is said to have been revealed directly after the first small group of Muslims emigrated from Mecca to Medina, in the year 622. This is year 0, in the Muslim calendar. The chapter received its name from Verses 66-72, which tell how the prophet, Moses, was urged by God to have his people sacrifice a golden cow. Many of the Jewish prophets that are found in the Bible are also mentioned in the Quran. Moses is the person most often mentioned in the Quran, a full 136 times, under the Arabic form of the name, Musa. There is no contextual reason for dividing the Quran into thirty parts, instead, it was done for purely practical reasons. During the fasting month of Ramadan, a section is read each evening. In this way, the entire Quran is read during Ramadan.
1This calabash from Kenya was used to fetch water. The Dadaab refugee camp in eastern Kenya is the largest in the world. Founded in 1991, today it houses 346,000 people. A third of them are on the run from drought, most from Somalia. Twice a day, the 10,000 liter water tanks are filled.
1This crocodile head is decorated with red, yellow and white ornaments, and was once was the stem of a canoe. In 1910, Swedish count and diplomat Birger Mörner travelled by steamer up the Sepik River in what is now Papua New Guinea and collected this canoe stem for the National Ethnographic Collection of the Swedish Museum of Natural History in Stockholm. He carried out this and other travels with the help of German colonial officials. The area was a German colony until World War I, when it was occupied by Australia. In 1975, Papua New Guinea became independent, with the British monarch as its head of state. The country is one of Asia's least developed countries, struggling with corruption, unemployment and crime. Increased urbanization has created major social problems. Men and women are unequal, homosexual behavior and adultery is illegal. Climate change and environmental degradation due to over-exploitation of natural resources increases the vulnerability. Even so, PNG is a vibrant democracy. The constitution guarantees human rights, although it remains to implement and protect these rights in law, policy and practice. After all, there are local democratic principles to build on. To get anywhere the head and the tail need to move in the same direction.
1This early 20th century scale was for weighing silver. Such scales were used throughout China, where unminted silver was employed as a means of payment. In the old world, precious metals such as gold and silver have been used as payment throughout history. In China, the first domestic coins were made of copper. Starting in the 15th century, silver increasingly replaced copper coins. The growing demand for silver in China and the world was met through globalisation, colonialism and forced labour. An example that combines all three was the Spanish import of silver from Potosí, in what is now Bolivia. Here, two worldviews collided. In the Andean world –site of the world’s largest silver deposit – precious metals like gold and silver were never used as currency, but instead were believed to be living spirits – something reserved for royalty and the gods.
1This length of bamboo is from the highlands of western Kenya. It is described as having been used by women to wash their hands before milking cows or feeding children. They would fill the tube with water, hold it on their lap and let the water run out.
1This little earring from what is now Iran consists of a turquoise stone in a brass setting. It was collected and donated to the collection by missionary Elin Sundsvall for the mission exhibition of 1907. Perhaps the turquoise came from Mount Ali-mersai. This heavily mined mountain near the city of Neyshabur, in what is now northern Iran, has supplied the world with turquoise for over 2,000 years. Turquoise was a trade good that was in demand in the west and the east alike. Neyshabur was strategically situated along the ancient Silk Road route that linked Anatolia to the Mediterranean and China, and was once one of the world’s largest cities. One of the centers of the world. The city was almost completely obliterated on the orders of Genghis Khan. According to his orders, not so much as a cat or dog should be left living. The dead bodies were stacked in pyramidal heaps as a warning to other cities of what would happen if they resisted. The total destruction of certain cities was a calculated technique of the Mongols in order to induce other cities to give up.
1This water basket is made of palm leaves and is over 130 years old.Many different types of palm plants with large leaves have been used to quickly be able to make simple water containers. “Marruny were really important because they could carry water…Every billabong we would fill it up again, walking for days. We would put honey and water…stir it up and drink it to keep us kids going” Ningoldie Blyth, Minaga, 2015
1Water bucket made of wood from Okavango in Botswana, collected in the 1980s. Okavango is a large inland delta that once reached the ancient Makgadikgadi Lake before it dried up several thousand years ago. The Okavango River nowadays forms an inland delta of swamps, swirling streams, lagoons and channels to be disappearing in the Kalahari Desert. All under constant change through, rain, earthquakes, cattle and people. Man's thousands of years of history in the Okavango can be told through constant movements to new areas depending on vegetation, drought, floods, political conflicts or the diseases. Today the movements continue, often in direction to the urban life in cities.
1Water container from the Yarlung area in Tibet, a region commonly referred to as the cradle of the Tibetan civilization. The water container is made in the 1600-century or earlier and has belonged to one of the monasteries located high up in the mountains. The glaciers of the Tibetan Plateau have a key role in the global water supply. The 46 000 glaciers are the third largest fresh water source in the world, after the Arctic and Antarctica, and they are melting rapidly because of climate change. Estimates say the glaciers are melting at a rate of 7% annually and if the current rate continues, two-thirds of the glaciers on the plateau will be gone by 2050.
