Humboldt Forum

Humboldt Forum highlights Talk #3: Feathers, Lacquer & Breakdance

Press release

Berlin, 13 November 2018

On Wednesday, 5 December 2018, at 7:30 pm, as part of the Humboldt Forum Highlights season, the Humboldt Forum will host the discussion Feathers, Lacquer & Breakdance at the Wandelhalle of the Gemäldegalerie, Matthäikirchplatz, 10785 Berlin. Experts will take the featherwork Madonna as a starting point for their discussion about exchanging and linking cultural techniques, something which visitors to the Humboldt Forum will be able to experience at first hand. The general director of the Staatliche Museen zu Berlin, Michael Eissenhauer, will give a welcoming address and the evening will be moderated by actor and journalist Paula D. Koch. Admission is free of charge.

You can register to attend until 4 December 2018 at Media representatives should please contact Michael Mathis at for mandatory accreditation.

Encounters between people from different regions of the world give rise to a variety of forms of cultural expression. Dance styles, music, objects and unfamiliar materials meet and inspire one another. The known melds with the new, and innovations emerge – often engendered by pure curiosity and deep mutual esteem, but sparked mainly by a very specific interest in changing people’s opinions, conveying prestige, encouraging reflection, attracting attention or causing a stir.

In the course of the evening, experts will provide insights into how cultural techniques are exchanged, both now and in the past, using as examples two of the future Humboldt Forum Highlights: the featherwork Madonna (currently in the Gemäldegalerie) and the Coromandel lacquer screen (currently in the Kunstgewerbemuseum). A performance of music and dance by the co-founder of the breakdance crew Flying Steps, Kadir [amigo] Memiş, and the musician and composer Nevzat Akpınar will give the audience an impressive demonstration of these processes in practice.

The first discussion concerns the featherwork Madonna. Artfully composed of feathers from at least thirteen species of bird, the portrait of the Madonna testifies both to Christian missionary work and to traditional pre-Columbian art. The curator of the American archaeological collection at the Ethnologisches Museum, Maria Gaida, will be talking with art historian Sven Jakstat and taxidermist Jürgen Fiebig about the origin, function, iconography and manufacture of the featherwork Madonna.

Exotic objects from the Far East were highly popular in Europe. Royals adorned their porcelain galleries with lacquerware, and the Berlin Palace was no exception. Monika Kopplin, the director of Lackmuseum Münster, will be discussing the fascination of lacquer and the place of lacquer in the Berlin Palace of the past, as well as just what makes the Coromandel lacquer screen so unique, with Arisumi Mitamura, the director of the lacquerwork programme at Tokyo University of Arts.

We find cultural techniques becoming closely intertwined in dance and music, too. The New York breakdance scene of the early 1970s, for instance, has led to the emergence nowadays of numerous new genres all over the world, coming from the most diverse cultural influences. Verda Kaya, who is curating the Hip-Hop section of the Berlin Exhibition at the Humboldt Forum, will be talking to Kadir [amigo] Memiş und Nevzat Akpınar about Berlin hip-hop, the Anadolu Break and the Zeybreak, developed by amigo.

Nevzat Akpınar is not only a Berlin-based composer whose works include music for plays and dance theatre, but also a baglama player and ethnomusicologist. As part of the Berlin in Lights Festival, he performed with the Nevzat Akpınar Ensemble at New York’s Carnegie Hall. Jürgen Fiebig has investigated the featherwork Madonna’s feathers and is a taxidermist for the scientific bird collection at the Museum für Naturkunde – Leibniz-Institut für Evolutions- und Biodiversitätsforschung. Maria Gaida is curator for American archaeology at the Ethnologisches Museum (Staatliche Museen zu Berlin). Her research focuses on the pre-Columbian cultures of Mesoamerica. Sven Jakstat has explored transcultural processes of appropriation and is a post-doctoral student in the research study group BildEvidenz: Geschichte und Ästhetik at the Kunsthistorisches Institut of the Freie Universität Berlin. Verda Kaya is a community-work coordinator for the Berlin Exhibition and curator of the Hip-Hop section. Her interests focus on subcultures, migration and transnational ties. As the director of Lackmuseum Münster, Monika Kopplin is an expert on lacquerware art who has also studied the Chinese Cabinet in the Berlin Palace. Kadir [amigo] Memiş came to Berlin as the son of Turkish immigrants. As Urban Nomad he creates choreographies and dance calligraphies that are inspired by the city’s gestures, lines, movements, smells, colours, sounds and lights. Until he retired last year, Arisumi Mitamura taught in the lacquerwork faculty of Tokyo University of Arts and is a member of a group of maki-e artists who produce lacquerware employing the traditional Japanese technique.

Inspired by the eponymous Alexander and Wilhelm von Humboldt and their delight in exploring the world and comprehending a system linking nature and culture in myriad ways, the Humboldt Forum will establish a new venue for experience, learning and encounter in the heart of Berlin. The presentations by the various Humboldt Forum institutions will bring together a wide range of topics from science and art, nature and culture, history and society, accompanied by many different perspectives from past and present, nearby and far away. As a foretaste, the Humboldt Forum is already exhibiting fifteen Highlights: eight are on show on Berlin’s Museum Island and at the Kulturforum, while a further selection of objects are to be the focus for eight discussions held at locations throughout the city.

Details of all fifteen Humboldt Forum Highlights as well as the full programme can be found at

Date Wednesday, 5 December 2018
Time 7:30 pm
Block 1: German
Block 2: German and Japanese with German translation via headphones
Block 3: German

Venue Gemäldegalerie, Wandelhalle, Matthäikirchplatz, 10785 Berlin
Admission free of charge
Registration by 4December 2018 at

Block 1 Maria Gaida, Sven Jakstat and Jürgen Fiebig
Block 2 Monika Kopplin and Arisumi Mitamura
Block 3 Verda Kaya, Kadir [amigo] Memiş and Nevzat Akpınar

Drinks and snacks will be on offer before the start of the event and during an informal conclusion.

Organizer Stiftung Humboldt Forum im Berliner Schloss

Participating institutions Stiftung Preußischer Kulturbesitz with the Ethnologisches Museum and the Museum für Asiatische Kunst of the Staatliche Museen zu Berlin, Kulturprojekte Berlin with Stadtmuseum Berlin, and the Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin, with the Stiftung Humboldt Forum im Berliner Schloss at the helm.


Download the press release as a PDF.

Press contact

Michael Mathis
Press Officer Cultural Communication
+49 151 1617 97 27, Send e-mail