Emelihter Kihleng: Reclaiming Micronesian narratives and indigenizing spaces

Emelihter Kihleng

On May 8, 2019, a gentle but steady indigenous voice gave life to a collection of menginpeh, long tucked away in storage in MARKK, Museum am Rothenbaum World Cultures and Arts in Hamburg, Germany. This handiwork, once filled with life by the hands of our ancestors, was traded, gifted, or sometimes forcefully taken by foreigners as they came through our islands.

Over a hundred years after this colonial exchange in the Pacific in the early 1900s, a new decolonizing exchange is taking place. Micronesian scholar and poet Dr. Emelihter Kihleng is undertaking the scholarly exploration and research-based interpretation of some forms of menginpeh as well as reexamination of photographic portraits taken of Pohnpeians by Dr. Paul Hambruch, a German ethnographer.

Kihleng recently presented “Kilel oh kapwat: Revisualizing Hambruch’s Photographic Portraits,” the first of a series of lectures on the Oceania collections at the MARKK. Kihleng, proud daughter of Pohnpei to Simion and Kimberlee Kihleng, has recently been selected as the first curatorial fellow from the Pacific to work with the curatorial team at the MARKK on its Oceania collections, particularly