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Neanderthal Museum
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Shamans. Hunters and Healers of Siberia

May 10th to November 2nd 2014

                                              

An exhibition created in cooperation between the Reiss-Engelhorn Museums Mannheim (rem) and the Neanderthal Museum

Shamans – they summon help from another world in order to heal body and spirit of their fellow human beings. In this joint exhibition, the Reiss-Engelhorn Museums Mannheim and the Neanderthal Museum will take you on a journey to Siberia to trace the life of a shaman. Extraordinary exhibits from the collection of the rem will be on display. Visitors will see everyday and ritual objects of the Koryaks, the Golds, and the Chukchi people, ethnic groups that live in the circumpolar region. The Siberia collection was amassed in the 1880s and is a part of the Gabriel von Max collection, which has been in Mannheim since 1917. Many of the exhibits will be on public display for the first time.

Healers, fortune-tellers, charlatans, counselors, possessed people, mentally ill, heralds, magicians and spiritual guides – these are some associations evoked by the word shamans. Siberian ethnic groups see Shamans as exceptional people, intermediaries to the spirit world and counselors for their fellow humans. Aided by helping spirits in animal form, they go into trance to travel to other worlds in order to communicate with supernatural powers. Their goal is to restore the balance between humans, nature and the spirit world. Shamanistic elements can be found all over the world. In the cultures of the indigenous peoples of Siberia, the magico-religious world view has deep roots and is still widespread today. The extreme natural surroundings pose a challenge to the people living there. In order to survive, they strive to communicate with nature.

In a riveting narrative, the exhibition follows the life of a shaman from the moment of his birth up to his practice as a healer. Until his vocation, the everyday life of a shaman in the subarctic environment was centered around hunting. In a reconstruction of a hut, we see his cradle and children's clothes. Later on, when he became a hunter, he used bows and arrows, traps, harpoons and other weapons. Clothes, everyday objects, tools and weapons were made out of material found in the tundra, such as wood, birch bark and leather. Fish skin was used to make weather-proof clothing. After his vocation, the shaman takes on great responsibility for the group. He becomes a healer and fortune-teller, he conducts sacrificial ceremonies, is a spirit guide, poet and bard, he knows the old epics and goes into trance in order to go on shamanic journeys. The central exhibit is a magnificent shaman costume with accessories such as hat, drum, charms, idols and healing plants. Original audio recordings accompany the exhibits.

The exhibition also searches for traces of shamans in European Ice Age art. The oldest carved animal figurines are very similar to shamanic animal figurines made of ivory. Are they and the motifs of famous cave paintings proof of a shamanic cult in the Ice Age? Finally, the exhibition shows how shamanism lives on around the world – including in Germany.

The diverse activity program accompanying the exhibition includes guided tours, workshops, seminars and a public symposium. These invite visitors to go beyond the exhibition and to delve deeper into this intriguing phenomenon.