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Museum Rietberg Zrich

Gablerstrasse 15
8002 Zrich

Tel. 044 415 31 31

Fax 044 415 31 32

Direkt +41 (0)44 415 31 34

Press release
Dada Afrika Dialogue with the Other
18 March 17 July 2016

Dada celebrates its centenary this year: time for Dada Afrika! This exhibition will be the first
devoted to the Dadaists preoccupation with non-European art and culture. Dada artists hoped
that their approach to foreign cultures would not only break fresh aesthetic ground but also lead
to a renewal of society. The exhibition presents the fascinating dialogue between Dadaist works
and artefacts from Africa, Asia, America and Oceania

This centenary project was inspired by the first-ever Dada exhibition, held in Han Corays Zurich gallery in
1917. Its very title Dada. Cubistes. Art Ngre promised an examination of the relationships between the
transcultural arts. For the first time ever in Switzerland, avant-garde art was shown alongside African
works. Following the primal catastrophe of the First World War, art was in need of a radical overhaul.
The Expressionists and Cubists had already become interested in developing a new visual vocabulary
using formal elements of non-European art. But the Dada artists went one step further and saw non-
European art as providing a coherent alternative to their own much-despised society. Exploring foreign
cultures was a means to express their social and political protest. The inherent explosive power of Dada
is most obvious in the performative arts, which connect the two sides. The dialogue with foreign cultures
was as much provocation as it was innovation.

Wild Zurich

The programme of the Soires ngres included a masked dance with motifs from Sudan as well
as the absurd Chants ngres, performed in black garb with large and small exotic drums. Hugo
Ball chanted his sound poem Karawane in the guise of a magic bishop, until he seemingly fell into
a trance and had to be carried from the stage. Richard Huelsenbeck sought to drum European
music and literature into the ground with pseudo-African umba, umba chants. Marcel Jancos
grotesque negro masks not only alienated the audience but also dictated a very particular
impassioned gesture which bordered on madness. Students of the dance reformer Rudolf von
Laban performed abstract and Cubist dances, dressed as negresses in long black kaftans and
face masks, while Emmy Hennings presented an exotic Apache dance and Sophie Taeuber-Arp,
her body articulated into a hundred joints, danced to Hugo Balls poem Seepferdchen und
Flugfische (Seahorses and Flying Fish). The Dadaist sound poems aimed to deconstruct language
bound by rules and grammar to arrive at linguistic material in its original form. Both the pseudo-
African drum rhythms of the war years in Zurich and Parisian jazz of the interwar period came
across as wild, untamed noise, played seemingly at random. The Dadaists experimented with their
Bruitism lAfricain.

Han Coray between Dada and Africa

Dada served as a catalyst not only for the reception of non-European art and culture, but also as a dealer
and collector of sculpture from Africa and Oceania. The exhibition examines how both the Dadaists
themselves and the art dealers and collectors connected with them entered into a dialogue with foreign
cultures in the various artistic genres from the visual arts to literature, music and dance and how the
changing contexts led to new ways of understanding art. Han Corays African collection, part of which is
now held by Museum Rietberg and will be represented in the exhibition with major works, stemmed from
the Dadaist exploration of African art.

Dialogue with the Other

It is clear from the title Dada Africa Dialogue with the Other that the exhibition is not seeking simply to
contrast the two kinds of art as a monologue of formal affinity, whereby exoticised objects from Africa or
Oceania are consigned to the status of merely providing inspiration for modernism. Instead, Dada Africa
presents Dadaist and non-European works as a dialogue between equals. Both the essays in the
catalogue and the exhibition design emphasise the equal value of art production all over the world. As
with any dialogue, communication was sometimes shaped by presuppositions and misunderstandings,
but even then the Dada movement was notably constructive and respectful in its approach to foreign


Around seventy works of art from private and public collections in Switzerland, Germany and France are
presented in the four sections of the exhibition. These are supplemented by archive materials,
photographs, quotations and multi-media stations, giving an overall view of the Gesamtkunstwerk Dada
and of the reception of foreign cultures, before, during and after Dada. It offers remarkable insights into
the many ways in which Dadaists approached non-European art, music and literature.

The introductory section of the exhibition considers attitudes to non-European works of art in the pre-
Dada era. Two Dada montages Prussian Archangel and The Bourgeois Philistine Heartfield Gone Wild
are still disturbing even today and expose the primal catastrophe of the First World War.

One cannot understand Dada, wrote Richard Huelsenbeck, one must experience it. This encapsulates
the first section of the exhibition, Dada Performance. The spontaneous, lively and wild performances of
pseudo-African sound poems, drumming and masked dances were intended to shock audiences and
hence remove the distance between action and observer. At the same time, the primitive component
was also intended to test the performers own physical and mental limits.

Dada Gallery, the second section, looks at Han Corays gallery and Galerie Dada. It was the willingness
to experiment shown by Coray, a Zurich education reformer, gallerist and subsequently collector,
combined with Dadaist interest in his approach which led to the first Dada exhibition in January and
February 1917, the first to place modernist works alongside African art.

