The project “Who’s Talking?”


 © Li Shasha


Still from Jessica Nupens production. Performer: Caroline Nkwe © KOLK 17


@ Compagnie NAMA


 © Irina Demina


© Karsten Wiesel


© Çağlar Yiğitoğulları

Who's Talking? Plakat KOLK 17

Exhibition Who’s Talking?

Six Artistic Views On The Collection KOLK 17


The digital exhibition “Who’s Talking?” can now be visited on the external exhibition website. During the autumn season 2021 supplementary programmes to the exhibition will be shown on a digital stage.

The Project “Who’s Talking?” Changing perspectives of provenance

From the ‘puppet-worlds’ council of elders…to the cleaning out of colonial era storage cupboards…to the visit of a remorseful dictator. The project “Who’s Talking – Changing Perspectives of Provenance” opens the doors to an artistic exploration of the KOLK17 collection. Six artists of African, Asian and European descent turn their focus to the collection and develop their own opinion to puppets they themselves have chosen. The resulting artworks will be exhibited in a virtual exhibition. The recurring question however, is: Who is talking?

Creating knowledge without revealing secrets

Eine Hand erforscht den Kopf einer Puppe

Photo: KOLK 17

The KOLK 17 collection comprises over 20,000 exhibits from Europe, Asia and Africa and thus contains many stories and secrets. The question of where individual figures travelled from and what stations they  passed through until they found their way into the museum cannot be definitively answered in many cases.

If and when answers are found, what might the consequences be and for whom?

Parallel to the artistic debate, scientists are brought in to fill some of the gaps in our knowledge with their expertise. The question of the cultural context from which the various puppets originally emerged plays an essential role. Comprising of much more than just the place of origin: the nature in which the puppets were played; the stories that were told with them, as well as their function are all important aspects which, if possible should be included.

Some of the invited artists will deal with exhibits from their own countries, others will make suggestions for artistic approaches to the non-European part of the collection. The result will be six artistic contributions in video format from different perspectives – a diversity of voices that, hopefully will shine light where until now was darkness.

A knowledge that unearths secrets without revealing them.

The project is funded by the Foundation for Performing Arts with funds from the Federal Government Commissioner for Culture and the Media as part of the NEUSTART KULTUR – #TakeNote funding programme.

Fonds darstellende Künste take note

who is TALKING?

Symposium “Who’s Talking? On
Performing Objects and Their Voices”
31st July 2021

Exhibition opening
and symposium from
July 30th – August 1st, 2021

the act of talking

Among the artists involved, there are different approaches as to the definition of speaking.  However all concerned agree on one thing: there is more to the act of speaking than just the use of verbal language. A dance, a work of art, the movement of a marionette – these are all forms of speech.

For “Who’s talking?” these forms of speaking are significant. Just as important as the question of WHO is talking is the question of HOW. To speak verbally about a character whose story of origin is obscure is primarily speculation. Translating this speculation into artistic media such as dance or performance opens up new areas of knowledge.

To communicate artistically can mean to work organically rather than methodically. Nevertheless, each work of art represents its own truth. With luck, this will give rise to new ideas and insights – provided that the scientific side is not ignored in the process. That is why the project unites both approaches under a common theme: changing perspectives of provenance.

WHO is talking?

There are countless ways to make art speak: some artists work conceptually, others intuitively; some attach importance to a political message, while others communicate through poetry. In “Who’s talking?”, two choreographers, a performance artist and three puppeteers represent different approaches.

Not only artistic voices will have their say in “Who’s Talking? Several scientists will also enrich the project with their perspective. Their expertise will complement the artist’s knowledge and manifest itself with the help of various materials and their specific mode of application. The international contributions will be presented at a symposium on the opening weekend, making possible an engaging dialogue between the camps of the artistic and the scientific.

The process of “Who’s Talking” on the Blog


In 2020, we gave you the virtual exhibition “Colonialism and Puppet Theatre. Untangling the Threads” in which we traced the path of a number of non-European artefacts from the puppet or object in their original setting to their place as an object in the museum. During this process, the topic of (post) colonialism was raised and the museum’s own exhibition practice was critically reflected upon.

The question of ‘who is talking’ about the exhibits and the intrinsic potential to create new, possibly distorted meanings, was already negotiated here to an extent. The project “Who’s Talking?” can therefore also be considered as the second part of an exhibition-series dealing with the responsibility that an extensive collection of non-European objects brings with it.

While Part 1 is essentially based on the research conducted by the museum’s academic staff, Part 2 now opens up a field for alternative, creative forms of knowledge production. This process of artistic research functions according to other laws, allowing for associative approaches and enables narration without the revision of object biographies.

Nevertheless, it raises questions about appropriation and agency.  At a symposium in the summer, these and other aspects of the topic will be addressed by international scholars. The long-term goal of the project is to build an international network for a mutual transfer of knowledge between puppetry and the study of puppet theatre.

KOLK 17 virtuelle Ausstellung
KOLK 17 virtuelle Ausstellung


Idea: Antonia Napp, Stephan Schlafke, Sonja Riehn

Concept & project lead: Antonia Napp, Stephan Schlafke

Scientific work: Sonja Riehn

Artistic work: Markus Posse

Artists (in alphabetical order): Irina Demina, Momo Ekissi, Shasha Li, Yacouba Magassouba, Jessica Nupen, Çağlar Yiğitoğulları

Scientists: Robin Ruizendaal, René Reith

Moderatorators (symposium): Caroline Chia, Mandy Okereke

Project coordination: Markus Posse, Sonja Riehn

Contact person collection: Sonja Riehn

Contact person theater: Stephan Schlafke

Marketing & website: Charlotta Becker

Controlling: Marie-Luise Arndt

Translation: Franziska Technau, Astrid Franck, Weimin Kong, Mandy Okereke, Zhao Wei

Guest care: Julika Oberdieck

Depot assistence: Ulrike Sonnenberg, Christine Kebel

Mounting: Stephan Schlafke, Kilian Kreuzinger



Idea & concept: Antonia Napp, Markus Posse in cooperation with Irina Demina, Momo Ekissi, Shasha Li, Yacouba Magassouba, Jessica Nupen, Çağlar Yiğitoğulları

Dramaturgy: Markus Posse.

Visual design & exhibition webseite: visual intelligence Berlin, neesh Hamburg

Marketing/grafic design: Charlotta Becker, Anna Pfau



Idea & concept: Antonia Napp, Sonja Riehn

Coordination: Sonja Riehn

Technical realization: Ricarda Motschilnig, David Röthler

Marketing & website: Charlotta Becker

Interpreted: Ostasien Service GmbH Hamburg, Bohmann Übersetzungen


Puppet theatre & Museum

KOLK 17 Logo weiß

KOLK 17 gGmbH
Figurentheater & Museum

Beckergrube 38-52
23552 Lübeck

Puppet Theatre Mobile Office

Kirchhof St. Petri
23552 Lübeck

Opening Times

Mon and Sun: closed
Tue - Sat: 14:00 - 17:00

Executive Director,
Museum Director

Dr. Antonia Napp

Puppet Theatre Director

Stephan Schlafke

Media relations

Janin Thies