The world of shadow theater

October 3, 2015 - April 10, 2016

The mysterious interplay of light and shadow has captivated people since time immemorial. As cultural expressions of this fascination, rich traditions of shadow theater have developed, especially in Asian countries such as China, Indonesia, and India. The exhibition uses high-caliber collections to show the close connections between the shadow theater traditions of Asia and the Orient, all the way to Europe.

In addition to the commonalities in performance principles, aspects of storytelling, or the typology of characters, regional characteristics of shadow theater come into focus: In India, on Java, and in Thailand, shadow theater is also a ceremonial action in the context of temple festivals, tells great epics such as the Ramayana, and is still part of cultural identity today. In China it incorporates elements of Chinese opera such as music, costumes and masks and becomes a total experience in artistic perfection, while in the Orient it was above all a mirror of society, uniting the audience in shared laughter with great wit and humor.

The exhibition features previously unpresented pieces and rediscovered treasures from the Linden Museum’s collection. Worthy of mention are the old stocks of Southeast Asian figures, the Chinese figures of the Eger Collection and the unique Egyptian figures of the Kahle Collection – the oldest known shadow puppets of the Islamic world. More recent collections such as the Indian figurines of the Seltmann Collection and the Turkish figurines of the well-known master Ragıp Tuğtekin (1891 – 1982) complement these old holdings on an equal footing.

The artistic mastery and aesthetic quality of the impressive shadow puppets, which inspired artists such as Franz Marc, and still fascinates today, becomes visible. The enthusiasm for shadow theater in Europe, which reached a final peak in the first third of the 20th century, and its further development into contemporary shadow theater, represented with loans from the International Shadow Theater Center Schwäbisch Gmünd, are also themes of the exhibition.

Atmospheric stagings bring storytelling traditions to life and combine them with music, song, images and film. Hands-on elements on the “Fascination of Shadows” offer young and old an exhibition experience for all the senses. The exhibition is framed by a multifaceted accompanying program.

For kids
Participation is welcome – this applies to “The World of Shadow Theater”. In the shadow lab, children and families can explore by drawing silhouettes, experimenting on overhead projectors or playing on a small stage. How do I conjure up a dog with my hands? And what is behind the story of the “garbage monster”?

The popular campaign booklet is also available again free of charge at the ticket offices. Children from the age of 8 get to know Flux here. The colorful bird flutters through the stages, chirps details worth knowing, introduces the children to his friends and poses tricky tasks that promise a little surprise if solved correctly.

Under the patronage of the German UNESCO Commission e.V.
Cooperation partners of the exhibition are the International Shadow Theater Center and the 10th International Shadow Theater Festival Schwäbisch Gmünd.

Download: Exhibition flyer

Catalog: ed. by Jasmin Ii Sabai Günther and Inés de Castro, 192 pages, richly illustrated
Link to the catalog in the store

With kind support: Deutsche Bahn

Media partner: G/Geschichte

Ever since humans discovered and settled the island worlds in the Pacific thousands of years ago, there have been many connections between the widely scattered land areas in the largest sea on earth.


In cooperation with:
Eberhard Karls University Tübingen, China Center Tübingen, HFT Stuttgart

With kind support:

Federal Ministry of Education and Research, Karl Schlecht Stiftung, Tübinger Vereinigung für Volkskunde e.V., Universitätsbund Tübingen e. V., Stiftung Landesbank Baden-Württemberg, Netzwerk transformierender Lehre in Baden-Württemberg, Verein Freunde Hochschule für Technik Stuttgart