Christmas is upon us and for a lot of people it means a great exchange of gifts. In the Ethnographic Collections at MoMu there is an abundance of objects that have been given as gifts over the years. Some have been given as parting gifts to ethnographers in the field, some have been gifted to the museum, and others have been given as gifts to dear friends living far away.
In the spirit of Christmas, some of these gifts and their stories have been collected here for you! From all of us, to all of You – happy holidays!
Museum educator Svend Juel has contributed a huge collection of objects to the Ethnographic Collections at Moesgaard Museum. His collection numbers 2658 objects! The colourful tray above is from Kenya and was gifted to Svend Juel during a visit to his home.
The hat above was given to Svend Juel in 1988 by Mrs. Sikopu Mukela from the Moto Moto Museum in Mbala, Zambia.
Svend Juel’s wife also received gifts from the people the couple worked with. The container is made of a calabash and a leather string decorated with shells. While it was made by a Masai it was sold to a Kikuyu woman in Kenya, who later gave it to Juel’s wife as a gift in 1965.
Among one of the stranger gifts on this list is this Turkish cheese container made out of lambskin. Svend Juel was gifted this very useful container back in 1989 in Bulduk. Döndü Kücükkara told him that she had recently completed it and that if he treated it well, its contents – the cheese – would be able to last for an entire season and the container could be used again.
Anthropologist Mette Bovin was gifted this ivory arm ring by none other than Sir Evan Evans-Pritchard, a renowned anthropologist. She received it in 1967 on the All Soul’s College in Oxford, England, where he had kept it in a small cupboard. The arm ring had been given to Evans-Pritchard by the Nuer in Sudan, among whom he had done some of his most seminal work. Our records in the collection database includes a description on how the exchange took place, recounted by Mette Bovin: “It was given to me because, he said ‘I don’t care about material culture, Mette!’ and I said ‘Oh, but I do! Thank you SO much!'” – The arm ring sat in the window sills of the many places Mette Bovin lived over the years before she gifted it to Moesgaard Museum with the important message: “The ring has been closed – first the Nuer in Sudan, then with Evans-Pritchard in Oxford – Elsinore Hamlet’s Father’s Ghost – and finally Moesgaard Museum, the final destination. Please take good care of it. It was my finest treasure. Thank you.”
Archaeologist Aino Kann Rasmussen was given this wonderful little incense burner by a man named Haman when they parted ways in Yemen back in 1998. Aino Kann Rasmussen participated in the Danish expeditions to Bahrain in 1960 and 1961, and she has traveled in both Yemen and Iraq as well. She gave Moesgaard Museum her collection of objects that she had collected from her travels in the Middle East in 2012.
This pair of unglazed clay pots with lids were given as a gift to Ole Mortensen and his wife, Jette Nordmann, by their friends in Zambia. Ole Mortensen lived and worked at the Mimosa Training School near Lusaka in Zambia between 1975 and 1978, while Jette Nordmann worked as nurse at a local hospital. Ole Mortensen taught locals as well as refugees from Angola, Namibia and South Africa to drive trucks and to repair their engines. The pots were given to them right after New Year 1999/2000 – and their inscriptions “THE END IS NEAR” and “LORD WALK WITH ME” echo the doomsday fear that existed in the time leading up to the new millennium.
Søren Ludvig Tuxen collected shoes from all over the world and much of his big collection is currently on display at Moesgaard Museum (You can visit the exhibition Shoes of the World until the 6th of January 2020). These shoes are wooden shoes (clogs) from N´Zérékoré, Guinea. They were gifted to him by Svend Herold Olsen in 1960 and they are made by korbi tree wood. He writes himself:
“These shoes are now so rare in that area, that countless mandingos (the people living in the area) didn’t recognize them. An old man said that he had heard of them once and that they were called ‘wood-horses’ because on dry land they sounded like a horse’s hooves. They were smuggled over the Liberian border in the bottom of a sack and a living monkey sat atop it! They were sent from Liberia 8/3 1959 but first arrived here on 2/4 1960. They are intended for the slush of the rainy season – some is still on it!”
And in another letter:
“The shoemaker who made them lives 15 kilometers outside Kankan and his name was Mamadou Doumbouya, and the man who used to wear them was called Sangoung Caba. The shoes’ string is made of a (local?” agave, called daling-fou (fou=string). In Mandingo the shoes are called “irisho”.”
//Katrine Mandrup Bach