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Foreword. Pierre Verger - Black Gods in Exile
Catalog / Publication to the Exhibition

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 ethnological approach.

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 impressed visitors.

Berlin, July 5, 2004

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