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Objekt of the Month June

Cattle bell

Tanzania, early 20th century

When looking at this object, which is actually an everyday object, it appears aesthetically pleasing or even extraordinary. This is mainly due to the material it is made of. In addition to a strap made of tanned leather and a wooden clapper, the shell of a tortoise was used to make the bell. In comparison to the much more complex production of a wooden or even metal bell body, tortoise shells can be made ready for the purpose in just a few simple steps.
It is not known in which region of present-day Tanzania the bell was made, nor which animal may have carried it. As the cattle-herding groups in the region generally use other types for the cattle in their large herds, it can be assumed that the bell shown here was not worn by such an animal. If it was not intended from the outset to be sold, possibly as a souvenir, it was probably either worn by small livestock such as a goat, or by a (single) cow that was kept to supply a household with milk and later slaughtered.
In both cases, it was most likely adolescents who had to look after the animal at least some of the time. Our picture of the month also highlights this fact.

Picture of the Month June

Herding boys with water buffaloes, China, undated

It is not known when or where in China this photograph was taken. It shows nine children and young people sitting or standing on both banks of a stream. Three of them are each holding a water buffalo, which were used as work animals in agriculture, on long ropes that were presumably cut short for the photo. All of them, humans and animals alike, seem to be looking attentively at the camera. Only the animal standing slightly in the foreground on the left edge of the picture does not hold its skull still for the duration of the exposure. Its head turned into a gray blur.
The viewer sees a rural scene that could have been taken in many regions of the world. Wherever livestock farming is possible, it is often children or adolescents who are entrusted with the task of looking after the farm animals. This applies in particular to herding, stable feeding, stable hygiene and watering.
In many communities, the adults thus entrusted the adolescents with the duty of care for both: an economic good that was essential for survival on the one hand and for living creatures that were only able to fulfill this purpose for the community if they were well cared for on the other.
If you look at the young people next to the workhorses, you may get an idea of the responsibility they have been given and the expectations that come with it. The three boys look seriously into the camera and seem to be aware of the responsibility, which can also be read as a test for growing up.

  • Object of the Month May - Model of a sword, Nias, 20th century

    The first Rhenish missionary arrived on the Indonesian island of Nias in 1865. At this time, most villages had a troop of well-equipped young men who could protect the community from attacks in an emergency. However, these troops also carried out military actions against other groups declared hostile.
    In addition to the lance and shield, the typical armament also included the sword. The slightly curved, broad blade, the finely carved handle and the basketball made of rattan fiber attached to the upper end of the scabbard were characteristic of this weapon. The blade, which was bout 50 to 60 cm long, made the sword a weapon that could inflict serious injuries on the opponent, which could even lead to his death.
    However, the sword on display here measures just 27 cm in length. It is a miniature of the kind that is produced in large numbers on the island today as a souvenir for tourists. House models, other edged weapons, shields and sculptures in miniaturized form also find their market in this way as exponents of cultural traditions on Nias.

  • Picture of the Month May - Portrait of Helene Schmitz (1867-1924)

    Helene Schmitz was born on July 28, 1867 in Mönchengladbach. As a so-called higher daughter, she dropped out of the usual school education and learned the tailoring trade.
    After completing her training, Helene Schmitz volunteers in the church congregation to improve the situation of girls and young women from working-class backgrounds. Such commitment is not unusual for women of her class. These years were formative for the young woman. After working in Düsseldorf and Berlin, a new perspective presented itself: the Rhenish Missionary Society (RMS) was looking for a suitable person to develop women's work in China. She left for China on November 1, 1905.
    In Taiping, the missionary initially led two Bible classes for women and played a key role in setting up and running a women's school. Helping women to help themselves is the credo of her work. In her memoirs, she talks about having given emancipatory help to Chinese women in this way.
    Helene Schmitz returned to Germany in 1912 for health reasons. However, she continued her commitment to the RMS and gave lectures on her work in China throughout the country. In Barmen, she set up a hostel for the sisters returning from their service for the RMS, managing it from 1922 and preparing young sisters for their departure.

    She died in Barmen on April 11, 1924, having been ill since July of the previous year and therefore having to coordinate the management of the sister hostel from her bed.

  • Object of the Month April - Coin sword China, 19th century

    This model of a sword, consisting of 48 perforated coins woven onto a stick with cotton thread, represents an object that the missionaries of the Rhenish Missionary Society (RMS) frequently encountered during their work in China.
    In many households, such objects were used to ward off evil demons. They were preferably hung above the bed of a newborn child to protect it from illness or even early infant death, for example.
    The missionaries from the Rhineland certainly disapproved of this practice, as the belief in spirits and demons not only contradicted their own beliefs, but in their eyes it was also an obstacle to the spread of Christianity, to which they had committed themselves. However, their missionary efforts among the population from 1847 onwards were not very successful in the first few decades. It was only with the establishment of educational and health facilities, including a large hospital in Tunkung/Dongguan, that people in their catchment area began to consider the new religion as an option for themselves or to opt for it.

  • Picture of the Month April - Instructions for departing missionaries, 1829

    The picture shows the first page of the instructions written in 1829 by the Rhenish Missionary Society (RMS) for its first 4 missionaries sent out on June 30, 1829. After a voyage lasting over three months, they finally landed in the South African Cape on October 7, 1829. After a period of exploration with and at the London Mission Society, the Rhenish missionaries founded their first mission station in the Cape, Wupperthal, on January 1, 1830. The actual work could now begin, but what did it actually consist of and what tasks did the mission intend for its "emissaries"? Their instructions shed light on this.
    Even though the Mission was convinced that "the Holy Spirit is a better guide than all human instructions", the RMG Board nevertheless saw it as its "duty to give more detailed instructions about some parts of her future work [...]". These instructions extend over 7 paragraphs, the titles of which are as follows: "§1 Purpose of the mission, §2 General instructions for blessed missionary effectiveness, §3 Special instructions for our messengers, §4 The church of God among the Gentiles, §5 Extra-official activities, §6 Relationship of the brothers to each other, §7 Relationship of the missionary brothers to our committee."
    The concern and self-image of the RMG was to spread the Gospel, so that the basic instructions for action also emphasized the need to learn the local languages. For example, point 4 "Dealing with the Gentiles" of paragraph 3 states: "Above all, endeavor to learn their language thoroughly as soon as possible. They will be glad to be able to teach you something, and this will create a bond between them and you." Learning the language is taken up again in paragraph 4 "The church of God among the Gentiles": "As soon as you can, take turns to hold services in the local language."

  • Object of the Month March - Fire fan Borneo, Indonesia, 19th or early 20th century

    This elaborately crafted object was used in the households of people in the south-east of the island of Borneo (now part of Indonesia under the name Kalimantan) to kindle and keep the fire burning.
    Although the device generates sufficient air resistance when being swung in the hand due to the firm wickerwork to cause the air in the immediate vicinity to vibrate, the material is also so flexible that it is less stressed by the air movement and therefore has a certain longevity. The handle, elegantly shaped from 360º bent tubing, also sits comfortably in the hand and is surprisingly stable despite its small diameter.
    The pattern of the wickerwork is particularly beautiful. It takes up a formal language that can also be found in other wickerwork or as a painting on objects made of wood, for example. A border of black fabric, neatly sewn with twine, protects the wickerwork from fraying. This not only lends the fan a captivating aesthetic, but also presumably reflects the intention to make a durable utensil. Today, the processing would quite rightly be described as sustainable.

