Vision and Beliefs – Danish mission photography 1870–197009.07.2016 - 21.08.2016
9 July – 21 August exhibition in the Library Hall. “Vision and Beliefs – Danish mission photography 1870-1970” presents photographs and travelogues of Danish missionaries working in India, China, the Middle East, Greenland and Africa during the years 1870–1970.
These pictures, which have never been exhibited up until now, convey the work of the missionaries and their encounter with other cultures. It is a rare look into the history of the Danish foreign mission, showing a glimpse of a world very different from the one we know today.
Christian mission is founded on the idea that the whole world can and must be Christianised. From the late 1800s thousands of Danes volunteered as missionaries. At that time most people had never been abroad, and Christian missionary organisations were soon supported by tens of thousands of members in Denmark.
Historically, this development took place alongside the European colonisation of the world. Hence, Christian missionaries have often been criticized for contributing to the destruction of local cultures, traditions and religions, and for reproducing an unequal power balance between the West and the colonised world.
However, a major difference between missionaries abroad and other colonial agents was that the missionaries managed to gain significant insight into living conditions and local cultures on the ground. Unlike the colonial elite, they worked with common people and often the outcasts among them. At the same time, through their tales of strange cultures, places, and interpretation of religious issues, the missionaries helped shape Danish people’s view of the world. For the missionaries themselves, the work meant a lifelong engagement, often with severe physical and mental consequences, and history is marked by these great personalities, who had visions for the world in which they lived.
The exhibit “Vision and Beliefs – Danish mission photography 1870–1970″ explores how Danish missionaries have portrayed foreign cultures through photographs and travelogues, and how their encounter with distant places have influenced ideas of culture in Danish society as a whole. The exhibit is based on archival material from the biggest missionary organisation in Denmark, Danmission, which was established in 1821 and continues to work in a range of countries today. The photographs shown come from India, China, Greenland, the Middle East and Africa between 1870 – 1970; a period in time when missionary organisations experienced great success.
This exhibition is organised in collaboration with the National Museum’s Tranquebar Initiative.
The exhibition is supported by:
Aage og Johanne Louis-Hansens Fond
S.C. Van Fonden
Konsul George Jorck og Hustru Emma Jorcks Fond
G.E.C. Gads Fond