Subjective stories of objects at Weltmuseum Wien

Things.  Lots of things.  Beautiful, curious, “exotic”, “ethnic”, historic things.  That is what you will find at the Weltmuseum Wien, which houses an extensive collection of artifacts accumulated by collectors over the last few centuries by explorers of other worlds.  These traveling collectors (such as Crown Prince Franz Ferdinand of Austria-Este) were usually rich or well funded by the rich.  Nowadays, many people travel and bring back more or less “unique” souvenirs from – for them – faraway places.  But then there are also those who come to us from afar, to escape wars or to seek new opportunities – and the Weltmuseum is currently highlighting a few stories of migration  in live performances on the theme “The Power of Things – Scenes of Migration“.

It all begins with the story of a bird. Afghan born actor Hamayun Eisa, who has at last found refuge in Vienna, recounts stories of flight and loss.
When Hamayun Eisa was a child, his brother froze to death when they fled across the mountains from the Mujahedeen.

People and things on the move

The Power of Things is a theatrical evening that leads viewers through various stations and objects at the museum.  It is more about the people than the objects, and the objects take on new meaning, become part of a story, or stimulate a dialogue.   These stories are thought-provoking and often heartbreaking. When Mahsa Ghafari and Hayder Saad interpret the drowning death of a mother and child in the Mediterranean sea in front of a golden life saver (World in Movement), well, words fail me.



I have taken your baby to another world. Hayder Saad interpreting a god´s actions. The feather bust behind him is a god image from Hawai’i, which represents both the war god Ku (feathered crest) and the fertility god Lono (similar to a wig with human hair). At the outbreak of war, the Ku-godhead was put on a long pole and carried in combat to deter the enemies. It was purchased in 1806 in London from the Cook ‘s world travels collection and came into the possession of the Austrian Emperor Franz I.


When beautiful Cat Monroe Davis, a Vienna-based singer, dancer and performer of Nigerian heritage, speaks of her experiences in her Austrian school and about color-based perceptions of beauty,  I cringe at how asinine  racist views are,  how sad it is to think that skin tones determine beauty – or anything else for that matter.  (And, having lived in the USA for a long time and read a fair amount of African American and other pertinent literature, I do know where that comes from, which makes it even worse.)


True beauty, Cat Monroe Davis. Behind her are some objects from the Benin collection, including a carved ivory tusk and some bronze head casts made in the 19th century.


The Somali actor Jamal Mataan, who also works as an interpreter for Somali refugees, talks about a particular family´s legal case about a baby´s fontanelles.

Jamal Mataan about a neck rest in the Benin and Ethiopia collection of the Weltmuseum


Negin Rezaie, Iranian visual and performing artist, curator, inventor and activist, speaks of the role of women in her culture, and of how art has been a saving grace for her.  She fled to Austria from Iran in 2015 and has since participated in a number of artistic, museum and musical projects.

Negin Rezaie, “But sometimes I still feel like these dolls”


Dolls from a “dance house” in Shaykh Uthman, Yemen, dating back to 1902. This was a place where mainly sailors went for “entertainment”.


But there is also lighter entertainment, such as a dialogue about Nepalese customs by Weltmuseum director Christian Schicklgruber, who was adopted by a Nepalese family back in the 1980s and has brought back a lot of objects for the museum.




Stella Asiimwe and Markus Stolberg engage in a conversation about the collectors´craze.  Stolberg acts in the persona of archduke Franz Ferdinand, telling Stella about events, some not so savory, during his world travels.

How did such collections come to be?
Austria´s archduke Franz Ferdinand was a big collector. Here, Markus Stolberg recounts some of the Duke´s adventures.

The evening is produced by the Badluck project. This project has made previous productions where refugees and migrants get to tell their stories and explain the reasons why they have come to  Austria.

Coffee, anyone? The Orient at your doorstep.
Ahmed Sabah explainsabout the coffee serving traditions of the Bedouins
Ahmed Sabah standing amidst cups and bowls of the Weltmuseum collection


Thank you for the invitation, Weltmuseum (via Kunst für uns).  It was such a touching and interesting evening.  I was also happy, as always, to join up with friends from IgersAustria and IgersVienna.

More Info

Performances are with

Bagher Ahmadi, Karrar Alsaedi, Stella Asiimwe, Muhammet Ali Bas, Irina Eder, Mahsa Ghafari, Lydia Goller, Ahmad Hamayun, Gerhard Kirsch, Max Kolten, Mela Maresch, Jamal Mataan, Cat Monroe Davis, Lea Nagel, Bärbel Nowitzki, Pia Razenberger, Anna Resch, Negin Rezaie, Salomé Ritterband, Andreas Orsini Rosenberg, Hayder Saad, Ahmed Sabah, Christian Schicklgruber, Aminata Seydi und Markus Stolberg
Artistic Director: Karl Baratta,
Dramaturgy: MarieTherese Handle-Pfeiffer / Thomas Bischof
Artistic collaboration: Muhammet Ali Bas / Andreas Orsini Rosenberg
Theatre pedagogy: Natascha Soufi.

Further performances on

23 May, 26 September, 1 October, 8 October, 13 October 2019

Tickets at the register or online


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