  • Picture of the Month March - Raja Pontas, Undated photograph, Sumatra, Indonesia

    In this picture, the viewer is confronted by a self-confident man who was still young at the time the picture was taken. His clothing identifies him as a member of the Batak elite on Sumatra. It is not known when the photo was taken, but it must have been processed well before 1900, as the man named Pontas Lubantobing died on February 18 of that year.
    As far as is known, Pontas Lumbantobing did not leave any records in his later life in which he provided information about himself or about the time in which he lived and how he saw it. Nevertheless, we know comparatively much about him today, albeit from the contemporary sources of others who wrote about him. As an influential leader or prince (Raja) of a Batak community south of the Silindung Valley, he apparently sought contact with missionaries from the Rhenish Missionary Society (RMG) early on. These were active from the 1860s in the area, which was formally under Dutch colonial administration at the time. According to the missionary reports, Pontas Lumbantobing was not only very interested in European culture and probably also, it can be assumed, in the political and economic goals of the Europeans in his domain. In fact, he was also in favour of members of his community deciding to convert to Christianity. For himself, however, he refrained from converting for a relatively long time. He was not baptized until 1867. In the 1870s, however, he was instrumental in translating the Small Catechism and the New Testament into his mother tongue and became an increasingly important partner of the RMG missionaries on Sumatra by promoting the mission among the local population.
    During his lifetime, the congregation in his centre of power Pearadja grew to around 7,000 and the number of Christians living throughout Silindung to 20,000, before he died there shortly after the turn of the 20th century.

  • Object of the Month February - Tanzania, around 1908

    Napkin rings

    The napkin ring has fallen somewhat out of fashion in German households. Then as now, however, it is an accessory that is usually only taken out of the drawer for the festively decorated table so that the napkin can be draped attractively on or next to the plate to suit the occasion.

    When looking at our current object of the month, however, one might wonder whether and in what way the napkin rings seen here were used during a festive occasion in a Tanzanian household at the turn of the 19th and 20th centuries.

    The rings, artfully woven from tricolored plant fibres using traditional techniques, were made in the Usambara region. The region in north-eastern Tanzania was part of the colony of German East Africa at the time. In addition to their mission stations, the Bethel missionaries had also set up schools and training facilities there, including workshops for the production of various consumer goods and handicrafts. There, master craftsmen specially recruited from Germany trained members of the newly established communities living in the vicinity of the stations as craftsmen. The objects on display were also produced in such a facility. They were intended for export to Germany, where they were sold at missionary festivals or Christmas bazaars.

    Although they were made using a technique that had been common in Tanzania for centuries, they are products that served a European fashion in terms of their function. Last but not least, they are thus in a way also a testimony to the globalization of things in an era in which not only goods began to circulate worldwide, but also the lives of ever larger parts of the world's population became increasingly intertwined in global contexts.

  • Picture of the Month February - Art and trade exhibition, Vuga 1908 Joinery and woodturning

    "The items from Hohenfriedeberg in particular, in which the art of the woodturner combined with that of the cabinetmaker and the wonderfully rich colors of the local precious woods, aroused admiration. The smoking table in the sixth picture from the right is made of five different types of wood. [...] The neatness of the execution is captivating from the outset and the composition and forms testify to a fully developed taste." This is how the missionaries Lang-Heinrich and Gleiß described another product from the workshops of the Bethel Mission in the Usambara region in the north-east of today's Republic of Tanzania in their report in the News from the East African Mission in January 1909.

    The reason for her report is what the missionaries call the arts and crafts exhibition in Vuga, which was initiated the previous year as a kind of showcase for the businesses of the mission stations in the region and the products made there.

    The products from the joinery and turnery in Mlalo (formerly Hohenfriedeberg), such as the small smoking table, attracted particular attention. Otherwise, the repertoire of products ranged from small accessories to complete furnishings for a house according to European standards, as shown in the picture.

    In contrast to the napkin rings or the various pottery vessels from the Bethel Mission factories, the furniture showed no signs of cultural influences from African and European traditions. Rather, they were primarily intended to conform to the standards for comparable products manufactured in Europe at the time. In this way, they could serve as proof that the mission was also able to contribute to the economic development of the colony in the areas of craftsmanship and education. The missionary society also expected the stations to generate income in order to contribute to their upkeep.

    On the other hand, an exhibition such as the one in Vuga also took account of the missionary society's need to express its conviction, unjustifiable from today's perspective, of the "cultural upliftment" of Africans through the Protestant ethos of "education for work".


  • Object of the month December - Sculpture made of dark wood in the tradition of Makonde carving

    Nativity Scene from Tanzania, 2nd half of the 20th century. Sculpture made of dark wood in the tradition of Makonde carving

    The artist arranged the depiction of the nativity scene on three levels in a clearly structured symmetry.

    The Holy Family itself occupies the right-hand side on the lower level. The child in the manger - placed at the very bottom left-hand edge of the sculpture, which is made from a single block - appears almost inconspicuous. Nevertheless, it forms the center of the action.

    The artist achieves this effect by focusing on the Christ child and thus inevitably directing the gaze of all eight other protagonists downwards, who are arranged in the levels above: next to Mary and Joseph, there is a kneeling dignitary (king) offering his gift. Two further dignitaries (kings) can be seen in the level above, as well as a man, presumably a shepherd, also looking at the child. The upper end of the sculpture is formed by two angels - somewhat separated from the earthly protagonists by only a hint of the roof of the dwelling - who are nonetheless also looking down on the child.

    In this work, the people depicted are undoubtedly Africans. This also applies to the depiction of the angels. For example, the kneeling figure at the top right is playing a shawm, which is modeled on the so-called sarune, the traditional wind instrument in the coastal region of East Africa. Another interesting detail is the headdress of the dignitary in the center of the second level. It may refer to a member of the Muslim faith, as such a garment is often worn by Muslims on the Swahili coast.

  • Object of the month - Architectural model of a residential house

    Indonesia, Nias, 2nd half 20th c.

    This 32 cm long and 34 cm high architectural model is a detailed representation of a type of residential house that was typical of the extreme south of the island of Nias. Although the model was largely made of machined industrial wood in a simple, sturdy construction, it nevertheless shows the external features important for this traditional type of house.

    Houses like these always stood in the settlements in an association of several dozen to more than a hundred buildings. As a rule, they were lined up close together to the left and right of the stone-paved street and the central square. The long side of the house shown in the picture gives a good impression of the hipped roof, high rising and at an acute angle, with the characteristic hatches that, when opened, let air and light into the interior and could be used in this way similar to a dormer.

    From this perspective, however, it is not the front of the house which is shown. Rather, this is formed by the narrow side of the building, which is on the right from the viewer's perspective here. It is this side that faces the street and is distinguished by the characteristically curved, massive ground sills of the construction. The sleepers, in turn, rest on the massive pillars made of massive tree trunks, which were sunk vertically into the ground for this purpose. The side of the house seen here, on the other hand, usually comes very close to the wall of the neighboring house, which is usually more or less identical in construction. In this way, the houses join together to form a compact row along the street.

    For the missionaries of the Rhenish Mission Society, who came to the region at the end of the 19th century, these unique architectural ensembles probably gave them the impression of being in an urban area rather than in a village. This impression was also supported by the complex social structure and the differentiated division of labor in the communities in this part of the island.

    The model is one of 53 other house models from a private collection bequeathed to the archives and museum foundation of the UEM. They all represent traditional house types common in the many different parts of Indonesia, from Sumatra Island in the west to West Papua in the east of the island nation. Models of this type are very popular as souvenirs and are made and offered for sale in many places for this purpose.

