The Ziegenbalg House
A museum on intercultural dialogue
The Ziegenbalg House in Tharangambadi is a joint project of the Francke Foundations in Halle and the Tamil Evangelical Lutheran Church in South India with the help of many partners. It invites you to explore the diversity of participants, the non-linear development and the cultural intersection of Indian and European societies, which has been systematically initiated by the Danish-Halle Mission in Tranquebar since 1706. These cultural encounters have created a common heritage that can be traced back to various architectural, written or other sources of material, mainly kept in European archives. The Ziegenbalg House -House opens a new space for the multimedia collection and public communication of these sources to the Indian public. It is a joint project to restore the heritage in contemporary formats.
Results of the working scholarship Halle-Tharangambadi of the Art Foundation of Saxony-Anhalt
The artist Christine Bergmann from Halle travelled to Tharangambadi in September 2019 thanks to a grant from the Art Foundation of the State of Saxony-Anhalt. The painter hoped that the stay would have an influence on three of her fields of interest: Colour, architecture and traditional handicrafts, especially concerning textiles. The trip was initially intended as an inspiration. On site, she conducted an art course with children in the Goatskin Museum about pop-up cards and met some of the young women from the region again in the school classes on an artistic quest. She talks about her journey:
Artistic developments do not necessarily go hand in hand with conscious objectives according to the motto »Now I'll do exactly this and that for 3 years«. Thematic changes simply happen or crystallize and you as an artist look over your own shoulder. This is how I felt with the increasing preference for girls and women in painting even before the India Scholarship. I had a vague idea that the trip to India was a motivic solution to »something« that I could not easily find in Europe.
The opportunity to work with primary school children during the scholarship already offered an uncomplicated and quite natural entry into »artistic industrial espionage«. I was particularly taken with the young schoolgirls, who with their school uniforms, monkey swings and colourful ribbons shaped the street scene everywhere, especially in Tharangambadi, where there are as many pupils as inhabitants.
The girls are of course like all teenagers in the world: shy and curious at the same time and in the end they like to be cheeky and a little bit cheeky. But I didn't want to chat up the girls on the street to take pictures of them. That seemed unseemly to me. So I asked Jasmin Eppert that we visit the local girls' school with 1,500 pupils.
However, I had not guessed that we would end up attending all classes »so that the others would not be disappointed« as the teacher explained to us, who introduced us in each class. One class spontaneously grew especially close to my heart with an obviously very popular class teacher. Jasmin Eppert impressed the girls with her Tamil. Sensational was the moment when Jasmin told the girls of a class with blue ribbons on Tamil that I would love her hair ribbons so much and totally spontaneously a choir of 60 girls shouted out loud: »Thank You Ma`am!« - Oops, I've never seen myself as »Ma'am« before.
The travel impressions of Christine Bergmann can be read in her travel blog (in German). In summer 2020 she showed her paintings, which were created after her encounters with the school girls in Germany (oil on canvas), in an exhibition at the Historic Orphanage.
Results of the working scholarship Halle-Tharangambadi of the Art Foundation of Saxony-Anhalt
A white garden chair, good coloured pencils and paper that suits the country. That was all it took for Stefan Schwarzer's stay in Tharangambadi, South India. For a month he drew the houses of the small town on the South Indian Ocean, talked to the people and wrote a diary every evening. The source of inspiration for the conversations were the reports of the missionaries of the Danish-Halle Mission, published in the »Hallesche Berichte«. And so Schwarzer asked himself through the people what they like to wear most, what the weather is like and what they live on. In his book »Tharangambadi Reports« he published the conversations and related them to the historical sources. Together with his drawings, a wonderful picture of the »City of Singing Waves«, as Tharangambadi is translated, was created, bringing the history of the place into the present.
