Gert Chesi

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Gert Chesi in the Voodoo forest.

Gert Chesi (born August 22, 1940 in Schwaz , Tyrol ) is an Austrian photographer, author and journalist.

In 1995, Chesi founded the Haus der Völker , a museum for art and ethnography, in his birthplace Schwaz , whose collection consists mainly of exhibits from Chesi's travels through Africa and Asia.

Chesi lives in Togo, Thailand and Austria.


Early years

Gert Chesi traveled to distant countries at a young age. In 1959 he worked as a freelance journalist and photographer for local newspapers. In his Tyrolean homeland he was soon seen as a lateral thinker who refused to accept nationalist tendencies. Together with Bert Breit in the 1970s , he used a photo report to point out the untenable conditions in the Tyrolean state nursing home for girls in St. Martin, Schwaz. These pictures are an early testimony to the civil society's protests against educational homes and forced upbringing in Tyrol.

Foundation of the jazz club, Studio 12 and the Hermitage Gallery

In 1958 Chesi founded the first jazz club in Western Austria, “Studio 12” in Schwaz. The local population saw the jazz club as a disreputable club in which foreigners frequented and in it an acute danger for the body and soul of the decent Tyrolean youth.

In 1963, Chesi became a freelancer for ORF and organized the “Schwazer September”, a music and art festival in Schwaz.

In 1964 the Eremitage Schwaz gallery opened . Artists such as Ernst Fuchs , Hilde Goldschmidt and Hans Staudacher exhibited here. In the following years he converted the gallery into a jazz club. From these beginnings an international forum developed in which American, Japanese, Brazilian and European jazz greats of this time performed. Together with Jup Rathgeber , Chesi was one of the pioneers of the avant-garde Schwaz art and culture scene. For example, Chick Corea , Gilberto Gil , Lester Bowie , Gerry Hemingway , Meredith Monk , Dave Holland , Art Ensemble of Chicago , George Russel , Don Moye , Dino Saluzzi and Kelvyn Bell performed in Schwaz. The Hermitage is still an integral part of the Tyrolean cultural scene and is run as a culture café and restaurant. International jazz concerts and cabaret projects take place regularly.

Start of work as an ethnographer

Albert Schweitzer with Gert Chesi, Lambaréné, 1964

In 1961 he undertook a five-month motorcycle tour that took him via Jordan to Sudan. This trip marks the beginning of his journalistic activity, which dealt with the peoples and cultures of this world. In 1964 he visited Albert Schweitzer in Lambaréné , Gabon and stayed eight months as an employee in the leper village. This was followed by publications on Lambarene and the work of Albert Schweitzer. When Schweitzer died in 1965, Chesi's photos were the most recent available recordings of Schweitzer. The Quick bought these recordings, which Chesis basis was laid for a photojournalist.

During this time he began collecting and dealing with African art. The Frankfurt Ethnographic Museum acquired 18,000 photos from this period . From 1965 Gert Chesi wrote numerous publications on art and ethnographic topics in national media and the ORF. Between 1967 and 1977 he was present in various series. In 1969 he organized exhibitions of African art, organized lecture tours in Germany, Austria and Switzerland and in the following year exhibited his photographs in national galleries and museums.

His ethnomusical sound recordings resulted in the release of the double album Black Magic . In 1975 his first illustrated book The Last Africans was published in six languages. As a result, several lectures and exhibitions took place. Among them was an exhibition of African art from the Chesi collection in the “Musee des beaux Arts” Grenoble and the Numaga Gallery Switzerland in 1977 . In the same year he published texts and images in Geo , Stern , Ambiente and scientific journals.

Research area Voodoo

In 1978 Gert Chesi devoted himself to Afro-American syncretism in West Africa, Haiti and Brazil. The illustrated book Voodoo - Africa's Secret Power was published in four languages. In 1979 several study and work trips to the Philippines and Africa followed. In addition, the band Geistheiler appeared in the Philippines in 1980 . At the same time he was working on the Togolais encyclopedia on behalf of the President. Further work trips to Africa in 1982 followed the publication of the book The Medicine of the Black Gods as well as book participation in Africa - In the spell of a continent, Colon - the black image of the white man . In 1983 the band Susanne Wenger followed - a life with the gods .


In 1984 an exhibition curated by Fred Jahn was opened in the Munich City Museum , the objects of which came from the Gert Chesi collection. In the same year the catalog “Art of the Magician” was published.

