"Die Eskimotragödie" (memento mori)

Stefan Lenhart

18 Feb 15

Academy of Fine Arts, urban space and Old South Cemetery

Photograph of a procession on Akademiestraße with residential buildings in the background. Some of the procession participants are dressed in historical mourning clothes, consisting of a black coat, black trousers and black hats. At the front is a band with various instruments playing historical funeral marches during the procession.

"Die Eskimotragödie" (memento mori), 2015 © Foto: Cultural Department LH München

On Ash Wednesday 2015, artist Stefan Lenhart commemorates the so-called “Eskimo tragedy” of 1881 with a performative restaging of the historic funeral march.

On Ash Wednesday, 18 February 2015, artist Stefan Lenhart is organising a funeral procession through the city centre to the Old South Cemetery. The procession commemorates the so-called “Eskimotragödie” (“Eskimo tragedy”) (sic) of 18 February 1881, when nine students of the Academy of Fine Arts died at a carnival party in Kil’s Colosseum, Munich’s largest amusement palace at the time, near Hans-Sachs-Strasse. Dressed in Inuit costumes, they burned to death when their disguises caught fire.

With a performative re-enactment, Stefan Lenhart commemorates this fateful event in Munich over a 140 years ago. The procession starts at the Academy of Fine Arts, goes along Ludwigstrasse to Kolosseumstrasse and from there through the Old South Cemetery to the grave of the students who died in the accident. A ten-piece band leads the procession, playing historical funeral marches. The band is accompanied by nine students from the Academy of Fine Arts in Munich, representing those who died in the accident. The costumes of both the band and the students are historically based on funeral processions of the 1880s and were selected and designed by Stefan Lenhart. ‘Atelier La Silhouette’, a dressmaking workshop that provides training to women from disadvantaged backgrounds, made the clothes for all the participants in the funeral procession.

Art historian Dr Daniela Stöppel remembers the “Eskimotragödie” at the old chestnut tree at Hans-Sachs-Strasse 5, the site of the historic Kil’s Colosseum. Rainer Maria Schießler, the parish priest of St Maximilian, will later deliver a eulogy at the Old South Cemetery at the grave of the students who died in the 1881 accident.

Stefan Lenhart, born in Munich in 1969, lives and works in Munich.


Academy of Fine Arts, urban space and Old South Cemetery