    The objects of the extensive collection had its owner during his stays in the country over many years either acquired, or he endeavored - where no direct offer was available - a commissioned production of a model of the respective local or regional type of construction.

  • Picture of the month - First General Missionary Atlas

    "We are pleased to announce the publication of the long-awaited General Mission Atlas to our readers today."

    With these introductory words, the Rhenish Mission announced the new work in its monthly report from 1867.


    Between 1867 and 1871, the Gotha publishing house Justus Perthes published the General Mission Atlas, one of the few missionary cartographic works of the 19th century that was not solely dedicated to the missionary fields of a single denomination or even just a single missionary society, but also took into account not only the Protestant missionary areas but also those of the Catholic and Orthodox churches as well as the spread of non-Christian religions.

    Admittedly, it is clear from the work that it was written by a Protestant theologian, as the focus is clearly on the fields of activity of Protestant missionaries. Originally, Reinhold Grundemann had not intended to compile such a general atlas, but rather to continue the series of Protestant missionary atlases.

    Admittedly, you can tell that the work was written by a Protestant theologian, as the focus is clearly on the fields of activity of Protestant missionaries. Originally, Reinhold Grundemann had not intended to compile such a general atlas, but rather to continue the series of Protestant missionary atlases.

    After many years of negotiations with the management of the Perthes publishing house, Grundemann moved to Gotha in 1865 and began work. Of particular importance here was the direct contact with the missionary societies, which Grundemann had already cultivated before his time in Gotha, but also far beyond that through various travel activities at home and abroad. Grundemann's networking work was of such enormous importance precisely because it not only enabled him to maintain contact with those potentially interested in his work and thus ultimately the future purchasers of the mission atlas, but above all because he also used this network to obtain the information required to compile the work.

    In addition, some missionaries also provided further information, which they sent to Grundemann or persons associated with him in the form of descriptions and their own cartographic sketches of the mission area or a combination of both. This material, which unfortunately only survived to a very limited extent and usually for the period after the completion of the work on the mission atlas, was probably the most important source for Grundemann's work for one or other mission area, as these sketches made it possible to provide much more detailed information about the geographical features of individual regions or even exact positional data.

    In addition to this first-hand information from missionary circles, Grundemann was also able to draw on a whole range of previously published sources. In addition to existing geographical and ethnographic works, many of which were also products of the Perthes publishing house, these included in particular the journals and annual reports of individual missionary societies.

    Due to his close relationships with the missionary societies, it can be assumed that Grundemann was also able to draw on this material, at least in part, when compiling his General Missionary Atlas.

    Despite various difficulties, Grundemann was able to draw on a wealth of material on which to prepare the publication of the mission atlas. Even though he himself must have been so clumsy as a cartographer, the General Mission Atlas itself not only represents the "first standard work of German missionary literature", but also provides far-reaching insights into both the missionary cartographic work of the 19th century and the various aspects of the circulation of this geographical knowledge from the mission territories thanks to its well-documented genesis.

    The current general boom in mission history and the associated interdisciplinary research into missions, which is also increasingly approaching the subject from a history of knowledge perspective, gives reason to hope that the significance of missionary cartographic work for the opening up and discovery of the world in the 19th century will once again become the focus of academic research in the coming years.

    Abridged reproduction of the article by:

    René Smolarski: Reinhold Grundemann's Allgemeiner Missionsatlas und seine Quellen, in: ProMissKa, January 27, 2016, URL:



  • Object of the month October - Field hoe

    Tanzania, end of 19th or early 20 th Century

    "Yisa nkajilinwa na chala" is an old proverb of the Shambaa in the mountains of the Usambara region in northeastern Tanzania. At least that is how the missionaries of the Bethel Mission Ernst Johanssen and Paul Döring document it in their 1915 publication "Das Leben der Shambala beleuchtet durch ihre Sprichwörter".

    The two translate the saying somewhat awkwardly, but probably very aptly: "With the finger (pointing only where to plow,) the fallow land is not plowed over." In other words, the reference here is to the fact that the work does not do itself, one must rather - and in relation to the current object of the month also quite proverbially - take the hoe into one's own hands in order to cultivate one's field.

    It is striking that in the first chapter of their collection of proverbs, Johanssen and Döring examined "occupational life" with regard to idioms used there and here again first dealt with agriculture. This entry seems obvious, however, since agriculture was the most important livelihood for the population in the region when the first missionaries arrived there at the end of the 19th century. Livestock, handicrafts and (barter) trade were also practiced, but were secondary to agriculture. Accordingly, there are many phrases that, with the help of linguistic images from arable farming, refer to general practical aspects of life as well as ethical aspects with regard to individuals and their living together in the community.

    Even today, the cultivation of corn, bananas, beans and other crops in the small-scale cultivated region makes an important contribution to (self-)sustenance in the households of the rural population. Cultivation was and still is labor-intensive on the slopes of the mountains. The use of machinery makes only very limited sense, either technically or in terms of the capital outlay required for such cultivation. Thus, even today, farming implements similar to the one shown here are the tools of choice for tilling the soil.

  • Picture of the month October - Travel routes

    A missionary or a missionary sister was sent out to introduce or further spread Christianity in the yet-to-be-created or already existing mission territory. This was desirable in the mind of the sending organizations - the missionary societies and religious congregations - in all those regions of the world whose populations had previously had little or no contact with the Christian religion.

    The idea behind the concept of sending therefore necessarily involved the willingness of missionaries to embark on a journey to the people to whom their mission referred. This necessarily involved traveling great distances, sometimes several thousand miles, across oceans, on roads, tracks or trails, and occasionally on river trips. Travel was time-consuming, often associated with great physical and psychological strain, and not infrequently with danger to life and limb.

    But it was not only German missionaries who were sent from Barmen and Bethel to Africa, Asia, Oceania and America by the RMG and Bethel Mission in the following decades. Also early on, men and women from the mission areas also embarked on the reverse journey. They were usually members of the newly emerging mission churches, and some felt called to become missionaries themselves. In Europe they were trained at the seminaries of the missionary societies. The first of these trips took place as early as the 1850s, but without being able to sustainably train candidates from South Africa for the profession. Another example is Uerieta Kazahendike, a young woman from what is now Namibia. In 1860, she accompanied the family of the missionary Carl Hugo Hahn to Gütersloh in Westphalia to, among other things, proofread the translation of the Bible into the Herero language. A few years later, other young men from Asia made their way to Germany to be trained for missionary service.

    Far more than 2,000 men and women set out from their homelands over the past nearly 200 years to the present for the two historic mission societies and their successor organization, the United Evangelical Mission (UEM), to begin their service or training "far away." With them traveled ideas, things, prejudices, insights and attitudes toward people from the respective other cultural context. These attitudes were often subject to lasting change, not least during the journey and in contact with the people and their own culture.

    The development from traveling on foot, by horse and camel or with other beasts of burden, as well as from sailboats and rowboats to modern steamers and motorboats, via the historic railroad to modern express trains, from carriages to automobiles and finally to small airplanes and jet planes, symbolizes the rapid mechanization of means of transportation that the people of the Mission also used in the last two centuries. Even the suspension railroad, which is firmly anchored in both the Barmen and Elberfeld cityscapes, underwent modernization and expansion during this time. Thus, even the experiences and impressions on the first trip and even before arriving at the actual destination become unforgettable moments that are enthusiastically described.

