The world in a room. Precious evidence of extra-European cultures from the collections of the University of Turin is the exhibition, curated by Cecilia Pennacini, which exhibits a selection of objects from the MAET - Museum of Anthropology and Ethnography of the University of Turin. Works that evoke some crucial moments in the history of the world: the discovery, colonization and evangelization of indigenous societies, violence and exploitation, but also the encounter between different cultures and the emergence of new global scenarios.
At the center of the exhibition are two Zemí, ancient sacred idols dating back to the 13th and 15th centuries, belonging to the Taíno people who welcomed Christopher Columbus to the island he called Hispaniola, now divided between Haiti and the Dominican Republic. Used in rituals, the Zemís were made in different shapes and materials. The exhibition displays one example carved in wood and one made of cotton. The Zemì made of cotton is unique in the world of its kind. The find was purchased by the Italian Consul Giovan Battista Cambiaso, a Genoese merchant who played an important role in the history of the Dominican Republic. The work was sent to Italy before 1902.
The second section of the exhibition presents the ancient civilizations of sub-Saharan Africa represented by a choice of Congolese statuettes and artifacts acquired in the colonial context, marked by violence and abuse, but also by the discovery of extraordinary artistic traditions that have contributed to renew the contemporary art, from Picasso onwards.
Then there is a third section of ornaments, diadems and ceremonial weapons of the Bororo, a population of the Mato Grosso region in Brazil, decorated with brightly colored feathers, testimony of an extraordinary artistic tradition which, in the words of Claude Lévi-Strauss, draws “With passionate tenderness for the forms, substances and colors of life”. Collected by missionaries, these objects also evoke the profound changes triggered by evangelization.