The Ainu, the Górals and Bronisław Piłsudski

18.10.2018 - 20.01.2019

Exhibition script and design: dr Anna Król Printed matter issued in connection with the exhibition: Rafał Sosin
Bronisław Piłsudski is “one of the most often quoted of all Polish scholars, and his legacy is treated as one of the two-three most important scholarly outputs in the humanities on a global scale among those deriving from Poland over the last hundred years”.
Alfred F. Majewicz, 2015

“The Ainu, the Górals and Bronisław Piłsudski” is an exhibition dedicated to Bronisław Piłsudski (1866–1918), a fervent patriot and a researcher of the aboriginal cultures of Sakhalin and Hokkaido, and that of the Sub-Tatran Górals, on the centennial of his death and the hundredth anniversary of Poland’s regained independence. It takes a closer look at the phenomenon of this extraordinary man, exile, accidental ethnographer, and museologist, by showcasing a considerable portion of his visual legacy: photographs immortalizing the Ainu and their customs, objects they used in their everyday life in the Nibutani-Biratori district on Hokkaido, where Piłsudski conducted his research and assembled his collection, and also a considerable quantity of his ethnographic material pertaining to the Górals, from the Tatra Museum in Zakopane. These are traces left by two “perishing cultures” which, despite existing in dissimilar spaces and conditions, seem close to each other. Piłsudski noticed the uniqueness, the primal quality, of both these cultures. And above all he saw human beings (ainu) in those who created them.

“The whole 18 years and more of my sojourn in the Far East was involuntary. Constantly longing to return to my native land, I strove as much as I could to get rid of the painful feeling that I was an exile, in bondage and torn from all that was dearest to me. I therefore naturally felt attracted towards the natives of Saghalien, who alone had a true affection for that country, their immemorial dwelling-place, detested by those who formed the penal colony there. When in contact with these children of nature whom the invasion of an utterly different form of civilization had bewildered, I knew that I possessed some power and helpfulness, even though deprived of every right, and during the worst years of my existence. […] I have felt deep pleasure in conversing with men of another race in their own language.”
Bronisław Piłsudski, 1912

“I insist on hastening the collection of specimens of a declining, perishing culture; in my direct contacts with the local people I see how fast a great many valuable things are being lost”.
Bronisław Piłsudski

The works in the exhibition have been loaned by private collectors (London, Zakopane), Stefan Okołowicz, the National Archives in Kraków, the Library of the Polish Academy of Learning (PAU) and the Polish Academy of Sciences (PAN) in Kraków, the Józef Piłsudski Family Foundation, the Nibutani Ainu Culture Museum in Biratori, Japan, the Dr Tytus Chałubiński Tatra Museum in Zakopane, and the Department of Anthropology at the Institute of Zoology and Biomedical Research, Jagiellonian University in Kraków.

Exhibition financed by the Ministry of Culture and National Heritage of the Republic of Poland as part of Multi-annual Programme „Niepodległa” 2017-2021.

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