In the third section, Dada Magic, Hannah Hchs collages epitomise the juxtaposition of foreign and
familiar cultures to form a new visual vocabulary. For the first time ever, the exhibition contrasts Hchs
bewildering montages with the original objects from Africa, Asia and Oceania, pictures of which she used.

Dada Controversy is the final section, contrasting the Western aesthetically informed view of African art,
as exemplified by Carl Einsteins ground-breaking book Negerplastik (Negro Sculpture), with the post-
colonial attitude of a trans-national artist, Senam Okudzeto. Her olfactory installation Portes Oranges is
both an ironic reference to Dadaist ready-mades and a symbol of an urban, modern Africa.

Further information about the exhibition is available at


The exhibition and catalogue were produced in cooperation between Museum Rietberg Zrich and the
Berlinische Galerie. The fruitful collaboration between two art museums with such different collections
has enabled a multiple-perspective and transdisciplinary approach. Drawing ethnological, art historical,
historical and literary perspectives into this dialogue will make the juxtapositions between Dada works
and world art both palpable and coherent.

Museum Rietberg is the leading museum for non-European art from Africa, Asia, America and Oceania in
Switzerland. In addition to outstanding pieces from India and Japan, Museum Rietberg owns a
comprehensive and important holding of works by the collector of African artefacts Han Coray.

After Zurich the exhibition will move to Berlin (5 August 7 November 2016). The Berlinische Galerie is
the state of Berlins museum for modern art, photography and architecture. With a remit to collect art
created in the city from 1870 to the present day, its holdings include the impressive collection of works
associated with Dada Berlin.

Exhibition catalogue

Containing eighteen essays and numerous short articles, the exhibition catalogue offers new findings and
insights. It is the first publication to give a scholarly overview of the many different ways non-European
artefacts featured in Dadaism, illustrated with a wealth of visual material.

Edited by Ralf Burmeister, Michaela Oberhofer and Esther Tisa Francini.

240 pages and more than 200 images. Verlag Scheidegger & Spiess. CHF 39

With contributions by twenty international authors: Johannes Beltz, Jody Blake, Peter Bolz, Ralf
Burmeister, Uwe Fleckner, Nanina Guyer, Christian Kaufmann, Walburga Krupp, Axel Langer, Alexis
Malefakis, Franois Mottas, Michaela Oberhofer, Valentine Plisinier, Kathryn Smith, Hlne Thirard,
Esther Tisa Francini, Khanh Trinh, Mona De Weerdt, Michael White, Roger Van Wyk.

Curators in Zurich

Dr Michaela Oberhofer, curator for Africa and Oceania, Museum Rietberg Zrich

Esther Tisa Francini, provenance researcher and director of the archive, Museum Rietberg Zrich

Curator in Berlin

Dr Ralf Burmeister, director of the Artists Archives, Berlinische Galerie

The exhibition will show outstanding works from international museum collections featuring artists such as
Hans Arp, Hugo Ball, George Grosz, Raoul Hausmann, John Heartfield, Hannah Hch, Richard
Huelsenbeck, Marcel Janco, Man Ray, Hans Richter, Sophie Taeuber and Tristan Tzara as well as
objects not only from Africa, but also from Oceania, Asia and America. The artworks will be supplemented
by Dada texts, historic photographs, posters and audio recordings illustrating the performative and
transcultural character of the Dada movement.
Lenders: Centre Pompidou, Paris; Muse du quai Branly, Paris; Arp Stiftung, Berlin; Berlinische Galerie;
Museum fr Kunst und Gewerbe Hamburg; Erich-Heckel-Nachlass, Hemmenhofen, Arp Museum
Bahnhof Rolandseck, Remagen; Institut fr Auslandsbeziehungen e.V., Stuttgart; Aargauer Kunsthaus,
Aarau; Kunsthaus Zrich; Museum fr Gestaltung/Zrcher Hochschule der Knste, Zurich; Nordamerika
Native Museum Zurich; Vlkerkundemuseum der Universitt Zrich and a number of private collectors.


Afro Dada
Artist talk with Senam Okudzeto
Sun 20 March 2016: 12.30pm

The influence of African artefacts on early 20th century European modernist art is generally accepted, but
the suggestion that African artists were involved in early Avantgarde practices seems new. This talk will
question how artists of African descent have used the frameworks of Dada and Surrealism, asking where
and what examples can be found. In her own oeuvre Senam Okudzeto is working with Afro-Dada
practices and methodologies.

Senam Okudzeto is a transnational artist and scientist

Vortragssaal, free admission; before the lecture the curators will give a guided tour of the Dada Africa
exhibition at 11am (in German)

Drum werde was du bist dadaist

Sun 10 April 2016: 12.30 pm

Lecture by Ralf Burmeister (in German)

A century after the birth of the Dada movement, the question of what actually constitutes Dada remains
fascinating. With the focus on Berlin, this lecture presents the collages and assemblages with which the
Dadaists combatted the madness of the age. What united Dada was not a style, but an attitude that is
still pertinent today: the urge to escape mental complacency.
Dr Ralf Burmeister is co-curator of the Dada Africa exhibition and director of the Artists Archives at the
Berlinische Galerie.