Cultural mediator

Chesi is guided by the vision of building bridges between cultures.

In 1984 he became a lecturer at the Innsbruck Technical University and taught photography at the Institute for Interior Design for ten years.

In 1986 and in the following years, various photo exhibitions took place in several international galleries and museums. A SW catalog was published for his exhibition in the “Museum of Encounter” , Schmieding . Another year later he exhibited at the Burgenland state exhibition . A color catalog was published for the exhibition “Theater of Exaggerations”. At the same time, Chesi published in various specialist journals and went on further study trips to India, Ladakh , Africa and Brazil.

In 1988 the Völkerkundemuseum Frankfurt acquired Chesis Ethno-Fotoarchiv, consisting of 20,000 pictures.

In 1991 the Africa collection was expanded. In 1992 Gert Chesi worked together with the Völkerkundemuseum Rotterdam , in 1993 several exhibitions with ethnological objects took place in numerous museums and galleries.

Images of man

In 2013 the book People Images from Other Worlds was published . This photo series was published as an exhibition project in 45 large-format photographs (85 × 125 cm) and is accompanied by an illustrated book that describes the project and the people who modeled it with explanatory texts.

Western voodoo

In 2018, Chesi shows a series of photos entitled “Western Voodoo” in France, Togo and Spain. The exhibition “Western Voodoo” presents the photographic work from Chei's work “Images of People from Other Worlds”. All of the photos on display are inspired by voodoo , including the body paintings . "Western Voodoo" combines creative European and African inspirations on an aesthetic level.

Foundation of the museum

The motivation of his activity as a collector and explorer was the desire to make the cultures of the world known, to treat their achievements with respect, to promote the free spirit and to reach as many people as possible. In 1994 the preparatory work for the House of Nations in Schwaz began. Chesi chose as the location the premises of the now abandoned Tyrolean state girls' education center St. Martin in Schwaz, whose grievances he once uncovered and documented. In 1995, in an environment where the will of young girls was broken, Chesi opened the House of Nations, which stood for tolerance and international understanding.

In the course of the opening, the book Architecture and Myth was published . ORF produced an Africa film with Chesi for the “Universum” series. In 1995 his son was born.

Exhibition concept

In his exhibition concept, Chesi deliberately chose an opulent selection of works in order to convey a holistic understanding of culture. He wants to illustrate the immeasurable wealth that humanity has produced. The objects on display span a period of 4000 years and include African masks and statues such as Asian bronzes and terracottas.

Through the eccentric, sometimes eerily familiar beauty of the pieces on display, the collection is intended to open the viewer's eyes to the achievements of the peoples of this world. The scientific part is deliberately reduced. This can be read in Chesi's numerous books.

As the founder, director and owner of the Museum Haus der Völker, Chesi showed his collection as a permanent exhibition in the following years and supplemented it with numerous special exhibitions in cooperation with international museums and collectors. Chesi also curated eight other exhibitions outside of his own company, including at the Völkerkundemuseum Hamburg.

Cultural association

In 1996 Gert Chesi founded the cultural association Haus der Völker, which was under his leadership until 2016.

Foundation of A4 Magazin

In 2005, together with Gerhard Merzeder, Chesi founded the first German-language magazine for non-European art, the A4 magazine , which was published twice a year for ten years. The Haus der Völker publishing house belonging to the museum is the publisher of this first German-language magazine that deals with non-European art and culture ( ISSN  1817-2091 ). The title of the magazine "A4" refers to the four continents, Australia, Asia, Africa and America. The editors-in-chief are Gerhard Merzeder and Gert Chesi.


In 2016 after 23 years, Gert Chesi retired as museum director. He donated his valuable collection to the city of Schwaz subject to certain framework conditions, with the aim of ensuring that the Museum der Völker and the preservation of his collection continue in his favor. The collection, which Chesi has amassed all his life, consists of around 1400 objects and a library. The value is estimated at two million euros. He continued to work as a consultant and curator for the museum, with a focus on documentary production.

In 2017 the mayor of Schwaz Hans Lintner took over the chairmanship of the cultural association Museum der Völker. The exhibition space was dismantled. The high-quality ambience of the top floor has once again become the former gym of the former girls' home. The new management redesigned the exhibition. The aim is no longer to show “exoticism at the highest level”, but rather that the local population should be able to find themselves in a cultural comparison.