Barefoot I walk through the main entrance gate of the temple, which is decorated with colourfully painted figures of gods, and look at the merchants sitting along the way [...]. Again I walk through an even bigger gate and enter a new area of the temple, which consists of long colonnades. Overwhelmed by the colourfulness of the ornaments and architecture, combined with the volume of many drums and wind instruments, I feel a great interest in drawing here. Following a family procession, I walk through a third gate [...]. Now I enter a large hall with a monumental portico in the middle. [...] There is an intense smell of burnt wood, incense and other resins. All my senses are flooded simultaneously. I spontaneously sit down on the floor and begin to draw colourful fragments of the surrounding shrines. As if in a trance, fragment by fragment, I immerse myself in this atmosphere. At times, people who observe and question me stand next to me. When I present the finished drawing, it is torn from my hand and is passed around in the group in astonishment. Crumpled up, I get it back.
I've been walking around the village for days and increasingly recognize the daily routines of the inhabitants. For example, a milk vendor on his motorcycle usually rides down Queens Street around ten o'clock. At this time also the beggars I already know do their rounds. Fleeing from the rising sun, I move my plastic chair closer and closer to the wall behind me. Only when the sun completely irradiates me, I finish, almost burning my work.
In the afternoon I walk along a construction site on Mosque Street with my plastic chair. Surprised, the construction workers watch me. In front of a bright yellow and green painted mosque I find a shady place to draw. In the shimmering midday heat I get into conversation with an older man. He is the imam of the local mosque. While the goats graze in the sun nearby, another man dressed in white addresses me friendly. His name is Sultan. He is the owner of the »Danish Shop« on the market street and a passionate city historian of Tharangambadi. Interested in meeting him, I ask for his contact details.
In Goldsmith Street I discover a dilapidated traditional Tamil house. Since it is not raining at the moment, I boldly place my chair in the middle of the street and start my drawing. The collapsed tiled roof allows a view of the bamboo trunk roof construction and the brick walls. On inquiry I learn that this house was abandoned by its inhabitants after the devastating tsunami in 2004. I too leave my place in a hurry because the first raindrops fall on my paper. Fortunately, I discover nearby the covered entrance of a house that was built after the tsunami. From here I can draw relaxed and from a good position. From minute to minute the rain becomes more intense and I slide my chair further and further into the garage. [...] At the same time I also get to know the neighbour who comes from Nepal. Recently he bought a house directly at the sea, without fear of another tsunami. [...] On the way back I don't recognize Goldsmith Street. The street has now changed into a »Goldsmith Reservoir« and I stomp carefully through ankle-deep water.
What is your connection to Tharangambadi? This is my home town. I was born here. What is your life in Tharangambadi? I had many difficulties in the past, but now my life is better because I have my own tea stand. What is a normal day like for you from morning till night? Every day I wake up at 3:00 a.m. I prepare hot milk for tea first. First, many fishermen come to have tea and then go fishing. Afterwards I don't have many customers. When it rains in the morning, the fishermen don't go out to sea, so I don't have many customers at my tea stand. What was the situation after the tsunami disaster in 2004? After the tsunami many fishermen lost their homes and had a lot of problems. But for the other people here it was even more difficult because they did not get any support from the government. Many lost their homes and all their belongings due to the tsunami. [...] What about the educational opportunities and the future for young people in the village? Both boys and girls go to St. Johns Primary School together from first to fifth grade. From 6th to 12th grade, girls go to the Catholic St. Theresa's School and boys to the Protestant TELC Bishop Johnson School. After their schooling, some of them travel abroad with the help of agencies to attend university or to work there. Popular countries for this are for example Singapore or Malaysia. [...] What was the most extraordinary encounter you had with your clients? During the »Diwali Holidays« last year, a few tourists came to see me. While they were drinking tea at my stand, I spontaneously invited them to my home for dinner.
Minutes later I continue my way and meet numerous students in their different school uniforms. Some recognize me and greet me in passing. In the drizzle I reach the Marktstraße and sit down under a balcony, protected from the rain. In front of me the morning rush hour traffic chugs, squeaks, honks and hisses on the potholes of Marktstraße. The shutters of Sultan's »Danish Shop« are still closed. I am quickly approached by attentive passers-by. One of them is called Vijay and is a young fisherman. Immediately next door I notice a building with a gas station. The petrol is sold here in plastic bottles by the litre and poured directly into the tanks. Around 9:00 am Sultan opens his shop and waves greetings to me. A little later I meet a photographer who runs a studio nearby. I learn about his time as a member of the Indian army, and we arrange to meet again. Sultan returns and is very pleased with my drawing.
