Short Portrait: Brigitte Menzel

Brigitte Menzel
Brigitte Menzel

Brigitte Menzel was born in Berlin in 1930. She finished secondary school in 1949 and planned to study Anthropology and Art History. Due to the difficult economic situation of her family after World War II she first did an agricultural apprenticeship. Eventually she was able to take up her self-financed studies at the newly founded Free University in Berlin in 1950/51.

After two semesters Menzel moved to Hamburg, where she studied Anthropology (major), German Ethnology and Phonetics (minos). She graduated in Hamburg with Termer on Deformierender Geschichtsschmuck bei Naturvölkern in Süd-Amerika. After graduation Menzel returned to Berlin, where she worked as a volunteer at the Ethnological Museum (formerly: Staatliches Museum für Völkerkunde) from 1957 onward. Two years later she took up an assistant position at the Department for Africa at the very museum.

Throughout the following years Menzel focussed on documenting and publishing the departments ethnographic collections such as its Western African textiles. She furthermore established a chield-orientated section at the museum as well as a section for blind people. Menzel also lectured at the Institute of Social and Cultural Anthropology of the Free University in Berlin.

Moreover, Menzel did several field researches during her career. In 1961/62 she went to Northern Nigeria with Kurt Krieger, who was head of the Department for Africa at that time. They not only collected a large number of ethnographic objects but also did visual and audio recordings. Between 1972 and 1974 Menzel did another field research, this time in Ghana.

After her return to Germany Menzel became head of the German Textile Museum in Krefeld. Moreover, she lectured at the Department of Anthropology and African Studies of the Johannes Gutenberg-University in Mainz. In 1978 Menzel left for Africa again, where she worked for several development aid projects throughout the following years.

Brigitte Menzel died in Hannover in 1998.

(Text written by Vincenz Kokot in July 2012, based on: Beer, Bettina, 2007, “Frauen in der deutschsprachigen Ethnologie”, pp. 146 - 149; photo source: Beer, Frauen in der deutschsprachigen Ethnologie.2007, pg. 148)

further informationfurther information