Dr. Christina Weiss
State Minister at the Federal Chancellery
Federal Government Commissioner for Cultural and Media Affairs
How Pierre Verger sharpens the gaze directed at other cultures
is deeply fascinating. It was always his wish to convey the
encounter with the foreign as being an encounter with oneself
at the same time. In the age of globalization, and in the
era of a new and expanding Europe, we depend more than ever
on this conveyed access to the other, to the unknown.
Pierre Verger approached Afro-American societies with neither
an academic aloofness nor an exotic and transfiguring gaze.
He tried to become a part of the life and world of faith that
he described in his photographic work. The ethnological subjects
he observed were actively included in his studies as social
protagonists. For Verger, cultural and religious syncretism
in these parts of the population were relevant strategies
used to overcome conflict and find one’s identity with.
He never saw the African heritage as simply a relic of the
past; instead he understood it as being a living structure
in the social transformation process.
Verger’s great achievement was to make the approaches
of twentieth-century European ethnography undergo a critical
revision. For that reason, too, I see it as being a very positive
sign that this exhibition project – initiated by The
Pierre Verger Foundation of Bahia and the forum of the Goethe
Institut – came about in collaboration with the State
Museum of Ethnology in Munich, the Museum of World Cultures
in Frankfurt, the Museum of Ethnology of the State Museums
to Berlin and Preußischer Kulturbesitz, the Linden Museum in Stuttgart, the
Overseas Museum in Bremen, as well as branches of Goethe Institut.
On the one side, this verifies the spirit of cooperative interest
shared by these museums; on the other, it acknowledges Verger’s
The exhibition "Black Gods in Exile," to be shown
first in Germany at the Museum of Ethnology of the State Museums
to Berlin, is accompanied by a catalog courtesy of the publishing
house Das Wunderhorn. In a way, the house is giving itself
a present, this being the year when it can look back on a
quarter of a century of successful and creative publishing.
And I congratulate it for that.
"Wunderhorn" has always been associated with special
discoveries, and with publications whose wealth of detail
and content has meanwhile become proverbial. This publishing
house has long been one of the pearls of Germany’s publishing
trade, and the catalog on the work of Pierre Verger is a shining
addition to its program. Until now a publication on this important
artist was missing in Germany. So what a great stroke of luck
it is to have this vacancy filled now by such a publisher.
For the readers and admirers of the catalog,
I wish you many satisfying and meaningful encounters with
Pierre Verger – and for the exhibition, a great many
Berlin, July 5, 2004
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