Conference Berlin

Conference: Echoes of the South Atlantic, Berlin

The 'Echoes of the South Atlantic' conference on 10th and 11th July 2019 in Berlin, organised by the Goethe-Institut together with the Haus der Kulturen der Welt, asks about the future of South Atlantic relations and the role that Europe can play in the future. What is the state of relations between Africa, South America and Europe today, after centuries of European hegemony and colonisation? The conference is part of the annual Wassermusik series at HKW, which this year adopts the theme, 'Black Atlantic Revisited'. Twenty-five years ago, Paul Gilroy's book The Black Atlantic was published, giving a name to a culture that is not specifically African, American, Caribbean or British, but everything at once: a Black Atlantic culture that was, at first, communicated and handed down primarily through music. The Berlin conference follows the first symposium that took place in April 2018 in Salvador de Bahia, Brazil.

Until the 15th century, the Atlantic was the clear border between Africa and Europe on the one side and America on the other. The history of crossing the Atlantic followed the well-known narrative of 'discoveries': colonisation, slavery, exploitation, migration and European prosperity. The exchange between the three continents created a cultural dynamic that fundamentally changed all three continents. What is the situation regarding the Atlantic Triangle in the 21st century? What will the cultural future of the South Atlantic look like? And what stance will Europe take towards Africa and South America, after 500 years of playing the role of the colonial hegemonic power in various guises? While the events of the past were discussed extensively by more than 70 participants at the first conference in Salvador de Bahia, Brazil, the focus in Berlin a year later will be on the present. The Berlin conference will address the question of current relations between the three continents and come up with possible scenarios for intercultural dialogue in the future.

Alongside contributions from Paul Gilroy, Felwine Sarr and Nanette Snoep, 16 artists from Africa, South America and Europe will present their projects illustrating the connections between the continents and asking questions about the cultural potential of South-South relations and the role that Europe plays, or can play, here. These include, Gabi Ngcobo, Jean-Pierre Bekolo, Elvira Dyangani Ose, Jota Mombaca and Michelle Mattiuzzi, among others. The projects take on a variety of themes, such as cultural traditions between the continents, post-colonial aesthetics in dance and performance and the sound of the South Atlantic.

Cultural specialist Paul Gilroy said about his groundbreaking book The Black Atlantic, in a conversation with the taz: "The medium of water is, on the one hand, constantly to be encountered in new mixes and combinations of elements, and, on the other hand, is a highly sustainable substance that makes up the bulk of our bodies. However, this concept of culture as a fluid was by no means intended to play off the sea against the territorial realm. Rather, I wanted to show how oceanic influences can distort the land mass."

Programme for Echoes of the South Atlantic, HKW Berlin

Conference, internal session – review and current project status

12:30- 14:00

Conference, public session – Panel talks on the projects and themes

Colonisation and the Digital

The Spectre of Colonisation

18:30- 20:00
Conference opening

Welcome address from Bernd Scherer, HKW Director, and Johannes Ebert, Secretary General of the Goethe Institute

Keynote: Paul Gilroy “The End of the Black Atlantic?”
Abstract: This presentation will ask some provocative questions about the historical arc of the Black Atlantic formation. In particular, it will interrogate the place of racial difference and racial hierarchy in the current regimes of cultural and military diplomacy and the transformation of technological and communicative relations that has attended the rise of civilisationalist thinking and the resurgence of ultranationalism and fascism. Can the residues of the Black Atlantic archive yield resources for managing this crisis?

20:15- 22:00
Dinner for conference participants
Conference, internal session – project plans 2020


Conference, public session

The New Colonisation (of the mind, thought, knowledge, education)

Afrotopia in context of Black Atlantic Revisited

Performances by Conference participants: Anita Ekman, Michelle Mattiuzzi, Jota Mombaca

Keynote: Achille Mbembe “Deglobalization – Bodies as Borders”
Abstract: In this lecture, Achille Mbembe will reflect on the renewed investment in borders in the age of dematerialization and high velocity. He will pay particular attention to the ways in which certain bodies and classes of populations are nowadays turned into mobile, portable borders. The consequences of these new ways of redistributing mobility and partitioning the Earth will be examined as well as what they entail in terms of a possible politics of the future world.

20- 23:00
Party: DJ Samy Ben Redjeb (tbc)