    The present also poses new challenges for the work of the United Evangelical Mission (UEM), which was formed from the merger of RMG and Bethel Mission in 1971. These challenges are overcome with the help of the most modern travel medium - the Internet - to ensure close contact and barrier-free cooperation between today's partner churches.

  • Object of the month September - Dustpan

    Tanzania, 1990s

    Like some of the objects presented in this series, the dustpan shown here belongs to the group of practical household appliances that are made from recycled material all over the world. As is so often the case, the starting material is tinplate from boxes that had a previous life as packaging material for consumer goods of various kinds. The object with its simple but functional design was manufactured in Tanzania. It is another example of the professionalism and creativity in the reuse of used materials, especially by craftsmen and artists on the African continent.

    But the object also tells another story. It is evident from the past life of the rolled sheet that was used to make it. The imprint advertises the drug Nivaquine, better known in Germany as Resochin, an industrially produced active ingredient whose chemical compound is similar to quinine and thus the oldest known remedy against the disease malaria, which is widespread in the humid tropics. The endemic disease kills more than 600,000 people worldwide every year, with more than 95% of the deaths occurring on the African continent (593,470 in 2021, according to statistics from the World Health Organisation, WHO).

    The dustpan - presumably not entirely unintentionally made in this way by the craftsman who created it - thus bears witness to one of the greatest challenges for African health systems, which is undoubtedly the medical treatment, but above all the prevention of malaria. For the promise to be read in big red letters in Kiswahili "hushinda malaria kabisa!" (Defeat(s) malaria completely!), the drug, which was also approved in Europe from the 1950s onwards, was ultimately unable to deliver. Many of the pathogens of today's malaria variants are now completely resistant to the active ingredient of the drug. The protection of the whole family - as suggested by the photo printed next to the slogan - is no longer possible today.

    Although the situation in this regard was somewhat different a good 25 years ago, in addition to the medical efficacy of a medicine, the limited access to such medicines was then and is now a problem for large parts of the population. This can be the case both due to a lack of basic health care in rural areas or in crisis regions and/or due to people's lack of income to be able to afford pharmaceutical products of this kind. In this respect, the dustpan can also be seen correspondingly as a mirror of global socio-economic structures in which equal access to life-sustaining resources - not only in the medical field - continues to be denied to many people and especially in Africa.

    If one reads "hushinda malaria kabisa!" against this background more as an appeal than as a promise - even if the manufacturer of the product probably did not understand it in this way in his advertising at the time - then the approaches to a solution may perhaps lie less in a purely medical solution than in a solution for society as a whole.

  • Picture of the month September - Watchmaking in Lwandai, Tansania

    There is remarkably little to be found about watchmaking in Lwandai in the archival texts. One exception are the largely preserved annual financial statements of the businesses of the missionaries of the Bethel Mission in Usambara. Until 1930, these rigorously document the turnover and net profit of the watchmaking business, and even the turnover of individual months is listed in part. From 1933 onwards, however, this changes: the watchmaker's shop is "no longer given a separate account", but can only be found in the figures for the Duka (Kiswahili: Shop/Business/Operation), which also include the tailor's shop and the shoemaker's shop. The reason for this is obvious in view of the disastrous figures for watchmaking and the general situation in the 1933 business year: in 1930, a total of 404 watches, i.e. less than two per working day, were repaired with a net profit of only 106 sh. The businesses as a whole stood at a net profit of 603 sh in 1933, which corresponds to less than half the operating net profit of the surrounding years.

    However, we can learn something about the Bethel Mission precisely because of the missing documents about the watchmaking. Contrary to the assurances that all "businesses [...] would have to support themselves in the course of time", the watchmaking workshop remained until the end. One was more than willing to overlook the economic insignificance because the goals were completely different: "In all these businesses [...] a small class of healing assistants, printers, typesetters, bookbinders, carpenters, watchmakers, tailors, shoemakers, scribes grows up in the individual employees in the quiet of laborious, patience-seeking small work. This educational work should not be overlooked in its importance for the social fabric of our people [here the christian community is meant]." This pathos reflects the protestant work ethic established by protagonists such as Luther and Calvin, which soon became secularized as part of bourgeois German national culture.

    Likewise, the VEM's holistic understanding of mission is preformed in the work of Bethel Mission. By recruiting all kinds of German professionals (mostly from the church environment) to establish farms and hospitals in Tanzania, Bethel Mission created a thriving church complex that extended into everyday life. In contrast to what Habermas calls the "functional differentiation of social subsystems" in the West, a public significance of Christian religion opened up in Tanzania that was already disappearing in countries like Germany.

    Embedded in these contexts (Protestantism, German national culture, holistic mission understanding and colonialist thinking), the Bethel Mission and with it a small watchmaker's shop in Lwandai had an impact.

  • Object of the month August - Knife, scraper or blade

    Namibia, 19th or early 20 th Century

    This simple and practical tool measures only a few centimetres. It is a piece of iron forged flat and tapering to one side. The tapered end is also ground into a sharp bevel.

    In the collection inventory, the object is described as a razor, although in view of its probable handling, it can more accurately be described as a scraper or shaving knife. However, its use for shaving beard or hair cannot be assumed as certain. Wielded at a shallow angle between the thumb and angled index finger and against the grain of a hairline, a use for working on animal skins also appears to be a sensible purpose.

    In any case, the blade is likely to have had some value in the household of its owner, as was the case with all objects forged from iron and especially blades. The processing of iron ore was laborious and required expertise and professionalism. For this reason, blacksmiths were valued by the population in southern Africa and their products were in demand.

    For the cattle-keeping and partly nomadic societies, tools like this were practical in various ways. On the one hand, blades of this or similar types were indispensable for processing slaughtered livestock. On the other hand, such tools were small and comparatively light, so that they hardly burdened the household goods on seasonal migrations with the livestock.

  • Picture of the month August - Around the music in the mission

    Ovamboland, Namibia, around 1964

    A !Kung boy plays on a music bow. It is fluted. The stick is moved back and forth over it. The string is held in the mouth, the tongue and the mouth move. The mouth is used to produce the sound. Fine tones are produced. The bow, the hunting instrument, can also be found in this variation for the stringing of existence.

    The musical bow is a stringed instrument in which one or more strings are stretched between the ends of a flexible and curved string carrier. The string tension is generated by the bending force of the usually thin and long support rod. It belongs to the group of staff zithers. The special form of a musical bow without a sound box, in which the player's mouth is used to amplify and modulate the sound, is called a mouth bow.

    Musical bows are or were widespread in large areas of Africa, Asia, Europe, and both American continents. Today, their main focus is in sub-Saharan Africa. Worldwide, the Khoisan have developed the greatest variety of musical bows in southwestern Africa.

    The most commonly played hunting bow has a string loop that divides the string in the middle to create two low fundamental notes, the difference between which is about a whole tone. The bow is a little over a meter long, it is gripped in the center of the left hand and held at an angle to the lower left, away from the body. The player puts the upper end into his mouth so that the right cheek is pushed outward. By changing the position of the mouth, he can amplify several overtones. The shorter string section is closer to the mouth.

    Alternating use as a hunting bow and a musical bow has survived among the ǃKung to this day. Another technique of the ǃKung to play the mouth bow is to take the back of the bow approximately in its middle to the mouth. The upper lip rests firmly on the bow stick, and with the lower lip the musician makes movements as if he were speaking. In doing so, he produces additional sounds of noise. The string consists of a twisted strip of animal skin that is wound tightly at the ends of the stick. The tuning loop is placed near the center of the bow. The player can selectively amplify a maximum of the sixth overtone of the lower fundamental and the fifth overtone of the higher fundamental via the two fundamental tones, which differ by a whole tone, by shaping the mouth accordingly.

