If you are told Die Kunst und ihre Marquesaner: Studien über die Entwicklung primitiver Südseeornamentik nach dem Material eigenem Reiseergebnissen und der Museum “3 vols, Berlin. D. Reimer (E. Vohsen) 1925, there is little chance, except that you are pro-German, to capture your attention. 1925 is indeed the year in court which Karl von den Steinen had published the first of three volumes of his monumental work dedicated to the Marquesas archipelago he had traveled six months, twenty-eight years before. Twenty-eight years to write three books, this may seem a lot; but in reality, half of that “Charles Stones” (if translated into French his name) went to the Marquesas was only the preamble of a huge, an incredible work of identification and description of all the parts,
A quarter century of research
Little Karl, motherless very young, was born March 7, 1855 in Mülheim an der Ruhr.
Raised by his grandparents, in a studious atmosphere, he entered the University from seventeen to become a doctor, degree he obtained at the age of twenty, having gone through Bonn, Zurich and Strasbourg. Medicine, at the time, pushing new doors, exploring new areas, also majored there in 1878 in the nascent psychiatry, then working at the Berlin University Hospital.
His path seemed all mapped out, but the young man had an insatiable curiosity; no question of purring on site, he had to travel the world and thus left to the discovery of psychiatry for three years, from 1879 to 1881 in several countries. An exploration of the globe and mental illness which led the Pacific, including New Zealand, Samoa, Hawaii, where he met the man who would radically change his life, Adolf Bastian.
South Pacific and Antarctica
Founder of the Berlin Anthropological Society, Ethnology and Prehistory (Berliner Gesellschaft für Anthropology, Ethnology und Ungerschichte), co-editor of the society’s journal, the Zeitschrift für Ethnology, also head of the Royal Geographical Society of Germany Bastian was a universal scholar, physician, writer, geographer, and this meeting was decisive for den Steinen.
Dazzled by these disciplines he knew very little, the young German doctor continued his journey in the Pacific on the way including the Solomon Islands, where he collected many artifacts, trying to understand these so-called primitive peoples. In 1882 and 1883, Germany organized a scientific expedition to South Georgia (Antarctic) and den Steinen was part of the polar adventure. On his return the deep south, he left the expedition in deciding to settle in Uruguay because it is there, he knew, he felt, he could actually be assertive and his passion for the ethnology. Montevideo was already a large city, counting many Germans and den Steinen was not lost. By 1884, he decided to go into the deep end and went to Brazil, more precisely in the middle of the Amazon, in order to explore the sources of the Xingu River. He went down on the 2200 km, arrived in Belem and returned by Rio de Janeiro where the Emperor of Brazil received him.
A later book (Durch Central-Brasilien), there he returned to the course of the Xingu in 1887 where he literally immersed among the Indians of the region to deliver, Germany, the elements for understanding these isolated peoples.
At the time, this humanistic approach is somewhat revolutionary and earned him great fame, like the rainy season, much later, a Paul-Emile Victor to Greenland. His famous is so great that it is made an honorary doctor of the University of Halle and is elected president of the Geographical Society of Berlin. In 1894 he published what remains his masterpiece about the Amazon, Unter den Naturvölkern Central-Brazilians. He then thirty-nine years old, and rules the Ethnological Museum Berlin. Until 1906, he remained teaching at the highest level in his country known and recognized by his peers multiplying titles and functions.
“Half a century too late,” the Marquesas
Concretely, he embarked in 1897 for Canada; after a stop in Vancouver, he reached San Francisco, in full fever because of the gold rush. From there, he embarked on a small schooner, the City of Papeete, which deposed the Twenty days later, on Nuku Hiva.
Von Steinen, when Solomon had happened, had made three observations: behind objects, there were men; these, face the blackbirders intending their labor to the plantations in Fiji and Queensland especially did not weight; these human groups, disunited, unarmed, vulnerable to imported illnesses would eventually disappear; three observations refit it on the banks of the Xingu in Brazil, where he met with tribes who have never seen or even suspected the existence of white men.
In the Marquesas, the anthropologist was a bitter fact: it was too late “about half a century too late,” he explained! The Marquesan people remained only a few shadows. A century of European contact, explorers, sandalwood, whaling, settlers, religious, were literally “cleaned” the Marquesas its original population (more than seventy thousand souls probably reduced the number of two to three thousand) ; Furthermore the population, objects characterizing this insular culture had, too, was raided, traded against weapons or alcohol.
Bring the past to the surface
This upsetting painstaking, von den Steinen would not stop it by boarding the boat that would take him to Tahiti and New Zealand: the researcher wanted to actually control guns Maori art to better understand and interpret Marquesan art.
On his return to Germany, den Steinen was only forty-three years. He rejoined Germany, museums, universities, scientific circles until 1906.
All museums scrutinized
For this, he visited all the museums of Europe, even the most modest in the province and those of the United States.
By this methodical painstaking, Karl von den Steinen brought out the Marquesas domain objects of curiosity cabinets to reveal to the world the true dimension, aesthetic, cultural and ritual.
His work, colossal, like no other, enabled him in 1925 to publish the first volume in 1928 and for volumes II and III of the reference work on the Terre des Hommes.
He continued to be passionate about ethnology, but his mission accomplished, he died in 1929, his house is always left open to all young researchers who wanted to meet him.
– The Marquesas and their art. Volume I: tattoo
– The Marquesas and their art. Volume II: the original ornamentation of the South Seas (plastic)
– The Marquesas and their art. Volume III: the original ornamentation of the South Seas (collections)
“First love! “
Later, he wrote about his systematic exploration in the Marquesas “from one valley to another by mountain ridges, all villages of the six inhabited islands, I lost twenty kilos … I noticed the lyrics of the songs and genealogies dating back to the dawn of time … My personal interest led me to these sacred stories of the homeland, the central Polynesia and other remote islands. “