Since fundamental conditions in connection with the donation were not met and Gert Chesi was excluded from the new management, he withdrew completely from the museum in 2018.

Journalistic activity

In 1997 Gert Chesi became a scientific advisor to the Museum für Völkerkunde in Hamburg and designed the annual exhibition there. A comprehensive book catalog of the House of Peoples appeared as well as an improved edition of "The Medicine of the Black Gods". Gert Chesi prepared another book on "Trance and Cults of Obsession in West Africa". He conducted study trips to Togo, Thailand, Burma and Ghana.

In 1998 Gert Chesi produced the first CD in the series The Sound of Africa (The Sound of Voodoo). The “House of Nations” took part in the “Cults, Artists, Kings” exhibitions in the Castle Museum in Linz and in the “Women's Power and Male Rule” exhibition in the Rautenstrauch-Joest Museum in Cologne. Subsequently, Chesi made several trips to China and Asia on behalf of the German-Chinese Society in order to collect the exhibits for the exhibition "2000 Years of the Silk Road" in collaboration with Ms. M. Yaldiz, director of the Museum of Asian Art (formerly the Museum of Indian Art ) in Berlin-Dahlem .

In 1999 the preparatory work for the book Voodoo in Africa took place. This is followed by the exhibition “2000 Years of African Ceramics”. On behalf of the city of Schwaz, he organized two exhibitions under the title "The Spirit of Silver" on the occasion of the 100th anniversary of the city elevation.

This is followed by the exhibitions “Textile Art of Chinese Hill Tribe” and “Buddha in Art and Myth”. A major Japanese exhibition was opened in cooperation with the Hamburg Ethnographic Museum.

In 2002 his autobiographical book with the title Africa in the Heart was published by Haymon-Verlag. A year later his volume Voodoo in Africa was published there.

In 2005 Gert Chesi moved his main residence to Togo and handed over the operative part of the House of the Nations to a newly founded cultural association.

In 2006, Prestel Verlag conceived the first comprehensive illustrated book on Nok culture with Merzeder and Chesi . An Africa film with Gert Chesi The Cradle of Voodoo was produced by ORF. From 2007 to 2010 he organized numerous exhibitions in the Haus der Völker and published various catalog articles. He also dealt again with the African traditions. In 2010 the book Afrika - Die Magier der Erde was published by Studienverlag. In 2011 his book People Images from Other Worlds was published . A series of exhibitions with the “images of man” started in January 2012 in the Rabalderhaus in Schwaz. In February 2012, Gert Chesis' photographs were exhibited at the Institute Francaise in Togo.

In 2013 Gert Chesi produced his first documentary. In the years 2013 to 2018, in addition to numerous special exhibitions in the Museum der Völker, he concentrated on the production of ethnographic documentary films relating to Indonesia, Burma, Thailand, India and several African countries.

In 2014 the “Kind und Ritual” catalog was published in collaboration with SOS Children's Villages . Children are shown in the ritual environment in India, Thailand and Togo.

In 2017 and 2018 photographic works were created, which were shown in a series of exhibitions in Togo, France, and Benin. The gallery owner Alain Fassier organized a tour entitled “Western Voodoo” , during which Chesis films were shown. Lectures and panel discussions complemented these activities.

In 2020, on the occasion of his 80th birthday on August 22nd, in cooperation with the Schwazer Kulturverein in Toni-Knapp-Haus, Chesi will present a photo exhibition from different phases of his career as a photographer.


  • In 1999 the Haus der Völker was awarded the Tyrolean Museum Prize and received the recognition award from the Austrian Federal Ministry for Art and Culture.
  • 2000 Badge of Honor from the city of Schwaz.
  • 2001 professional title professor


