There are people that are interesting and then there are interesting people. We got to meet Henning Christoph and he showed us his magical place in Essen, Germany. Here, he’s showing a small part of his private collection and this place is incredible. Calling the Soul of Africa museum an eye-opening experience is a big understatement. This is a world-unique place that just has to be visited!
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Soul of Africa museum – African Secrets
Henning Christoph has spent almost his entire life traveling. He is an ethnologist, photographer, author, and lecturer to name a few of his achievements. Today he offers visitors to see a fraction of his private collection that he has collected during his travels. It’s about mystery, about voodoo, and about mysterious creations from all over the world but mainly from Africa.
It’s in the air when you enter the small room. Immediately, masks appear with skulls from gorillas. These belonged to the tribe of Ngui and Christoph was the first outsider to be allowed to enter the inner circle and photograph their ceremony. According to the Ngui people, the gorilla represents the good while the chimpanzee stands for the bad. It’s hard not to think that human DNA is about 99 percent the same as that of chimpanzees. Coincidence? We would think not!
Mysterious stories from the world
In the next room is a bronze statue depicting Mami Wata – a water goddess who, depending on the region, could be either good or evil. It was created by the sculptor Ismaila Putuenchi (he made several other bronze statues here). What makes this particular sculpture so special is the story of how it came from Cameroon to Germany. After getting stuck in the customs in Douala, Ismaila told them that they could not keep the statue without it being allowed to go with him to Germany.
His voice was not heard and Mami Wata remained in Cameroon. Shortly afterward, you could read in the newspaper that the customs office had burned down and that the only thing that survived without any damage was this statue. Whether it is due to magic or that bronze does not burn may be unsaid but it is odd either way. The fact that the statue is also where it belongs today probably means that some people in Cameroon finally believed in the statue’s magical ability.
rituals are presented at the Soul of Africa Museum
Christof continues to tell us about the various objects and their histories. It’s impossible to share the emotions that came over us when we looked, listened, and heard more about the objects. Among other things, there is a devil-like mask with glass eyes. It is a bit stranded in a corner, this is when Christof noticed that you get dizzy from standing near the mask.
Truth be told, it does not matter if it’s in your imagination or not. One thing is certain – you do not want to try to stand close to it. Regardless of whether you believe in voodoo or not, for a moment you become insecure in your believes when you hear the different stories and different tribes in the world’s different religions. The Ngang tribe in Cameroon uses chickens to drive witchcraft out of affected people. The hen is placed on the sick person’s head and when the hen falls dead to the ground, the person is cured. I mean, we are in a Voodoo museum so that’s not strange, right?!
Snake in a bottle – Earth’s own lie detector
The last room in the Voodoo museum has a half-full, or half-empty, bottle. A snake can be seen inside the bottle. That in itself is strange, but there is also an exciting story behind this particular bottle. It’s about Christof wanting to approach another tribe that is not so friendly to visitors. With the help of his contacts, he finally got to a certain place. Once there, the bottle was taken out and two schnapps were poured. When the person from the tribe drank his schnapps, it was time for Christof to drink his. He did so despite being urged by his contact not to. After the schnapps, he had to turn his heel and go home.
Exactly the same procedure was repeated four more times and Christof was unsure that he would ever be allowed to enter the community. The fifth time it went his way. It turned out that the drink was a kind of truth serum. If the person who drank the schnapps had evil intentions or an adrenaline rush, the poison from the snake would have been deadly. Christof received the information from the tribe he wanted to get in touch with as well as the bottle with the rest of the drink. He says that he does not intend to drink any more from the bottle. It may remain in the museum.
Visit the Soul of Africa Museum
It’s not possible to put into words either the atmosphere or the stories that are told here. The Soul of Africa Museum in Essen must simply be experienced on-site for the best adventure and memory. In the vicinity of the museum, there is a grocery store with large parking where you can park the motorhome if you have driven here. Christof’s wish is, to one day be able to have a room that is large enough so that he can show his entire collection. For now, he lends parts of his collection to museums around the world.
Address: Rüttenscheider Str 36, Essen.
Admission: 10 euros per adult.
Opening hours: Tuesday to Sunday 11.00 – 18.00. Open by appointment so no drop-in at the moment.
Website and more information about Soul of Africa Museum.