Once we were headhunters.
Rituals, life and art of the Asmat people.
September 27th, 2017 – July 8th, 2018
Asmat territory stretches along the southwestern coast of New Guinea, politically a part of Indonesia but with strong ties to Oceania in terms of culture and art. The main features of this territory are mangrove-covered flood plains and hostile swamps.
While retaining to this day the defining traits of their ancient culture, perfectly blended into this inhospitable environment, the Asmat learned how to adjust to modernity and face its challenges.
After contacts with the western civilization, mainly around the mid-20th century, the world came to learn about the amazing sculptural skills of the Asmat and their much-feared rituals of cannibalism and headhunting.
This exhibition, first of its kind in Italy for a public museum, explores how heavy social and cultural changes of the 20th century impacted the incredibly rich mix of traditions, rituals and art that is Asmat culture.
Sculptures, weapons, musical instruments, ritual objects and everyday tools will guide the visitor in this journey through the life, the culture and the history of one of the most fascinating people of New Guinea.
Over its three sections – preceded by a comprehensive introduction on history, geography and cultural complexity of the Asmat territories – this exhibition focuses on items recently acquired from the Jac Hoogerbrugge and Leigheb-Fiore collections, as well as items on loan from the Fardella-Azzaroli collection. This immersion into the Asmat culture is completed by a wide selection of pictures and footage.