Cécile Bründlmayer
ifk Junior Fellow

Duration of fellowship
01. October 2019 bis 30. June 2020

Moving Objects, Contested Stories: The Frobenius Collection from West Africa (1907–09)



Ethnological museums and their colonial entanglements are currently the center of heated debates. Their contested historical collecting and representation practices pose challenging questions about how their collections can be presented today beyond colonially influenced, Eurocentric foreign attributions.

This project examines such questions in depth, using the example of a hitherto unexplored collection from West Africa acquired by the well-known anthropologist Leo Frobenius in the early twentieth century. To this end, the collection will first be “unpacked” and historically processed according to “object biographies,” so that it can ultimately be analyzed from a contemporary perspective that takes into account current postcolonial discourses.

The aim is two fold: first, to make a well-founded contribution to the research of West African collections from the early twentieth century on the basis of a specific case study; and, second, to develop new strategies for dealing with ethnographic museum holdings.


Cécile Bründlmayer studied Cultural and Social Anthropology, with a focus on museum theory and fine arts, at the University of Vienna. For several years she worked as a curatorial assistant for special exhibitions, as well as for the complete reconceptualization and remounting of the World Museum Vienna’s permanent exhibition. She then took up a post as research associate and curator with a primary focus on postcolonialism at the Humboldt Forum in Berlin. Since 2019 she has been a Ph.D. candidate at the Institute of Art History in the Department of African Art at the Free University of Berlin.


„Objects in Motion: Recontextualizing Symbolic Significance in Leo Frobenius' Collection from Mali", in: Bénédicte Savoy, Felicity Bodenstein, Merten Lagatz (Hg.*innen), Translocations. Histories of Disclocated Culural Assets, Bielefeld 2021; “’Out of Context’ - Translocation of West African Artefacts to European Museums: The Case of the Leo FrobeniusCollection from Mali”, in: Samuel Bachmann, Zainabu Jallo (Hg.*innen),  Material Culture in Transit (erscheint 2021); „Endstation Restitution? Wie das Humboldt Forum mit seinem kolonialen Erbe umgeht“, in: (Hg.), Stiftung Humboldt Forum im Berliner Schloss, Humboldt Forum Zeitung, Ausgabe 4; Christian Schicklgruber (Hg.), Weltmuseum Wien (Co-Autorin, Ausstellungskatalog), Wien 2017; „Tales from the contact zone. On collaborative work between European museums and members of source communities“, in: Beatrix Hoffmann und Karoline Noack (Hg.), Potentials of Museum-Ethnology: Aparai-Wayana and other indigenous groups of the Guyanas as reflected in museum collections, Bonn 2017, S. 205–223; „Gottheit, Museumsstück oder beides? Zur Wahrnehmung hindubuddhistischer Götterbilder im Kontext der Kumbheśvara-Tempelanlage und des Patan-Museums in Nepal“, in: Archiv Weltmuseum Wien 61–62, Wien 2013, S. 95–117.

11 May 2020
  • Lecture
IFK @Zoom

Koloniale Geister in ethnologischen Museen. Revision der Sammlung Leo Frobenius aus Westafrika

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Ethnologische Museen und ihre Verstrickungen mit der europäischen Kolonialgeschichte sind derzeit Gegenstand hitziger Debatten. Angesichts ihrer problematischen Sammel- und Repräsentationspraxis stellt sich die Frage, wie mit ethnologischen Sammlungen heute, jenseits kolonial geprägter, eurozentrischer Sichtweisen, umgegangen werden soll.

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