Antwerp June 4, 2007. By David Norden, photos Sylvie
A few days ago I received an email from teachers at the University of
The rector want to close the Museum and stop the "Master in Ethnic
I visited the Museum and must tell it is a wonderful one with a few
masterpieces and it should be save from closure.
I certainly will recommend it for those willing to learn Ethnic Arts in
Belgium (but they should of course be able to speak Flemish).
See the images below and sign the Online
petition if you don't agree with the rector decision.
I would like you to sign the following Online
The Ethnic Art lessons department and the Museum with Oceanic, African
and Indian Art from the Gent University was created by Olbrechts 80 years ago
and had many famous names related to it's students like A.Claerhout, F.
Olbrechts and Daniel P. Biebuyck.
This institution should not be closed on decision of the rector.
sign online at the petition
O write the rector to explain him why you think he is taking a wrong
van de Universiteit Gent
Save Ethnic Arts Gent.
Sign the petition!
You can also write the teachers at
Faculteit Letteren & Wijsbegeerte
tav. de docenten Etnische Kunst
The Ghent University has chosen to stop teaching ethnic arts to her art
students. Ethnic arts not only include the arts of Africa, Oceania and the
Americas, but also handle European folk art and the developments in modern art
around the world.
More importantly, the Master in Ethnic Arts at the Ghent University is unique
in Europe. To cancel this option will mean a great loss for the University and
art studies in general. Don't let the Ethnic Arts Students and Museum disappear.
This beautiful museum will close if you don't react and the students will be
without teachers, and will have to choose another direction, click on the image
below and sign the petition. Don't forget to put a comment and mention if you
have some activity in the Ethnic field.
Hope this will help,
Geachte Heer Rector Van Cauwenberge,
Als eigenaar van www.african-antiques.com een Belgische website over Afrikaanse
kunst met 6000 bezoekers per week sta ik versteld dat jullie er zelf aan durven
denken de afdeling Ethnische kunst te sluiten !
Terwijl de Ethnische kunsten hoge topen bereiken op veiling; nog net werd een
Benin hoofd in New York voor 4.5 millioen dollars verkocht.
En in Frankrijk en buitenland tientallen museums hun deuren openen voor
Ethnische kunsten die in hun kelders verstopt waren en nieuwe Ethnische kunst
afdelingen opstarten (bv. Tropenmuseum in Amsterdam openden net terug hun Afrika
afdeling). Er zijn er ook twee spiksplinter nieuwe museums in de steigers in
Frankrijk (miljoenen euros projecten zoals Musée des Confluences in Lyon )
nadat de museum van de Quai Branly 1 millioen bezoekers per jaar aantrekt sinds
zijn opening vorig jaar.
Ik zie ook dat beurzen met Etnische kunsten meer en meer bezoekers en
deeelnemers aantrekt wat ook voor werkgelegenheid kan zorgen voor studenten die
deze richting zouden kiezen. Volgende week zullen er meer dan 150 handelaren hun
waren tonen in Brussel . De laatste jaren werden er ook nieuwe Ethnische beurzen
geopend in Nederland ( Exota, en de Duif) en in Duitsland door de stijgende
Daarom kan ik niet snapen dat jullie deze afdeling zouden sluiten, mijns inzien.
Studenten moeten wel naast Nederlands liefst ook de Engelse en Franse taal
spreken om een internationale carriere te kunnen bouwen, maar afgestudeerden
zullen zeker hun weg vinden, werk genoeg.
Date: Tue, 12 Jun 2007
From: Annemieke Van Damme <vdammie @hotmail.com>
Dear Sir, Madam,
No doubt, you will already have heard about the
planned closure of the section Ethnic Art at the
Department of Art Sciences (University Ghent).
We sincerely hope you could support us in trying
to go against this decision. You could do this by
signing the petition list of the students :
the English link can be found at:
or by sending the letter in annexe (at the end
of this page) whilst, at the same time, stating
your function as well as your institution. This
letter should be forwarded to:
The Rector of the University,
Prof. dr. Paul Van Cauwenberge
Rectoraat van de Universiteit
It goes without saying that you are free to
compose and send your own letter to the rector.
In the meantime, we would find it most agreeable
if you could forward this mail to sundry
specialists in the field who would support our
Many thanks in advance.
The lecturers in Ethnic Art
Dr. Geert Gabriël Bourgois
Dr. Annemieke Van Damme
Dr. Wilfried Van Damme
Dr. Pauline Van der Zee
Letter to be forwarded:
The unsettling news has reached me concerning the
impending closure of the section Ethnic Art at
the Department of Art Sciences within the
If anything, your university is known for the
fact that at world level she has been the second
institution within the world - and the first in
Europe, to boot - to have had this speciality on
the programme. Quite a few renowned art
historians - employed at Belgian, as well as
foreign museums and scientific institutions -
have, over the years, received a sound and
thorough training at this institution.
We sincerely question how a renowned tradition of
nearly 70 years and one that has been built on
the legacy of the renowned Prof. dr. Frans
Olbrechts can be finished in such a way. Indeed;
within this era of globalisation art is one of
the aspects through which we can in fact
highlight the values of non-western cultures.
With the present letter, I would therefore beg of
you to reconsider the planned demise of this
unique section at the Department of Art Sciences
at your university.
Many thanks already in advance.
Some information about the Section Ethnic Art:
The Ethnic Arts department of the University of
Ghent focuses on the study of the art of
non-Western cultures. The approach of the
department is relatively rare in the fact that it
combines art history, ethnography and
anthropology and molds it into one comprehensive
study. It is also the only seminar in the Low
Countries to offer a fully developed program to
graduate students. The department has a
long-established history that dates back to 1936
when Prof. Dr. F.M. Olbrechts founded the
'Seminar of Ethnology'.
It was Prof. Olbrechts who developed the
so-called 'Belgian Method'. The method implies a
thoughtful approach of the artifact, and focuses
on the correlation between the object and its
context. There's an emphasis on the aesthetic
aspect of objects and they are considered as real
works of art, rather than as cultural phenomena.
The aim of the department is to provide students
with a theoretical framework while linking this
to the methodology of ethnographical research.
Another aspect of the seminar is its focus on
museology. The University of Ghent has a
collection of approximately 4000 ethnographical
objects. Also the museum was founded by Prof.
Most of the artifacts were acquired between 1905
and 1939 and some of the pieces are truly unique.
They are on display in a former cloister in the
historical centre of Ghent, together with other
objects from the collection. The seminar also
possesses about almost 6000 books and a number of
topic-related journals. It is probably the most
extensive library in its field in Europe and
includes publications from the last 100 years.
The department has established partnerships with
a number of museums in Belgium and the
Netherlands to give researchers and students the
opportunity to use the resources. Jan Vansina,
Daniel Biebuyck, Frank Herreman, Jan Debbauts and
Costa Petridis are just a few of the
internationally known scholars that are linked to
the seminar. Various staff members of
ethnographic museums were also educated at the
University of Ghent.
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