    (Source: Wikipedia:

  • Object of the month July - Mouth Organ sheng 笙

    China, 20th Century

    Even those who do not play a musical instrument themselves and perhaps have little interest in music are familiar with the harmonica. Small and handy, it is the ideal instrument for the pocket and on the go. This makes it suitable for solo use almost anywhere and at any time. Yet it is a comparatively young instrument that was first manufactured and played in Europe in the first quarter of the 19th century using a (partially) mechanised manufacturing process.

    It is usually less well known that the harmonica is merely a modified form of a much older musical instrument. The mouth organ sheng, which consists of eighteen bamboo tubes and a wooden wind box connected to them, has a history of about 3000 years in China. It is one of the oldest instruments documented in East Asia.

    The sound is produced by blowing air through the mouthpiece and varied by the player's fingers alternately covering the holes in the bamboo tubes. However, a free-floating tongue inserted into each tube is responsible for the basic colouring of the tones, past which the blown-in air must flow.

    It is this physical principle that has been adopted in the harmonica. However, this also applies to another instrument that not only implies a kinship in name, but was also the musical instrument of choice of European missionaries in the 19th and early 20th centuries when it came to their evangelising mission in Africa, Asia and Oceania: the harmonium.

    This instrument is also a 'newcomer' compared to the Chinese mouth organ, which was only built for the first time in France in 1848. The physical-mechanical principle, however, is the same as that of the mouth organ, for the tone is produced by blowing in air, here by means of a foot-operated bellows, which then flows past reeds of different lengths. Only the control of the tone sequence is outsourced to a valve system connected to a keyboard. With the 'original principle' of the sheng, this part is done by changing the hole cover, similar to playing a flute. This, in turn, was the first aerophone from which man could not only elicit a sound by blowing into a tube, but also vary this tone through the active use of his fingers in many ways.

  • Picture of the month July - Around the music in the mission, Evangelism trip to Doloksanggul

    Missionary and locksmith Ewald Schildmann, first sent to Sidikalang, Sumatra, Indonesia, in 1937, describes in a 1956 report:

    "Already some time ago I received an invitation from the Batak pastor from Doloksanggul to come to a church festival with my wind players. There I should also preach. I was especially happy about this invitation, because 18 years ago, when I came to Sumatra for the first time, I had started to learn the Batak language with the old missionary Quentmeier in Doloksanggul. At that time I had lived at the mission station for 4 months. Since then I had never been back to Doloksanggul ... What I could fit in my car in terms of wind instruments, horns and other luggage was stuffed into it ... After about five hours of driving I had happily steered my car with my wind instruments to the destination. We were in Doloksanggul. The others in the bus also arrived soon after us ... Of course, we had to blow some chorales immediately after the welcome. So also the other inhabitants of Doloksanggul heard that we had arrived ... After lunch we went to the big new church. It was lit with kerosene lamps, because there was no electric light in Doloksanggul. The church was full to bursting. It is very spacious and has about 1500 seats, at least that is how many are planned. There were no pews in the galleries yet, but there the youth were crowded together, shoulder to shoulder. It was the same down in the nave, in all the aisles, right outside the doors. I have never seen a church so crowded. This was probably because there was so much room for standing through the wide aisles and wide galleries. The congregation was singing and so were the choirs, some really well trained. A young natak pastor from the neighboring parish spoke before me. And then I gave my evangelistic sermon on the parable of the mustard seed ... It is always like a miracle that the Asians are still able to hear the word of God from the mouth of a white man. As I wrote above, only a few of the old people here still knew me. For these more than 2000 Batak I was a complete stranger, at first only a European, a white man... On these evangelization trips I really grow together with the individuals, because there they come out of themselves and ask. What more could a missionary want in his work than to be a preacher and pastor?

    Picture: Part of the wind orchestra under the direction of missionary Schildmann, Doloksanggul 1956

  • Object of the month June - Mask barong kèkèt

    Bali, Indonesia, 20th century

    The majority of the population on Bali is Hindu. In the mythology of Hinduism, the world of demons and various spirit beings plays an important role. The traditions find their visible expression, for example, in the shadow play theater wayang kulit and in ritualized dances. While in the shadow play the mythical protagonists are embodied by corresponding hand puppets, in the dance performances it is the masks which - led by their actors - present episodes from the work of the mythical beings in fixed choreographies.

    The most famous mask in the context of such a dance theater is barong kèkèt. It embodies the spirit being banaspati raja. Although banaspati raja in the form of barong must be understood as an apparently frightening demon, he nevertheless stands for the good, the positive element in Balinese mythology. This apparent contradiction becomes understandable when one considers the barong's function as a protective spirit and guardian of the souls of the deceased. His imposing, respectful appearance enables him to separate the spheres of the living and the deceased and to defend them against evil-desiring forces. Both are necessities to which attention must be paid in many religious traditions of South and East Asia.

    It is equally important not to exclude the negative element, the evil-desiring powers and the spirit beings representing them. Rather, in the Balinese-Hindu understanding, ideally a balance between good and evil is always strived for. The struggle of both elements finds its expression in the masks and their guidance during the corresponding choreographies. Thus barong finds his adversary in rangda. She is an embodiment of the goddess of revenge durga, who can stand for the negative powers par excellence.

    The barong mask seen here, with its red-colored face, large bulging eyes and imposing fangs, is indeed a typical representation. However, it is merely an imitation of the facial part of an original dance mask. In addition, such a mask usually includes a lower jaw that can be moved by means of a folding mechanism, a long tongue made of parchment or leather, a luxuriant hairstyle made of palm fiber tufts, and a voluminous costume that is worn by two players and brought to life by the dance in a joint choreography.

    Only in this way can the mask become the lion-like creature that, after a long struggle, triumphs over its adversary rangda at the end of the dance. But the victory over evil will only last until a renewed challenge by rangda.

  • Picture of the month June - The Evangelist Gottlieb Murangi, drawn by Sister Liesel Hohl

    Drawing from 1935, Portrait Gottlieb Murangi

    Born in 1900 in Switzerland, Liesel Hohl came to the Malche Bible House in 1924, where she was trained as a missionary teacher. In response to a request from the Rhenish Mission to take charge of the school in Grootfontein, Southwest Africa, she led the school from 1929 to 1948. In addition to school work, she was involved in children's services and evangelistic work. In the fall of 1948, Liesel Hohl returned to her native Switzerland, where she worked as a teacher in Basel until her retirement. Liesel Hohl passed away in 1983.

    She particularly contributed her artistic abilities and drew a lot. Thus also Gottlieb Murangi, chief evangelist among the Herero.

    Gottlieb Murangi, born in 1863, was active for the mission for 65 years. Baptized at the age of 10 in Otjikango, he taught school children and taught many a missionary the Herero language. In 1909 he was appointed by the government as a policeman before being employed as an itinerant evangelist by the Rhenish Mission from 1911. Missionary Christian Kühhirt, who worked with Gottlieb Murangi for many years, wrote about him in Windhoek in 1950: "Our co-workers are necessary to us not only because they should and must do the work for us, because we are not able to do it alone, they also have a fine, completely different visual language. And when they preach the Gospel to their fellow people, it is naturally much more impressive and lively than when a stranger does it ... He shared joys and sorrows not only with the church, but also with us missionaries. How he felt responsible for the missionary women when their husbands were away on farm trips, he prayed with them, he comforted them."

