Exhibition in Qatar – Arab and German Tales

14.04.2018

Stories and fables from Germany and the Arab world are brought together in the exhibition ‘Arab and German Tales: Transcending Cultures’, organized by the Ägyptisches Museum und Papyrussammlung of the Staatliche Museen zu Berlin together with the Arab-German Young Academy for Sciences and Humanities (AGYA) in the Qatar National Library, Qatar.

At a time when sociopolitical debates are increasingly characterized by a rhetoric of difference, it is all the more imperative to engage critically with the many commonalities between cultures, both current and historical, and to share these findings with an international public. This exhibition looks both at shared ideas and at the circulation of ideas and concepts between cultures to show myriad ways that the German and Arab worlds have mutually influenced one another through storytelling, starting from the earliest known examples of narrative writing from ancient Mesopotamia and Egypt.

The exhibition ‘Arab and German Tales: Transcending Cultures’ brings together, for the first time, masterpieces of the art of storytelling from both cultures, among them the Mesopotamian Epic of Gilgamesh, the ancient Egyptian Story of Sinuhe and The Eloquent Peasant, the oldest version of the world-famous international Proverbs of Achikar from Elephantine Island, and the singular manuscript of the Hilali epic, an oral poem which UNESCO includes today on the Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity. An original Johann Wolfgang von Goethe manuscript in Arabic as well as rare manuscripts and book editions of the Brothers Grimm and ‘The Thousand and One Nights’ are also presented. The exhibition reaches its multimedia climax with examples from today’s modern storytelling tradition in Qatar, the Arab world, and Germany.

Travellers have existed since the early days of civilization, functioning as mediators between both regions and making important contributions to cultural exchange. Who knew that in the year 806 an elephant ran through the Carolingian city of Aachen? It was brought to Charlemagne from Baghdad as a diplomatic gift from Harun ar-Rashid, the caliph of the Abbasid empire. Ancient heritage has had an impact on Arab cultures in many ways. These stories have inspired writers, artists, filmmakers, and scholars for centuries, and continue to do so today.

The exhibition and the accompanying English-German-Arabic publication released by Kadmos are the result of a research project conducted by the Arab-German Young Academy for Sciences and Humanities (AGYA) in the Ägyptisches Museum und Papyrussammlung of the Staatliche Museen zu Berlin, supported by Germany’s Federal Ministry of Education and Research, the German Embassy Doha, the Staatliche Museen zu Berlin and the Qatar National Library.

‘Arab and German Tales: Transcending Cultures’ is the inaugural exhibition of the Qatar National Library, which on 17 April 2018 will celebrate the opening of the Rem Koolhaas-designed building under the patronage of the Emir. The largest educational library in the Arab world, it is part of the Qatar Foundation and is located in Doha’s ‘Education City’, which is dedicated exclusively to science and education.

The exhibition will be part of the German-Qatari Cultural Year 2017/2018 and will be on display in 2019 at the Neues Museum on the Museumsinsel in Berlin.