Mother and Child

The origins of the Museum of Cultures (Museum der Kulturen) in Basel date back to 1849, when Basel had one of the first ethnographic collections accessible to the public in Europe and the world. This year, the cathedral (das Münster) celebrates its millennial history. The cathedral and the museum are neighbours and the new exhibition Mother and Child (Mutter und Kind) in the museum is the result of a common theme: Mary and her Child Jesus. The museum shows the relationship between mother and child in every culture on the five continents. Are motherhood and the relationship universal? The exhibition does not answer this question, but shows how mother and child are portrayed in many ways in art, myths and stories. The relationship in the first part of the exhibition is divinely marked, the images of Mary (Maria lactans) and her ancient predecessors (Isis and Horus for example) or, for example, Mother Earth as a (pregnant) woman in Peru. In the second part, the exhibition shows the relationship embedded in social systems. A third part deals with the themes of pregnancy, birth, childbirth and breastfeeding. They have a different meaning in each culture. In the fourth part, ideal and reality are juxtaposed and contrasted: the extended family, the foster father, the one-child policy, the single mother, divorce, the foster child, same-sex parenthood and other (modern) themes. From this perspective, the exhibition presents numerous exceptional works of art from five continents and leaves the conclusions to the visitor.