    Gottlieb Murangi was a remarkable man who enriched and supported the work of the mission beyond all the challenges of the time. He passed away on May 31, 1948.

  • Object of the month May - Board zither, yangqin 洋琴.

    China, second half of 19th century or beginning of 20th century.

    The resonance body of the 13-stringed instrument is covered with a plate made of tung wood, in which two sound holes covered by finely carved bone plates are embedded. The base of the resonance body and the cover made of dark brown lacquered wood serve as a case for the instrument. The bridge, originally very likely in the middle position, is no longer present. The same is true for the sticks for striking the strings as for the tuning tools. In instruments of this type, they were kept in a compartment located in the rectangular recess at the front.

    The yangquin was not a genuinely Chinese instrument. It was not until the end of the Ming Dynasty (after 1644) that it was introduced from the Near East. While its old name "foreign zither" 洋琴 still refers to this, today it is also colloquially referred to as the butterfly zither 蝴蝶琴. This name refers to the "baroque" shape that the instrument acquired only from about the middle of the 19th century in China. It was based on the taste of the time and the formal style in the furniture industry of the Guandong Province in the south of the country at that time.

    The yangquin shown here was made in southern China, in the city of Guangzhou (Canton). The affixed labels refer to a store on Hao Bin Street. The street was colloquially known as "Musical Instrument Street" because numerous musical instrument dealers and instrument workshops had set up shops there. The city on the Pearl River Delta was also frequently visited by RMG missionaries and missionary sisters, as it was the urban center of the Society's comparatively small mission area in the country. It is possible that the instrument was acquired during such a visit.

    Furthermore, the zither is most likely a training instrument. This is indicated by the two slanted labels. The characters reproduce a traditional Chinese notation, according to which one can learn to play.

    The instrument is currently on display in the special exhibition "Mission by Notes - The Importance of Music in Missionary Work" as part of the theme year "All in Connection" of the Bergische Museums Network. After the end of the exhibition, the object will be returned to the depot.

  • Picture of the month May - Around Music in the Mission

    Letter from F. Schneider, Windhoek, Namibia to Missionary F. Harre in Wuppertal, October 12, 1965.

    "Dear Missionary!

    As an attachment I take the liberty to give you our first record with trombone music. Even though it did not turn out as we had imagined, this is due on the one hand to the fact that we have absolutely no suitable recording space and on the other hand, as far as the fineness of the blowing is concerned, the choir is still relatively young. Nevertheless, we hope that we can give you a little pleasure and ask you to point out the possibility of buying this record when you visit us. I could imagine that this would be gladly used as a gift, especially at Christmas. If we have appropriate addresses available, we will ship directly from here. Of course, we would also be happy to send you a number if you wish.

    With warmest regards


    Fritz Schneider"

    Reply letter

    Letter from F. Harre (Bild + Film Dept. in Wuppertal) to F. Schneider in Windhoek dated 5.11.1965.

    "Dear Mr. Schneider!

    Thank you very much for sending me the first record with trombone music. I have listened to it with great interest and must tell you that the trombone choir is already accomplishing all kinds of things. I will gladly refer to this record at every opportunity. Unfortunately, you did not tell me how much this record costs. This information is important if I am to recommend the record.

    I understand that you may be coming here with a small trombone choir. I believe that if you then play in churches, you will have the strongest sale of this record.

    This record would be even more interesting if the trombone choir played not only German melodies and German compositions, but African ones. But I don't know if something like that already exists. I found composers in South Africa among the Basutho who composed themselves ... I wonder if you have something like that already? That would be good if you paid attention to it, if something like that can be found, that we are very interested in it.

    I have some records from the Catholic Mission in Congo, where African music has been processed. These records are very interesting and are of course more in demand in our country than when a trombone choir in Africa plays European melodies and compositions.

    In the hope that you and your wife are still doing well, I send you my warmest regards.


    Fritz Harre


    Picture: The technicians, missionary and sister, at work in the recording room during the 125th anniversary of the Rhenish Mission, already an independent Evangelical Lutheran Church, Okahandja, Namibia, August 1967.


  • Object of the month April - Single cell cone drum

    Papua New Guinea

    20th century

    The body of this drum was made of light wood in one piece and has elaborate relief carving and two handles. In addition, it is painted in many colors following the relief courses. The membrane over the soundbox is made of the skin of a monitor lizard.

    The use of this type of drum has a long tradition in the eastern part of New Guinea, now Papua New Guinea, and drums of this type are still made and used there today. This is true both for use in religious rituals and in the context of musical performances and celebrations of national scale.

    The drum's construction is suitably adapted to its preferred use. Since musical performances are usually always accompanied by danced choreographies, the very light body, equipped with the two handles, allows the drum to be used in the literal sense of the word. It also allows the musician and dancer to perform faster and more complex movements during the performance.

    Variants of this type of instrument are known in many regions of New Guinea. Also in one of the UEM member churches in the highlands of West Papua, similar drums are often used in church services and during other festivities. In this way, the rich cultural tradition of the people of the region can be linked to the Christian religion, which was first spread to the highlands of West Papua in the 1960s by missionaries of the Rhenish Mission Society.

    The drum will be on display in our upcoming special exhibition "Mission by Notes - The Importance of Music in Missionary Work" as part of the third theme year of the Bergisches Museum Network.


  • Picture of the month April - Missionary Ferdinand Genähr and his beginnings in Taiping, China

    Ferdinand Genähr was 24 years old when he began missionary work for the Rhenish Mission in the city of Taiping, China. Genähr was a trained bookbinder and completed his training at the RMG seminary from 1843-1846. He died in Hoam at the age of only 41.

    Genähr's beginnings in Taiping

    Missionaries Genähr and Köster were in Victoria, now the Central district of Hong Kong, to learn the language and make exploratory trips into the surrounding countryside. Missionary Köster returned ill from one of these trips and soon died in Hong Kong. Missionary Genähr left Victoria and traveled to Taiping in late November 1848, then more than two days' sea voyage away from Hong Kong.

    The reports of the Rhenish Mission state:

    "In one day one can reach probably 30 villages from the city, which get all their needs from here; almost every house is a store; also there are factories etc… In the first 5 weeks he [Genähr] had a lot to do with healing all kinds of sick people ... the two preachers [who accompanied him and were placed at his side by the Chinese association] went into the city and its surroundings to preach in the houses etc ... He [Genähr] also went out with his preachers."

    The Chinese preachers were taught by him for at least 2 months, and then preached in the surrounding countryside. The first person Ferdinand Genähr baptized was Ho, a medical doctor.

    About the Chinese language he wrote: "You [Genähr himself] will not learn Chinese! I believe that under the mighty assistance of the Lord, half of this mountain has been climbed, by which I do not mean that the half yet to be climbed will make me a master of the Chinese language, but I hope that I will then be able to preach an intelligible sermon and converse about religious subjects in the popular language."

    Ferdinand Genähr was followed by numerous missionaries and sisters in Taiping.

  • Object of the month February - Container made from an ostrich egg shell

    Namibia, 20th century

    A little over a year ago, a device was presented here that was characterized by its simplicity, but above all by its impressive efficiency for its intended use. It was a barked branch about 55 centimeters long, sharpened at one end by a precise cut and used as a digging stick. The users of these devices were the women of the San and thus members of a population group that inhabited all of southern Africa before the arrival of Africans from more northerly parts of the continent and the first Europeans. There they originally led a life based on a nomadic hunting and gathering economy.

    The container seen here, with its comparable attributes of simplicity and efficiency, is another example of the often quite reduced material culture that is inherent in all societies that lead a largely nomadic life, beyond economic bases such as agriculture and livestock.

