Have you ever heard of Karl May?
He was a German adventure writer (1842-1912) whose novels mostly took place in the American southwest (cowboys and Indians, people). His books were very popular in the Czech Republic, and were made into a number of movies that were filmed in Croatia.
So: German writer, American setting, Croatian filming.
A few weeks ago Liam and I went to an exhibition on Karl May’s work at the Náprstek Museum of Asian, African and American Cultures. It was very interesting, though the exhibit was less of a ‘history’ exhibit and more of a love letter to this man’s work and his movies.
It was also a little less “PC” than most American exhibitions.
Here, you can see an illustration from one of Karl May’s books, depicting a native. Are we surprised that these books came out in the 1800’s? Nope. Nooope.
There was also a bit of saucy language. Personally, I found this refreshing. But I doubt you’d get to say the word “bastards” in many American museums, especially not ones that are trying to bring in the little kiddies.
Then, of course, there was this:
Why yes, those are racist Mammy dolls in the gift shop. Hanging from the ceiling by their necks. I asked my Czech friend about this, and she was surprised that I was surprised to see them there. I don’t think it has quite the same connotation over here- certainly they weren’t meant in a “man does this museum hate black people!” way. But it was definitely one of those cross-cultural “um….what?” moments.
The rest of the museum was really nice- I loved the exhibits they had upstairs. Very cool pieces of bone work from Australian natives and just a really cool set up. I did have another odd moment, however, in the Native American section. As one can imagine, it was a little weird to learn about Native Americans in the Czech Republic. Especially when I saw this:
I mean, this looks like a bad picture from a New York Times article on city life. The caption, in case you’re curious:
“A young Native American couple walking through Minneapolis in Minnesota (2008).”
It just doesn’t strike me as a museum-style image. Then again, maybe I’m weird. Maybe there’s a “Natives of New Jersey” exhibit somewhere showing a bunch of Mafia dudes riding around in a Mustang.
On a completely unrelated note, I have accidentally locked myself in A) a Viennese church courtyard and B) the women’s bathroom in the Mayor of Prague 9’s office. Stories to follow. Eventually.
AND to conclude, here is a completely unrelated picture of a Newfoundland and a horse being adorable: