University of Oulu

Kaisa Harju (2018) Mission, Relationships and Agendas Embodied in Objects : Formation of the Karl Emil Liljeblad Collection of Ovamboland (1900–1932). Nordic Journal of African Studies 27(1): 1-26.

Mission, relationships and agendas embodied in objects : formation of the Karl Emil Liljeblad collection of Ovamboland (1900–1932)

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Author: Harju, Kaisa1
Organizations: 1History of Science and Ideas, PO Box 1000, 90014 University of Oulu
Format: article
Version: published version
Access: open
Online Access: PDF Full Text (PDF, 0.5 MB)
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Language: English
Published: Nordic Association of African Studies, 2018
Publish Date: 2018-10-30


Colonial encounters in the late 19th and early 20th century increased European interest in African ethnographic objects. Among the most efficient collectors were missionaries, who already had well-established contact with people whose material culture was then acquired for museums, academia, and private collections. However, missionaries could hardly dictate the content of their ethnographic collections, coproduced as they were by the Africans who donated and sold them the artefacts, or acted as cultural brokers in this process. Based on this premise, my paper investigates how the Karl Emil Liljeblad collection came about. To this day it remains one of the largest missionary collections in Finland of material belonging to the Ovambo culture from Northern Namibia. The article asks, how the differing agendas of the Ovambo and Finnish missionary-ethnographer, Karl Emil Liljeblad, affected what was actually collected. This study is based on the historical analysis and comparison of artefacts in the Liljeblad collection in conjunction with Liljeblad’s letters, diaries, and ethnographic manuscript. It concludes that the collection was determined by both the status and interests of Liljeblad, as well as the decisions, motives, and customs of the Ovambo.

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Series: Nordic journal of African studies
ISSN: 1235-4481
ISSN-E: 1459-9465
ISSN-L: 1235-4481
Volume: 27
Issue: 1
Pages: 1 - 26
Type of Publication: A1 Journal article – refereed
Field of Science: 615 History and archaeology
Copyright information: © Nordic Africa Research Network. Published in this repository with the kind permission of the publisher.