    The starting product - an ostrich egg - only needs to be selectively opened on the narrower 'head side' and the whisking and emptying of its content to produce the corresponding container. The whisked content can be consumed directly. However, in contrast to the women's digging stick, the container itself is only used stationary and is also used by the men for their tasks in the traditionally defined division of labor in San society. It is filled with fresh water, closed with a clay plug and buried in the ground. It serves as a liquid depot. Several of these small depots are strategically placed along the commonly used hunting and migratory routes so that drinking water can be withdrawn when needed. Under the extreme climatic conditions in the steppes and semi-deserts of southern Africa, the establishment of such depots represents an adaptation to the environmental conditions, which may be essential for survival.

    It is not necessary to dig up the egg shells to extract the liquid. Rather, their contents are removed with a suction tube after removing the plug. This method, in turn, makes unnecessary handling of the comparatively robust container superfluous, allows it to be refilled later and keeps any remaining water fresh by storing it underground.

    Last but not least, broken ostrich egg shells are still used by the San in the processing chains for natural products. The shell fragments are the raw material for crafting jewelry and appliqués for clothing.

  • Picture of the month February - Flying foxes on Idjivi, Lake Kivu

    The flying foxes (Pteropodidae) are a family of mammals in the order of bats and the largest species of bat. They are primarily crepuscular or nocturnal. When foraging, they often travel long distances, and during the day they sleep hanging upside down. Unlike bats, fruit bats are often found hanging from trees in exposed locations.

    Another difference from bats is their lack of echolocation. Fruit bats have well-developed eyes and an excellent sense of smell. Due to the warm climate in their range, they do not hibernate. Flying foxes feed on plants.

    Idjivi Island, where the flying fox colony lives, is located in southern Lake Kivu, Congo. It is also called Flying Fox Island or Napoleon Island (because of the silhouette) and is a popular tourist destination.

    The picture is from a Bethel Mission convolute, no further explanation of the year it was taken or who took it is available.

    Bethel Mission began its activities on the island in 1909 as the first European missionary society.

  • Object of the month January - Mortar or pestle

    19th or early 20th c.

    Wooden mortars or pestle troughs of this type were probably one of the most widespread household utensils in sub-Saharan Africa, and some are still in use today for self-sufficiency in rural areas. In addition, the crushing of plant parts or the processing of harvested crops into edible food in this form is very early in human history and globally verifiable. It is therefore one of the oldest cultural techniques in the world.

    Its equivalent is found in a smaller form and made of materials such as marble, other rocks with comparable physical properties, porcelain, bronze or iron as an indispensable aid in pharmacy or for the preparation of fine spice mixtures in the kitchen.

    The mortars of the type presented here are likely to have been used mainly for processing millet, local tubers, but also maize, which was later increasingly cultivated in sufficiently humid areas. The flour thus obtained from the starch-rich seeds and tubers is then usually processed on the stove or stove into a porridge, which is eaten as a main meal or as a side dish with sauces, meat or vegetables.

    The physically hard work with the mortar was and is done by women. The pounding is done by continuously dropping the pestle into the mortar. The physical effect on the material to be crushed does not result from active pounding, but rather from the weight of the pestle as it is dropped or from the release of energy when it is struck after the downward movement.


  • Picture of the month January - A "sursum corda" to the New Year

    Eduard Fries was director of the Rhenish Mission from 1921 to 1923. More than 100 years ago, at the beginning of 1922, he wrote in the reports of the Rhenish Mission:

    "A "sursum corda" to the New Year!

    No matter how hard we have to suffer under the hardships of the present time, all earthly distress brings us a great blessing: More impressively and more deeply than usual, the ever-valid truth of the New Testament Word ... becomes apparent to us, because a similar situation provides the clearest commentary on it. With how much more mature understanding we missionaries, for example, can read and take to heart after the experiences of the last years what Paul speaks of glory in 2 Corinthians ... From the "we are afraid, but we do not despair" in the 4th chapter, to the similar word "as the chastened and yet not slain" in the 6th chapter: What a wealth of inexhaustible refreshment just for us! ...

    Some time ago, in a Reformed congregation dating back to the old Huguenot times, I became acquainted with a valuable church seal, which shows us in relief a palm tree, with a bent trunk under the heavy weight of its fruit, yet finally growing straight up to heaven; below it the inscription "curvata resurgo", i.e. "Bowed down I rise up". This is the courageous "nevertheless" of a professional attitude that recognizes and acknowledges in all the blows of fate ... the divinely wise education, and thus manages to rejoice gratefully even in a time when it passes through heavy darkness, instead of merely lamenting ...

    With many I am confident that this way of our generation has not yet become a legend, but will prove itself in the face of an unprecedented and unjustified oppression. And if anyone is obliged to guard and increase such inner elasticity, it is the Christian who can lift up hand and heart in faith, also in this coming New Year's Eve, with the humble and at the same time courageous confession: "curvata resurgo" ...

    We may sing again in the New Year: "Go your ways in peace, with you the great God's grace and his holy angels' power"; and it is thus preached aloud to all of us by the course of events, which we cannot make: "You dear Rhenish mission may stir your wings again ... let not the elasticity of faith be atrophied, then you may confidently create still further; in the midst of all the hustle and bustle and under heavy burden I lift you up!". With a trembling soul and a wavering mood, we do not comply with these instructions of God; and when we walk bent over, with our gaze to the earth, we do not become aware of His beckoning. Therefore: sursu "m corda!", i.e. "hands up and hearts lifted high", that a single note of frank confession may express our confidence for the new year: "curvata resurgo".


    We wish you health, elasticity in faith, confidence and God's blessing for the year 2023.

  • Object of the month December - Board in the manner of a house blessing "Neema ya Bwana ikae nawe"

    Tanzania, Kagera Region

    20th century

    Depending on the quality, bark bast fabric, elaborately produced by beating, fulling and constantly moistening, was widespread in western Tanzania and in the neighboring regions of East and Central Africa. It was and still is used as a versatile everyday product – for example for the production of clothes and blankets or as packaging material – as well as in a religious context. In some population groups in East Africa, the fabric accompanied people throughout their lives: newborns were laid on a piece of bark bast, strips of bark bast could be laid out in the living room like a carpet, the deceased were wrapped in it for burial. With the Baganda in Uganda it was and is a sign of royal dignity. Today the material has largely been replaced by the cotton fabrics introduced in the century before last and later also increasingly by synthetic fibres.

    The panels, painted with Bible verses, are set against a backdrop of a craft revival of the ancient technique. In a way, they combine social and religious symbolism that existed before the missionary work with the Christian-European tradition and usage of the house blessing, which is intended to express the piety of the residents of the house as wall decorations.

    The sign board seen here is framed with strands of raffia that are alternately colored turquoise and left in their natural state. The bible verse painted in black paint and accented with white paint translates from Swahili to "May the grace of the Lord be with you".

  • Picture of the month December - Christmas in Namibia, 1920s

    A story from the “Kleine Missionfreund”, a magazine of the Rhenish Mission for children, by Mrs. Martha Pönnighaus, 1926:

    "When it wants to be Christmas with you, dear children, the days are short and the dark nights are long; the sun shines only a little and does not rise high in the sky and no right power ... It shines in time all the more on the other side of the earth. And on this other side, that is where we live. When it gets cold with you in November, it gets quite hot with us. And when it's the darkest day for you, just before Christmas, the sun shines the longest here, and you don't stop sweating the whole day...

