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“Everything Passes Except the Past”
Debate Festival on Postcolonialism

Decolonial city tour with Kalvin Soiresse Njall from the collective Mémoire coloniale et Lutte contre les Discriminations.
Decolonial city tour with Kalvin Soiresse Njall from the collective Mémoire coloniale et Lutte contre les Discriminations. | Photo (detail): © Goethe-Institut, Caroline Lessire

As part of the Goethe-Institut’s international post-colonialism project "Everything Passes Except the Past", a virtual debate festival will take place on 17 October. The art historian Bénédicte Savoy will open it with a key-note lecture. 

By Benjamin Panten and Tanya Wittal-Düerkop

Public awareness of racist violence and historical injustice is growing. Colonial monuments, ethnographic collections and film archives are not only being de-mythicised and de-glorified, but also made the focus of political and social debates. The Everything Passes Except the Past debate festival takes up such current discourses.

Considering power structures …

Bénédicte Savoy will speak about historical and present-day “amnesia” in her lecture. As her most recent research shows, the restitution of colonial collections to Africa was discussed over 40 years ago but then those talks fizzled out. They were forgotten or successfully made forgotten, which Savoy regards as the most important lesson from the European restitution debate of the past three years. In addition to Paris and Berlin, there are also entire bundles of files in administrative and press archives as well as bequests in Lagos, Dakar and Nairobi that show that the debate about colonial collections in European museums already took place in detail. They peaked between 1978 and 1982.

… designing prospects for the future

After the opening lecture by Bénédicte Savoy, activists, artists, experts, curators and scholars from Africa, Latin America and Europe will discuss the delicate subject of (neo-) colonial entanglements. The contributions highlight the challenge of decolonising ethnological museum collections, public space and film archives, and bring positions from the global north and the global south into an intensive dialogue.
Performance “Healing the Museum” with Grace Ndiritu at the Africa Museum in Tervuren. Performance “Healing the Museum” with Grace Ndiritu at the Africa Museum in Tervuren. | Photo (detail): © Goethe-Institut, Caroline Lessire

Live stream of the debates

The festival is part of the two-year international project "Everything Passes Except the Past" by the Goethe-Institut Brussels, which organised various workshops and events in Belgium, France, Portugal and Spain in 2019. During the festival, many of the participating artists and experts will present works and statements that were developed during this research period. An exhibition on the project opened in mid-September at the Fondazione Sandretto Re Rebaudengo in Turin and a publication of the results in book form is planned for October 2020.
 
The virtual debates of "Everything Passes Except the Past" will be streamed live on the project website of the Goethe-Institut Belgium on 17 October from 11:00 to 18:30 hours (CET). Registration is not required, simultaneous translation into English and Italian is available.

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