1Water jug from Gaziantep Province in Turkey, close to the Syrian border. Since the outbreak of war in Syria in 2011, the UNHCR has established several refugee camps in the area. Many times, people in the camps have had to make do with seven liters of water per person per day.
1Water vessel made of two coconuts, from the Marshall Islands in the Pacific Ocean. A place that has been called one of the most radioactively contaminated in the world. Sea-level rise increases concerns further over the nuclear waste here stored after the United States's nuclear weapons tests. In the nuclear waste bunker the Runit Dome, called the Tomb by the locals, is 111 000 cubic yards of radioactive debris being deposited. The storage is supposed to hold for 12 000 years but the concrete is already starting to crack and weaken due to changing tidal currents. Some radioactive waste has started to leak out, and many fear that the storm floods and typhoons caused by climate change could lead to the radioactive substance being released into the ocean.
1Woman’s costume made of burbot fish skins. The costume came to the museum in 1926 from the Russian Museum of Ethnography in St Petersburg. Some of the ornaments had deep symbolic significance, such the edges of the garment, which symbolized the life force of the river. A woman who could create strong patterns had high status. The ornament could also have a protective effect, which derived from the woman’s creative energy as she worked on the costume. Many such garments have patterns with Chinese influences. For a large section of its course, the Amur River is the boundary between Russia and China. For centuries, the Amur was a historic crossroads of trade and cultural interchange, where thoughts, traditions and goods flowed in various directions. The Nanai people’s mythology describes how the goddess of the underwater world, an ancient woman named Doro-mama, created an abundant supply of fish in the rivers. Some types of fish were especially revered. The burbot had protective powers. A smock made of burbot skin could protect a hunter if a tiger were to attack him. The crucian carp was believed to understand human speech, and the ruffe was dried and tied to babies’ cradles to protect the children from evil spirits.
2Woman’s costume made of burbot fish skins. The costume came to the museum in 1926 from the Russian Museum of Ethnography in St Petersburg. Some of the ornaments had deep symbolic significance, such the edges of the garment, which symbolized the life force of the river. A woman who could create strong patterns had high status. The ornament could also have a protective effect, which derived from the woman’s creative energy as she worked on the costume. Many such garments have patterns with Chinese influences. For a large section of its course, the Amur River is the boundary between Russia and China. For centuries, the Amur was a historic crossroads of trade and cultural interchange, where thoughts, traditions and goods flowed in various directions. The Nanai people’s mythology describes how the goddess of the underwater world, an ancient woman named Doro-mama, created an abundant supply of fish in the rivers. Some types of fish were especially revered. The burbot had protective powers. A smock made of burbot skin could protect a hunter if a tiger were to attack him. The crucian carp was believed to understand human speech, and the ruffe was dried and tied to babies’ cradles to protect the children from evil spirits.
1Wooden amulet with medicine encased in resin. The Nkisi cult made use of a wide variety of objects, from sculptures and stones to diverse types of containers, including cloth bags, ceramic bowls, bottles and shells. An nkisi is a spirit from the land of the dead that has been enclosed in a power object, which is also referred to as an nkisi. Amulets were often part of a larger collection of ritual objects belonging to a particular cult. A priest would own a sculpture or container that was significant within the cult, while members of the cult were given less important objects or small sculptures – sometimes called “children” of the nkisi.
1Wooden cross used in the Munkukusa cult. In the early 1950s, a spiritual movement grew up in the borderlands between the two Congo states. The movement’s members underwent mass purification rituals (kukusa) to purge themselves of evil and witchcraft. Unlike the prophetic movements, the Munkukusa had a simple organisation and were run by local members with the support of village political leaders. A cross – together with a bible, hammer and nails – was used in their purification ceremony, which was always held around a cross-shaped pit in the village.
1Wooden sculpture in the form of a crocodile painted with white, yellow and red color. Collected some time during the period 1913-14. Perhaps it is a totem animal By the mid-20th century, overhunting of the New Guinea crocodile had led to the near-extinction of the species in the northern parts of the island. In the 1970s, conservation laws were passed regulating the hunt, and efforts got under way to restore crocodile stock. It is still legal for landowners to hunt for personal use, both for food and ritual purposes. Commercial sale and export of skins is regulated depending on factors such as the size of the animal.
1Wooden sculpture in the form of a crocodile painted with white and red color. Collected some time during the period 1913-14.Perhaps it is a totem animal. In the Sepik region, crocodiles are present in objects, myths and metaphors, all of which speak of people’s relationship to the animal. A common example are the male initiation rites in which the body is cut in a way that results in scars symbolizing crocodile teeth. The ritual is a learning process involving a complex history of the crocodile’s power and authority, but also incorporating ideas about gender. By performing the ritual, men gain an intimate connection to the abilities and skills of the crocodile. In some places, the initiation rite has been turned into a kind of tourist spectacle and adapted to the expectations of the tourists. However, the ritual retains its significance for many, and is a way of preserving historical ties to the original creator.