A film journey to Tharangambadi
On the way between Burgkirchen, Halle and Tharangambadi, documentary filmmaker and photographer Heiner Heine captured the big moves of the museum project. Nine short films offer the unique opportunity to visit the museum thousands of kilometres away and to learn about its history.
Every year, there is a parade commemorating the arrival of the first Lutheran missionaries Bartholomäus Ziegenbalg (1682–1719) and Heinrich Plutschau (1677–1752) in Tharangambadi. The 310th anniversary thus formed the adequate context to inaugurate the museum project, in presence of the director of the Francke Foundations. A historical moment celebrated with drums and garlands.
After their arrival in Tranquebar, Ziegenbalg and Plutschau started an exchange with the local people based on due respect and heartfelt interest. It was the beginning of an intercultural dialogue between the India and Europe. Here you find an insight into that history.
The Francke Foundations coordinate the international museum project from 2012 onwards. Therefore, they got engaged with several partners from Germany and India. The partner institutions share their approaches to support the project as well as their visions for its future.
310 years after the arrival of the first Lutheran missionaries in India, Jasmin Eppert is assigned to coordinate the museum project in Tharangambadi. Until spring 2019, she will live and work in the small South Indian town. She reports about her work and her life abroad.
The Indian National Trust of Art and Cultural Heritage (INTACH), Pondicherry, realised the restoration of the Ziegenbalg House, within four stages of construction. The executive engineer and the architect of the Indian conservatory organisation talk about the challenges of preserving and restoring the historical structures of the Ziegenbalg House.
On July 15, 2017, one year after the initiation of the project, the Ziegenbalg House opened its gates to the public. The historical, intercultural dialogue between India and Europe is displayed in five rooms on two levels. Jasmin Eppert guides us through the exhibition.
The people coming to the museum undertake a pilgrimage to visit the craddle of Indian printing in Tharangambadi. The printing exhibition so far is the most vivid and most interactive part of the museum and is highly appreciated by visitors from far and wide.
In the beginning, there was a building to be restored, eventually to be revived with programmes and activities. Jasmin Eppert and her colleague Joice Shramila thus give insights into their vivid and diverse ways of museum work in Tharangambadi.
Tharangambadi, also called Tranquebar, at the Eastern coast of South India, witnessed the first Lutheran mission abroad, more than 300 years ago. Nowadays, this intercultural museum project preserves that memory of the past for the present and the future. Jasmin Eppert and the people living in this small town guide through Tharangambadi. »the Land of the Singing Waves«.
The restoration of the Ziegenbalghaus is a cooperation project of the Francke Foundations, the Tamil Evangelical Lutheran Church, the Auswertigen Amt, the Evangelisch-Lutherischer Missionswerk in Niedersachsen and the Evangelisch-Lutherischer Missionswerk Leipzig.
An art project of the Art Foundation of Saxony-Anhalt
In 2019 we welcomed Asma Menon to the Francke Foundations. Together with the Art Foundation of Saxony-Anhalt we invited her to Halle for an exciting art project. For three months she immersed herself in the city, travelled through Germany and met friends and acquaintances. From the many encounters she chose objects for a »Germany cabinet« in the Museum for Intercultural Dialogue in the Ziegenbalg-House in Tharangambadi. In the 18th century, the missionaries got to know the culture and everyday life in what was then the Tranquebar. Their (for the European view) worth knowing and curious discoveries they sent regularly to the orphanage in Halle. Here a whole "India cabinet" is part of the Wunderkammer. Inspired by this story, a »Germany cabinet« has now been created for the Museum for Intercultural Dialogue in the Ziegenbalg-House.