Western Voodoo exhibition


  • Memories of Albert Schweitzer , 2019
  • Africa in Transition , 2018
  • Indonesia , parts 1–4, 2016–2018
  • Africa - People, Myths, Traditions , 2018
  • Burma , Part 2, 2018
  • Asia in Celebration , Part 1 and 2, 2016–2017
  • Africa Connection , 2015–2017
  • Togo in the festival , 2017
  • The Colors of India , Part 2, 2017
  • Life is a game , 2017
  • The Madness of Avepozo , 2015-2016
  • The Colors of India , Part 1, 2016
  • Buddha in Bad Company , 2016
  • Chinatown - Bangkok , 2016
  • The Voodoo Diary , 2015
  • Imperial cities of Asia - Laos / Vietnam / Cambodia , 2015
  • Buddha's Disobedient Children - Part 3 , 2015
  • Imperial Cities of Asia - Laos, Vietnam, Cambodia , 2015
  • The Medicine of the Black Gods - Magic and Healing Art of Africa , Part 2, 2015
  • The Medicine of the Black Gods - Magic and Healing Art of Africa , Part 1, 2015
  • Ethiopia - A Time Travel , 2015
  • Burma - Buddha's heirs , 2015
  • Dancing shadows - puppet theater in Thailand , 2015
  • Buddha's splendor and misery , 2015
  • The Song of the Road - Part 2 , 2015
  • Artist portraits Africa , 2014
  • Buddha's Disobedient Children - Part 2 , 2014
  • The Song of the Road - Part 1 , 2014
  • Alice Mettler - My Life in Africa , 2014
  • Life and Death in Bali , 2014
  • Miao - A People in Transition , 2014
  • Made in Africa , 2014
  • Buddha's Disobedient Children , Part 1, 2014
  • Voodoo - Magician of the Earth , 2013
  • Togo in Dance , 2013
  • Mask cults in Kerala / India , 2013
  • The Story of the Ning , 2013


  • Christian Brandstätter: Gert Chesi photographs, portraits and nudes . Vienna: Landesverlag 1985.

Web links

Commons : Gert Chesi  - collection of images, videos and audio files

Individual evidence

  1. ^ Website of the Museum der Völker ( Memento of the original from April 30, 2013 in the Internet Archive ) Info: The archive link was automatically inserted and not yet checked. Please check the original and archive link according to the instructions and then remove this notice.  @1@ 2Template: Webachiv / IABot /
  2. Heimatblätter Schwazer Kulturzeitschrift, No. 32, 1995, accessed on November 3, 2018
  3. Corpus Intra Muros: A cultural history of spatially formed bodies, p.144 ff. Accessed on November 10, 2018
  4. University of Innsbruck 2015, accessed on November 9, 2018
  5. University of Innsbruck 2014, accessed on November 9, 2018
  6. University of Innsbruck 2015, accessed on November 9, 2018
  7. Heimatblätter Schwazer Kulturzeitschrift, No. 63, 2008, accessed on November 3, 2018
  8. Heimatblätter Schwazer Kulturzeitschrift, No. 43, 2000, accessed on November 9, 2018
  9. Heimatblätter Schwazer Kulturzeitschrift, No. 41, 1999, accessed on November 3, 2018
  10. Heimatblätter Schwazer Kulturzeitschrift, No. 20, 1988, accessed on November 2, 2018
  11. Austrian National Library, bequests, accessed on November 3, 2018 ( Memento of the original from April 5, 2016 in the Internet Archive ) Info: The archive link was inserted automatically and has not yet been checked. Please check the original and archive link according to the instructions and then remove this notice. @1@ 2Template: Webachiv / IABot /
  12. Lexicon Literature in Tirol, No 32, 1995, accessed on November 3, 2018
  13. Heimatblätter Schwazer Kulturzeitschrift, No. 41, 1999, accessed on November 3, 2018
  14. ^ Tiroler Landesmuseum, accessed on November 2, 2018
  15. ^ Wiener Zeitung, accessed on November 3, 2018
  16. econova Spezial Kunst 2012, pp. 16-18, accessed on November 2, 2018
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  19. ^ Groovecollector, accessed November 2, 2018
  20. Südwind Magazin, accessed on October 30, 2018
  21. TV series, accessed November 9, 2018
  22. ^ Tiroler Bezirksblätter 5 February 2012
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  24. -voodoo // Galerie Agama, accessed on November 9, 2018
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  26. Der Standard, accessed November 11, 2018
  27. Frankfurter Rundschau, accessed November 2, 2018
  28. ^ Toulouse7, accessed October 30, 2018
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  30. Tiroler Tageszeitung, accessed November 11, 2018
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  34. ^ Tiroler Bezirksblätter, accessed on November 2, 2018
  35. ^ Tiroler Bezirksblätter, accessed on November 2, 2018
  36. ^ Literatur Tirol, accessed on November 2, 2018
  37. ubuntu - SOS Children's Villages cultural initiative, accessed on November 2, 2018
  38. Toulouse7 November 2, 2018
  39. Tiroler Bezirksblätter, accessed on August 20, 2020