With entering the realm of a museum, non-Western objects have become ethnologised objects, which means autonomous objects to be considered from a Western scholarly perspective — no matter what their initial purpose had been; no matter if they were intended to be conserved at all. As artworks, collected objects have been emptied of their practical value and have been undergoing a process of abstraction: They have been cleaned from the body to which they must be connected to function and to be complete. If we want to fully recognize their identity, objects have to be reattached to the body, they must be given back their material performance in interaction with the body. This is most clear for musical instruments that always seem muted and amputated when being exposed in a vitrine; but when we dismiss our Western habits of viewing and valuating, we understand that it affects any collected object, be it an unfamiliar string instrument, a mug or a bracelet.
As an extension of the performer’s body, one has to link the objects from ethnographic collections also to the social body of the group they had been taken from. The present corpus of research tries to follow the traces the disappearance of objects has left, and to explore the strategies of repair. By acknowledging the social role of an object, its practical, mythical or authoritative power, we not only comprehend the full meaning of an object, but it will help us to clear cultural misunderstandings that still live on long time after the heyday of colonialism.