On the margins of German Colonialism?

The West and East African Collections of the Lippisches Landesmuseum

Around 300 objects in the ethnological collection of the Lippisches Landesmuseum stem from West and East Africa. A large part of the objects was collected by the couple August and Hedwig Kirchhof during the period of German colonial rule in Cameroon and by Alfred Zintgraff in the early 20th century in Ethiopia and neighbouring regions. The Kirchhofs collected in Cameroon between 1903 and 1914 on the sidelines of August's work as a judge and district official in the German colonial administration. The Cameroonian politician Karl (Charles) Atangana played an important role in supporting August Kirchhof’s official duties in the Yaoundé district as a mediator and interpreter. The relationship between the Kirchhofs and Atangana was close; during a stay in Germany, Atangana spent several weeks in Lippe. The diplomat Alfred Zintgraff was minister of state at the court of the Ethiopian Emperor Menelik II from 1908 to 1909. His collection dates to this period and other stays in British and German East Africa. Smaller object groups were collected in the former German colony of Togo by the Protestant missionary Wilhelm Fricke and the lieutenant Julius Smend.

From May 2021 to May 2024, the Lippisches Landesmuseum seeks to find out more about the provenances of these objects from Cameroon, Togo and the Horn of Africa. The aims of the research project are to identify the objects, classify them in their contexts of origin, determine how the collections were acquired, and embed the artefacts in (post-)colonial processes. The Lippisches Landesmuseum researches the collections in cooperation with partners from the societies of origin and involves members of diaspora communities in Germany. The Lippisches Landesmuseum welcomes information from the public and understands the research project as being committed to societal participation. The objects will be made accessible to a broad public, academia and with the goal of reconnecting them with their places of origin.

Funder and cooperation partners

The project is funded by the Deutsches Zentrum Kulturgutverluste and carried out in cooperation with the University of Bielefeld, Faculty of History, Philosophy and Theology, Department of History and with the project Inverse History of Collections of the Technical Unviersity Berlin and the Université de Dschang.

Why Lippe?

The collectors all have connections to the western German region of Lippe: the Kirchhofs came from Lemgo, Wilhelm Fricke from a peasant family in Lieme near Lemgo. Alfred Zintgraff attended the Detmold’s Leopoldinum grammar school and Julius Smend served in the 6th Westphalian Infantry Regiment No. 55 in Detmold in the 1890s. The collections were transferred to the Lippisches Landesmuseum in several stages between 1906 and the 1960s. 

Deutscher Text