Auditorium, free admission; before the lecture the curators will give a guided tour of the Dada Africa
exhibition at 11am.

VHS lecture on DADA
Dada Africa
Mon 30 May 2016
Dr Michaela Oberhofer, Esther Tisa Francini

Dada was more than outlandish navel-gazing; in fact, its gaze was directed outside Europe. Starting with
Han Coray, Dada gallerist and the most important collector of African art, this evening explores the
dialogue between Dadaist works and objects from Africa, Asia, America and Oceania. The history of the
varied reception of foreign cultures by Dada and in the world it inhabited extends from the Soires
Ngres in Cabaret Voltaire to Dadaist art in South Africa.
Details can be found at

As part of Festspiele Zrich, which is also featuring Dada as its theme in 2016, Museum Rietberg is
organising two concerts in collaboration with Moods jazz club as well as a literary and musical soire:

Moussa Cissokho Jan Galega Brnnimann Omri Hason

Fri 17 June 2016: 7.30pm

Moussa Cissokho Kora: vocals / Jan Galega Brnnimann: bass clarinet, soprano saxophone / Omri
Hason: Oriental percussion, Hang

The music played by Moussa Cissokho, Jan Galega Brnnimann and Omri Hason revives the art of
storytelling while transcending the boundaries between traditional and modern sounds from Africa,
Europe and the Orient. The sparkling clear sound of the kora an African lute-bridge harp with twenty-
two strings meets the sonorous, smoky tones of the bass clarinet, supported by Omri Hason on an
assortment of percussion instruments. With captivatingly beautiful melodies and rhythmic elegance, this
trio creates authentic and contemporary chamber music.
Sommerpavillon, CHF 35 / 30, booking via Starticket

Kala Jula Samba Diabat & Vincent Zanetti

Sat 18 June 2016: 7.30pm

Samba Diabat: Gitane, jeli ngoni / Vincent Zanetti: Gitane, djembe, zena

Samba Diabat is a Griot from Mali, and one of the most sought-after guitarists in Bamako. As an
acknowledged specialist in West African musical traditions, Vincent Zanetti plays numerous instruments
and is reputedly one of the best djembe virtuosos in Europe. Samba and Vincents instruments create an
unbelievably airy and melodious soundscape where Mandingian tradition, blues, lyrical swing and
improvised Western music meet and enter into dialogue.
Sommerpavillon, CHF 35 / 30, booking via Starticket

Performance by Jelili Atiku

Sun 19 June 2016: 3pm

For BONE 19 / 2016, the Festival of Performance Art scheduled to take place in Bern in autumn, Jelili
Atiku, a Nigerian artist is developing a new work, an in-situ installaction featuring bones and horns. The

preparatory phase for this will begin in May. On 19 June he will perform at the Sommerpavillon as part of
the programme of events accompanying the exhibition DADA Africa. The performance will serve as a
preview and showcase for BONE 19 focusing on the theme of neoneoDADAfrica!. Jelili Atiku (b.1968 in
Lagos, Nigeria) trained as a sculptor and today works as a performance and video artist; he is also a
political activist. Although he travels the world, Lagos remains the centre of his many different activities.
As a performance artist, he remains true to his traditional Nigerian heritage, activating this in a highly
idiosyncratic manner in the service of his main cause: decolonialisation.

Sommerpavillon, free admission

Umba! Umba! A literary and musical soire

Wed 22 June 2016: 7.30pm

Al Imfeld and Raoul Schrott, authors / Issa Kouyat, Kora / Fabienne Hadorn, speaker
Sound poetry was one of the most lively expressions of the Dadaist dialogue with foreign cultures. The
recitation of Pomes ngres by Tristan Tzara and sound poems by Hans Arp, Hugo Ball, Richard
Huelsenbeck and Raoul Hausmann brings the Dadaist renewal of literary expression to life. This is
followed by readings from the anthology Afrika im Gedicht, which plunges us into the history and culture
of Africa. Accompanied by a kora player, the soire illustrates the close relationship between sound
poetry, spoken rhythms and music.

Sommerpavillon, CHF 25 / 20, booking via Starticket


Tours free of charge (entrance ticket required) in German Wed 6pm + Sat 2pm
Private tours (German, English and French)
Information and online booking at

Art Education

For workshops (in German) for public audiences and schools, visit

Information and Contact

Information, texts and images can be downloaded at

Museum Rietberg Zrich

Gablerstrasse 15
CH-8002 Zrich
Tel. +41 44 415 31 31 | Fax +41 44 415 31 32,

Opening hours TueSun 10am 5pm | Wed 10am 8pm

Exhibition: adults CHF 18 | reduced CHF 14

Young people under 16 free of charge

Tram no. 7 (in the direction of Wollishofen) to the Museum Rietberg stop (4 stops from Paradeplatz). No
parking at the museum; disabled parking available.