Armenians, Ezids and Kurds in Karl May and how they see themselves

A cultural-historical exhibition by Dr. Thomas Kramer

23.9.2023 – 7.1.2024

ZAK – Centre for Contemporary Art


Karl May (1842-1912) is still the most successful German-language author. His complete works (“Winnetou”, “Durch die Wüste” and many others) have a print run of well over 100 million books, which have been translated into more than 40 languages and made into films.

Against the background of current developments, the exhibition puts the topicality of his Oriental narratives up for discussion. Armenian, Yezidi and Kurdish teams create their own exhibition chapters. For the first time ever, the reality of the lives of the people described in May’s works will be portrayed by today’s communities on the basis of spectacular and in some cases never-before-seen exhibits. Many of the ethnic groups and religious communities described in novels such as “Durchs wilde Kurdistan” (1892) are victims of terror and oppression in their regions of origin. As part of our society, they are often confronted with populism and xenophobia.

Using contemporary books, maps and documents (including first editions), the content and historical setting of May’s novels will be presented, critically examined and compared with the situation of people in the Middle East and Germany today.


To the digital exhibition catalogue click here.


Curated by Dr Thomas Kramer
(Current publication: Karl May im Kreuzfeuer, 2023, 168 pages, Evangelische Verlagsanstalt Leipzig)


Fig.: Cover Karl May Durchs wilde Kurdistan (Grafik carl Lindeberg), Karl-May-Verlag, Bamberg /Radebeul 1962. © Karl May Verlag Bamberg Radebeul


Abbildung Buchcover Karl May