African countries Perspectives on Colonial History

Perspectives on Colonial History
© Johannes Ebert

Only in the last few years has Germany’s colonial past entered the public consciousness. Within the context of this information tour on colonial history, the Goethe-Institut invited various African players to attend the opening of the exhibition “German Colonialism at the Deutsches Historisches Museum in Berlin and immediately afterwards to attend a conference at the Berlin Humboldt Forum in Johannesburg.

The tour had a twofold objective. Firstly to open up the African perspective to the German dialogue partners. And conversely to discuss the colonial ideology and the critical reappraisal of it in Germany today together with representatives of the countries concerned. Here are some of the views expressed:

  • Prof. Dr. Raimi Olakunle Gbadamosi © Johannes Ebert
    “I came with the understanding that the Goethe-Institut has a fixed intention and a set programme. I would expect everyone to arrange a programme to meet the goals they have set for themselves. So I don´t necessarily think that such things are good or bad. It is up to me as the guest to ask people about the things I want to know. But I think that overall Germany is a pretty decent and liberal society, so there is scope for dissent without people getting upset. I don’t think that I was just presented with the good face of Germany.“

    Professor Raimi Olakunle Gbadamosi South Africa Head of the Department of Visual Arts University of Pretoria Johannesburg
  • Dr. Arnulf Scriba © Johannes Ebert
    “What was of particular interest to me as the curator of the “German Colonialism“ exhibition, of course, was whether we sufficiently included African perspectives. What could we have done differently? A what is missing in the exhibition? The Goethe-Institut and the Federal Foreign Office made it possible for our guest curator Flower Manase of the National Museum in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, to come to us at the beginning of the year and to collaborate on the concept and realisation of the exhibition. So it is very much to be welcomed if as many Africans as possible now visit this exhibition at the Deutsches Historisches Museum and enrich it with their views and criticism.“

    Dr. Arnulf Scriba, Head of Department Deutsches Historisches Museum and Curator of the “German Colonialism” exhibition
  • Olufemi Akinsanya © Johannes Ebert
    “Colonialism is a very emotional subject and we cannot undo what has been done. But the Germans’ determination to be open and to admit that they played a major part in colonialism is a step in the right direction. All that is possible now is to learn from the past and hope that people will re-engage with Africa in a different way. My personal suggestion is to shift the focus. If you asked me what the main impact of colonialism in Africa was, I would say it largely undermined indigenous cultures and practices because Western civilisation was considered to be superior. So a remedy, in my opinion, would be to engage with Africans and assist them in reinvigorating indigenous cultures, for example by documenting the languages, through interest in our traditional foods etc. That would be very valuable.”

    Mr. Olufemi Akinsanya Nigeria, Director Femi Akinsanya African Art Collection Lagos