This online exhibition invites you to follow the journey of green tea from China to West Africa. It introduces you to the rich West African tea culture, particularly in the Sahel countries, to its history, material culture, ceremony and meanings, and above all to its colourfully-designed tea packages.
The main body of the exhibition presents a growing collection of 210 tea packages that the anthropologist Ute Röschenthaler assembled from different West African markets and beyond. The majority of the tea packages is from Bamako, Mali’s capital, which is at the same time a vibrant centre of tea distribution. Other packages were collected in adjacent African countries such as Niger, Senegal, Burkina Faso, and in countries further away such as Cameroon to where Malian migrants have travelled. Some of the packages appear to look the same but often small details differ and provide evidence about the packages’ individual history, of copying and counterfeiting.
The idea for a collection of tea packages goes back to a research trip by Ute Röschenthaler to Mali in 2005. In Bamako, everywhere, at all times of the day, groups of people were sitting together, discussing and chatting, while one of them took all the time he needed to prepare the beverage. Tea had become like a national drink. The tea they consumed was green tea from China, supplied in small colourful packages of 25g.
On Bamako’s market many such tea packages were found in 2005 and in the following years their number constantly increased. That was the beginning of this collection, which subsequently was supplemented by packages from other West and Central African countries. The collection of tea packages has been presented from 7 February – 25 April 2019 at the Schule des Sehens, Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz, Germany, in an exhibition that was created together with students from the department of Anthropology and African Studies. We felt that the exhibition was important and ought to be constantly supplemented and given a permanent form that was not necessarily based on a physical structure.
The virtual green tea museum intends to share this fascinating tea culture with a wider public. It is a non-commercial project. We would like to encourage you to include your own images to enrich this online exhibition. If you have acquired such tea packages yourself, they might help to supplement the collection and make it more valuable. If you want to share your images of green tea packages, and other information, please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org
The realization if this online museum project has been supported by the project “Africa’s Asian Options” (AFRASO), Goethe University Frankfurt, funded by the Federal Ministry of Education and Research, and the Schule des Sehens, Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz, where some of the materials have been exhibited.
Many people have already contributed to this collection: Hauke Dorsch, Bono Armand, Birama Diakon, Kristin Kastner, Madou S. Keita, Gabriel Klaeger, Kathrin Knodel, Bärbel Küster, Afra Schmitz, Abdoulaye Sounaye, Soumaila Coulibaly.
The web design of the virtual museum was accomplished by Clement Manyo Takang.