Photo: Camille Baker

The Sound of a City Exhibit Makes Waves in Berlin

The New Orleans music scene is getting an extra special spotlight through an art exhibit featuring OffBeat in Berlin.

Going on through April 26th in Berlin, a month-long exhibit called “New Orleans: The Sound of a City” celebrates the music and culture of one of America’s most wonderfully idiosyncratic places.

Photo: Camille Blake

Photo: Camille Blake

The collection is housed at Station, a 19th century railway-station-turned-events-center, and combines education and entertainment.

It features over 5,000 square feet of photographs, Mardi Gras Indian suits, voodoo displays, musical instruments, interviews, film and sound clips, and other cultural artifacts.

OffBeat was showcased as well, with a display of magazine covers from over the years.

After putting together a successful exhibit about the city of Memphis back in 2012, curators Clemens Gubernath and John Gubernath decided the time was ripe to share New Orleans’ culture and history with the people of Germany.

According to Historic New Orleans Collection (HNOC) Deputy Director Daniel Hammer, who expressed his support for Gubernath’s project in a letter last April, Germany is “a country with which New Orleans shares long-standing and important cultural and historical ties, even if these ties are largely underappreciated in the contemporary discourse.”

Photo: Camille Blake

Photo: Camille Blake

Waiving the usual fees, Hammer allowed Gubernath to examine and reproduce the works of documentary photographer Michael P. Smith for display in Berlin. Smith’s archive has been housed in the Historic New Orleans Collection since his death in 2008, and he’s widely considered one of the most important documenters of late 20th century African American culture in New Orleans.

The US Embassy lent financial support for components of the exhibit, and NOJO and the Jazz and Heritage Foundation have gotten behind the project as well.

The opening reception took place on March 26th and was attended by Big Freedia, Glen David Andrews, Chief Shaka Zulu, Daniel Hammer, US Ambassador to Germany John B. Emerson and his wife Kimberly Emerson, Undersecretary of Berlin Culture Tim Renner, and others.

Andrews played and sang Basin Street Blues a capella, and Shaka Zulu initiated an awkward, hilarious call-and-response chant with an audience full of German press people.

Andrews and Shaka Zulu returned on the 28th to give, respectively, a trombone performance and a lecture on Mardi Gras Indian culture.

Gubernath characterized the exhibition as a huge success so far, noting that it attracted over 700 people the first weekend.

  • Hudson M

    I am proud to be a part of this affair by allowing clips to be used from my videotaped performance of Longhair at Jazzfest in Congo Square..

  • Miranda Hoobs

    One of the WORST exhibitions I’ve ever seen. Bad formulation of texts, superficial expression, tasteless exhibition design, bad lighting, commercial…Just a waste of time and money.

    • janramsey

      So you don’t think it was worth it to do this in Germany?

      • Miranda Hoobs

        No, definitely not. Such an interesting city with such a rich culture couldn’t have been presented worse.

    • Clemens Gubernath

      Dear Miranda,

      We are really sorry to hear, that you did not enjoy our exhibit. The exhibition is done in close cooperation with New Orleans’ main cultural institutions and was carefully prepared to offer an authentic presentation of New Orleans’ rich culture and history. The combination of attractive exhibition design and informative contents was very well received by the German press and the more than 1,500 visitors during the first week.

      Clemens Gubernath, Curator “New Orleans – The Sound of a City”