    They [the children] also want to be at the Christmas party, they want to see the Christmas tree and they want to get presents! And every year the Christ Child has brought something to the school children! There are no apples. But a piece of bread, which they rarely get, and a small colorful bag to wear around their necks... The girls were allowed to help with the sewing of the bags. What a life in the sewing room! Each rag was different in color! ...

    But now I wanted to tell about Christmas. Finally the day had come. In the evening ½ 8 o'clock should be the celebration ... There, ¼ after 7 o'clock, the bell rang! A storm of children, a jubilant chant with shouts of joy whirled past the house to the school! ... Another ¼ hour they have to control themselves and wait. Only then the door is opened ... We have to be content with an imitation, small Christmas tree, decorated with lots of tinsel and candles. It is not obvious that it did not grow outside in the forest... How loudly and clearly the children recite their promises and the Christmas story! ... Then the missionary gives a German speech. Each sentence is translated into both languages by a black man who can interpret. He really knows something! He also knows English and Dutch. Now come the gifts ... Each child is called and comes to the front, receives his bag from the hand of the missionary's wife and bread from the hand of the black teacher ... After the final song, everyone leaves the room in order. But outside, the joy can no longer be mastered ... But joy must be allowed to become loud, especially among children, so the grown-ups gladly allow it and they rejoice with them."


    The picture shows the church of Hoachanas at Christmas. Hoachanas is located about 200 kilometers from Windhoek.


Object of the month

  • Object of the month November - Load ring

    Botswana, 20th century

    Simple - but very functional: This could be the headline for our current object of the month. The ring, made of available and suitable plant fibers or synthetically produced cord, was and is used in many parts of the world and especially in Africa as a carrying device for loads of all kinds and different weights.

    The diameter can vary from model to model and is ideally adapted to the shape and base circumference of the container used for transporting the load or the nature of the load itself.

    In addition to the transport of crops or goods for sale, in many rural areas, but also in so-called informal settlements on the outskirts or in the big cities, without a developed drinking water supply, it is above all water that often has to be transported on foot, often over long distances. The heavy clay jug, to the base of which the ring is or was best fitted, has almost completely become obsolete. It has been increasingly replaced by much lighter plastic containers, which may also be easier to seal. In some regions, aluminum or other light metal containers are also used as an alternative.

    The load is carried by placing the ring on the head and adjusting it on the ring so that the load can be balanced when walking upright and carried with as little loss as possible. It should be noted that above a certain weight it is no longer possible to lift the load on your head alone and with your own strength. As far as the transport of water is concerned, the activity is therefore easier and more efficient to be done in a group, which is often the case.

    It is almost exclusively women and girls whose everyday work involves these physically difficult tasks. Balancing the load also requires a great deal of skill. Again, especially when it comes to the transport of drinking water, there are often several kilometers to be covered through sometimes difficult terrain. The physical strain is high, even if carrying a weight aligned in the extension of the upright, i.e. vertical body axis is gentler compared to other types of load carrying, which put more strain on the arms, shoulders and spine. It is true that the transport of heavier loads can often be better managed with aids such as bicycles, carts or the use of beasts of burden. However, purchasing and maintaining such aids is always an additional investment that many households cannot afford.

  • Picture of the month November - Elisa Tschagusa, teacher, musician and preacher, Tanzania

    At the mission station in Mlalo/Hohenfriedeberg, Tanzania, numerous printed products were produced for the mission. Mission Inspector Walter Trittelvitz wrote in 1911: "How could it be otherwise than that the translation of the Holy Scriptures was soon started? The Gospel of Markus was the first ... Other parts of the New Testament and Bible stories of the Old Testament in various editions followed, until in 1908 the whole New Testament in the excellent translation by Missionary Roehl could be brought to print ... and now Elisa Tschagusa, a young Shambala Christian, typed the manuscript of the New Testament ready for printing."

    Elisa Tschagusa was a teacher, taught music, directed choirs, and was also a preacher.

    "In all of this, the great difficulty of getting a book that is written in Africa and is to be used in Africa printed in Germany became apparent. Because often enough there was no one in Germany who could read the proofs. The proof sheets had to travel back and forth between Germany and Africa, and everyone can imagine what a tremendous delay the printing suffered as a result. That is why we have already turned to the communal printing house in Tanga for the last printings, so that it can complete the printing ... We must take the step that many a missionary society has taken before us, and establish our own missionary printing house in Usambara ... A young Christian book printer, who had already registered with us for missionary service some time ago, has been chosen as the manager of this printing house; he is currently working here in Bethel near Bielefeld, in order to receive the last necessary training."

    A short time later, through donations, a printing press could be set up in Lwandai.

    The picture shows Elisa Tschagusa at the typewriter on which he is typing the translation of the Bible for printing.



  • Object and Picture of the Month - October

    Travel oven

    China, 19th or early 20th century

    Small kilns made of clay were a useful travel utensil in China. They made it possible to prepare tea on the go with minimal effort or were only used to heat water. The production of this everyday object made of fired clay required comparatively little effort; the device itself is an efficient travel companion.

    Among other things, it could be used on the numerous freight and passenger vessels that plied the great Chinese rivers. On their travels in the former mission area at the mouth of the Pearl River, located between Hong Kong and Quangzhou (Canton), Rhenish missionaries may have used such devices from time to time. Society missionaries were active in the area beginning in 1847. The stoves could also be stowed in the luggage of a pack animal or in one of the typical single-axle wagons used for overland travel.

    Even today, the preparation or provision of heated drinking water on longer trips is a standard in the country.

    The object can be seen in the permanent exhibition of the Museum auf der Hardt.


    The Daughters' Boarding School in Stellenbosch, South Africa

    After 30 years of activity, a second generation of missionary families had grown up in South Africa. In 1858, there were 49 missionary daughters under the age of 20 among them.

    The deputation of the Rhenish Mission in Germany decided to establish a boarding school for daughters in Stellenbosch. The boarding school was also to be open to other girls and thus the language of instruction was to be English. The teachers selected in Germany, Julie Pieper and Bertha Voigt, together with the missionaries Lückhoff and Terlinden, constituted the board of directors.

    Instructions were drawn up which, in addition to general decisions for the boarding school, also defined the tasks of the teachers, the board of trustees, and furthermore the board of directors.

    "On May 1, 1860, a ... boarding school opened in Stellenbosch, a house of education for the daughters of our African missionaries."

    In 1880, 130 students and over 70 boarders attended the Daughters' Boarding School, including 7 missionary daughters. The boarding school was self-supporting through school fees and boarding costs, and financial support from the mission in Germany was no longer necessary.

    Stellenbosch became the center for the education and training of the daughters of the Rhenish missionaries and their wives. Even today Stellenbosch is a training center of importance. On the ground of the Daughters' Boarding School, in the center of the town, a part of today's university was built.

    The picture shows the back of the Daughters' Boarding House including the garden, on the left the school, on the right the residential house. It is a drawing by the missionary W. Leipoldt, around 1887 who was one of the first four missionaries sent out by the Rhenish Mission.


Museum auf der Hardt

Visitor address:
Missionsstraße 9
42285 Wuppertal

Phone: +49 (0)202-89004-152

Postal address:
Rudolfstraße 137
42285 Wuppertal


Opening hours Museum auf der Hardt

Every 1st Sunday of the month 2 pm – 5 pm and on request

Admission 30 minutes before closing time

Other visits by appointment

Admission: 3€/reduced 2€





IBAN: DE45 3506 0190 0009 0909 08