• Grafik zur Sonderausstellung From Mystic to Plastic mit zwei Egungun-Maskentänzern, dem Titel, Untertitel der Ausstellung und Laufzeit.

From Mystic to Plastic. African Masks. Photographs by Stéphan Gladieu

The exhibition presents two series by the internationally renowned French photographer Stéphan Gladieu that are devoted to African mask performances.

The Egungun cycle (2018–2020) shows photographs of the impressive Egungun mask costumes from the Republic of Bénin. These costumes are used in mask performances that are part of ancestor worship. The dancers in their impressive costumes are possessed by ancestor spirits who return to the community of the living to help them overcome the challenges of life.

Homo Détritus (2020/21) presents photographs of new mask costumes created by the artist collective Ndaku Ya, la vie est belle (Life is Beautiful) from Kinshasa (DR Congo). These are based on the idea that the mineral resources of the DR Congo have made it one of the richest countries in the world. However, the vast majority of the Congolese population benefits not in the slightest from this wealth, which is taken out of the country by means of ruthless exploitation. At best, the wealth is returned in the form of second-hand goods or even hazardous waste. The two photo series are being shown side by side in a museum for the first time.

The overall title From Mystic to Plastic is a reference to the shared concept of the central importance of mask dances, in which past and present are linked and social challenges that currently face not only African societies are addressed. Gladieu’s photographs are however above all an impressive documentation of the complexity of African realities behind the Eurocentric clichés.

Stéphan Gladieu, photographer, was born in 1969 and is based in Paris. Self-taught, he began his career by documenting world-shattering conflicts such as the toppling of the Romanian dictator Ceausescu and the social consequences of Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans. He then developed a style based mainly on portrait sequences. With his characteristic iconic portrait style, in which he combines aesthetic and documentary aspects, he addresses ethnological and sociological as well as political and ecological issues.



Homo Détritus: Stéphan Gladieu, with texts by Wilfried N’Sondé and Stéphan Gladieu, English/French, Actes Sud 2022.


We are thankful to                            




31. March – 6. August 2023

9.30 am–17.30 pm

Adults 6 €
Reduced 5 €
Children/teenagers up to 18 years: free
Pupils: free

You can download the leaflet as PDF here.