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Our world is full of colour, but do all cultures see it in the same way? While the scientific basis for perception is identical for everyone, light waves can’t really explain how we name our impressions of colour, the number (and kind) of categories we divide these colours into, or the meanings and associations we ascribe to them. These can sometimes differ enormously depending on the language and culture involved.

It all means that colour is not necessarily universal. As an example, the meaning of the Japanese word ao is not identical to the English term blue. This is also the case with midori, which is quite distinct from green. Thus, Japanese poetry can absolutely describe a “green sky” and “blue grass” – the European way of seeing things is turned upside down.

With around 200 exhibits from the collections of the Weltkulturen Museum, including objects from New Guinea, Polynesia, the Amazon region, East Africa, Tibet and Java, the exhibition examines the wide range of contextual meanings for colour as a cultural phenomenon.

A central theme in this exhibition addresses the diverse cultural concepts associated with colour, because colour codes worlds: colours are often associated with manifold social and cosmological notions that help people find their way in the world, making sense of it and regulating how they live with each other. Exploring the meanings of the different understandings of colour means viewing cultural relationships in a new light, which in turn allows us to discover other worldviews.

We are very pleased to invite you to a 360° tour of the exhibition. Look around, there is a lot to discover!