What can we do to make everybody happy? How should we arrange the state so that all its citizens are content? Is it easy to govern a state? These are the questions posed by Matt, protagonist of the book "King Matt the First" by Janusz Korczak.
- 9 November 2018 - 1 July 2019
We invite children and adults to a meeting with the 10-year old king, which will surely prove to be an unforgettable adventure. Together, we will seek answers to the questions concerning the labour of governing a state. Thanks to fairy tale-like illustrations by Iwona Chmielewska, we will enter the world of Korczak’s novel. We will “put on the shoes” of the little king who has to take the throne and arrange anew a war-torn country, experiencing various trials and tribulations in the process.
More about the exhibition >>
On the 100th anniversary of Poland regaining independence we wish to help children understand the role of citizens in building a state, and to make them realise that they too can make an impact. That is why an attractive space of creative action awaits our visitors. Thanks to numerous games and activities that stimulate imagination—a voting machine, a kaleidoscope or scales to weigh a state budget—we will ponder questions such as: what is power, is it ok to share it, what are reforms about, how much they cost and do they always prove effective?
In the last section of the exhibition we give the floor to children. Artist Iza Rutkowska invited them to talk about who looks after the state, and created a unique installation with them.
The exhibition In King Matt’s Poland: the 100th Anniversary of Regaining Independence deals with issues that are most vital and concern each and one of us. It provides a space for intergenerational debate, individual discoveries and for gaining experience through action.
Many cultural and artistic events for children and adults, as well as an educational program addressed to nurseries, schools and teachers, have been organized for the duration of the exhibition.
The exhibition is accompanied by a catalogue addressed to adults and comprising essays devoted to the subjects touched upon in the exposition: challenges involved in rebuilding the Second Polish Republic, Janusz Korczak’s ideas and their implementation, contemporary civic education.
Together with the Wolno publishing house, POLIN Museum produced an art book for children titled It Is So Hard to Be a King, based on the illustrations by Iwona Chmielewska, and inspired by Janusz Korczak’s novel King Matt the First.
Curators: Anna Czerwińska, Tamara Sztyma
About Janusz Korczak >>
Janusz Korczak was a social activist, pedagogue, philosopher of children and childhood, and children’s rights advocate. He spent his whole life pondering over how to make the world a better place, and how to build a just and self-governing community based on democracy and active citizenship. He belonged to the milieu of well-educated Polish Jews who were equally engaged in Polish and Jewish cultures, and who drew the concept of an open, tolerant society from that very fact.
After the First World War, which he had spent in medical service on the Eastern front, Korczak returned to Warsaw and continued to work in the orphaned children’s homes: Dom Sierot [Children’s Home] and Nasz Dom [Our Home]. There, together with his colleagues, he strove to put his progressive social and pedagogical ideas into practice, mainly by introducing democratic rules and providing the children with necessary tools: self-government, peer court, and their own newspaper.
After the outbreak of the Second World War he continued to run his Children’s Home together with Stefania Wilczyńska. They put all their efforts in providing the children with the best conditions possible in the given circumstances, and in protecting them from the nightmare happening behind the closed windows, in the streets of the Warsaw ghetto. In early August 1942, during the great Aktion launched by the Germans with the aim of liquidating the ghetto, Korczak, Wilczyńska and the children were deported to the extermination camp in Treblinka where they all perished
Photo of Janusz Korczak was made by twenty-year-old Hanna Rotwandówna [Rudniańska], Mężenin-by-the-Bug, in the 1930s. Collection of Joanna Rudniańska-Zalejska
King Matt the First >>
King Matt the First is one of the most important children books written by Janusz Korczak. It was first published in 1923. Korczak wrote it in the years immediately following the end of World War One, while independent Poland was being rebuilt. He aimed to demonstrate to children the mechanisms of governing, and the great responsibility it involves. The book’s protagonist, a ten-year old boy, takes to the throne after his father’s death. He has to organize the war torn country anew, and to work out what the reforms, the parliamentary system and building a social order really entail.