Moving images and stories about itinerant heritage in Leiden's Oude UB
How do Nepalese exiles in England celebrate their festivals? What are North Korean monuments doing in Zimbabwe? The ‘Heritage on the Move’ exhibition shows what happens to cultures under the influence of migration. From 3 December to 7 January in Leiden University's Oude UB.
Eighteen banners with impressive photos and stories of researchers working in Leiden show the impact of migration on cultures. Some of those portrayed moved countries voluntarily, while others fled intimidation and violence. The exhibition is an initiative of LeidenGlobal, the partnership between Leiden University, Leiden museums and knowledge institutions in the field of global research. Researchers were asked to send in their images of itinerant heritage. A selection was made from the photos and studies submitted for the offline and online exhibition 'Heritage on the move'.
How heritage changes
Professor of Colonial and Postcolonial History Gert Oostindie, chairman of LeidenGlobal, explains the choice of this theme. 'We want to show how heritage changes under the influence of migration. The receiving country adopts elements of the migrants' culture. And conversely, the migrants' culture also changes when they settle in a new country.'
North Korean architecture imported
The story of North Korean monuments in southern Africa is remarkable. Historian Tycho van der Hoog discovered monuments in different African countries that were developed and built by forced labourers working for this dictatorial regime. The monuments are an ode to the African struggle for independence, a struggle that Noord-Korea supported with arms and training. The forced labourers in these African countries had to give most of their income to the North Korean state.
Whether cultures change rapidly depends on whether the departure was voluntary or forced. Leiden anthropologist Bal Gopal Shrestha interviewed a group of Nepalese exiles who were celebrating their annual Sisekpa Tongnan festival in a park in Britain. The members of the group were part of the Limbu people, one of the many ethnic population groups in Nepal. The exiles are determined to preserve their religious and cultural traditions even while in exile, Shrestha explains when talking about his photo.
A good example of a merger of cultures is the Kaha di Òrgel, a cross between a cylinder piano and an organ. This wooden instument was developed in the 19th century in the Antilles based on European instuments. Later, migrants from Aruba, Bonaire and Curaçao introduced the instrument into the Netherlands. It illustrates the impact of centuries-long migration and continuous exchanges between Europe, the Caribbean and Africa, researcher Valika Smeulders from the KITLV explains.
Dutch or Indonesian heritage?
This cartoon, provided by historian Bart Luttikhuis, was made by an anonymous Indonesian artist during the War of Independence (1945-1949) in Indonesia. The cartoon was confiscated by the Dutch Intelligence Service and is now part of a larger collection of confiscated documents in the National Archive.
Migration has serious consequences for families. Vera Bakker took a moving photo of people from Cameroon looking at photos of family members. She studies how digitisation makes people present themselves in a different way and how this relates to issues of identity, mobility and transnationalism. Families hold on to memories while the world around them is changing, Bakker explains.
Just like the theme of moving heritage, the exhibition is also travelling around, says Aphroditi Zoulfoukaridis, who organised the exhibition on behalf of LeidenGlobal. After the National Museum of Ethnology and the Public Library in Leiden, the complete exhibition will be on display in the Oude UB, Rapenburg 70, from 3 December. Anybody interested in the subject is welcome to attend the opening at 17.00 hrs. After a brief introduction by the chair of LeidenGlobal, Gert Oostindie, three researchers will explain their photos and their research.