Looking back at #ManRayReloaded, a cooperation of Museum Fünf Kontinente and Theresien-Gymnasium München


Getting museum objects to talk was the brief for an art class of 18-years-olds of Theresien-Gymnasium München (grammar school). In early February, following a guided tour from Museum Fünf Kontinente’s head curator Dr. Stefan Eisenhofer, the pupils selected six objects from the Africa exhibit: Ibedji figures from Yoruba, a Ghanaian coffin in the form of a Nike sneaker, a Portuguese-African horn made from ivory, a figurehead of a canoe from the Wouri Delta, a Baulé spirit partner and masks by the Beninois artist Romuald Hazoumé.


Back at school, teams of three used literature provided by the museum to research the philosophies and stories behind each object.


The pupils’ reflections built upon previously acquired knowledge about an artistic actualization of the photograph “Noire et Blanche”, shot in 1926 by Man Ray and featuring a carved mask from the Ivory Coast. In 2019, each pupil from Annette Schemmel’s art class had conceived of a new composition relating critically to this historic picture and its colonial implications. Their new black-and-white photographs formed the visual material for a video that has been screening at Museum Fünf Kontinente since March 13th, 2020.


At the occasion of the video’s inauguration, the pupil teams charmed in visitors with an unheard-of guided tour around the Africa exhibit, performing their own sketches,telenovelas, masked dialogues and staged Q&As involving the public. This cheerful experiment, which took place just hours before Covid-19 prevention measures sealed off the Museum Fünf Kontinente, proved successful at promoting transcultural competence and critique towards museum representation. Additionally we trust that these youths and their peers will continue to draw artistic confidence from the experience of being part of one of Munich’s oldest museums.