Curatorial Concept

LOGO BOM Fond_737 © Goethe-Institut Kamerun

THE BURDEN OF MEMORY: CONSIDERING GERMAN COLONIAL HISTORY IN AFRICA “memory obviously rejects amnesia…” (Soyinka 1999)

In his groundbreaking book titled The Burden of Memory, the Muse of Forgiveness (1999), Wole Soyinka questions the way devastating histories of oppression have been dealt with in the independence era. He asks; “Once oppression stops, is reconciliation between oppressor and victim possible? In the face of centuries long devastations wrought on the African continent and her Diaspora by slavery, colonialism, Apartheid and the manifold faces of racism what forms of recompense could possibly be adequate?” Writing about how different states have tried to address these atrocities through reconciliatory structures such as the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of South Africa, and its curative leaning towards curbing reoccurences of such histories from happening in the contemporary and, alongside this, to move towards a place of healing, Soyinka proposes a third way of dealing with these histories. He proposes art - poetry, music, theatre and visual arts - as the possible “seed of reconciliation”, arguing that “art (is) the generous vessel that can hold together the burden of memory and the hope of forgiveness”. 
Thinking about Soyinka’s proposition in relation to the history of German Colonialism in Africa, this project considers a coming together of creative work produced in the last ten years and in the six African countries affected by German colonialism: Burundi, Rwanda, Tanzania, Namibia, Togo, Cameroon, and the African diaspora communities in Germany. It considers a coming together that attempts to show the proximity and distance of this past and at the same time invites a weaving together of the different ways cultural practitioners have dealt with this history’s widespread impact across the African continent. Such a collation speaks to the effect of a history of entanglement between the imaginary and reality and presents the power and ability of artistic forms to look back with a critical eye. It is this critical eye that tells a history not only from the victors’ position but one that speaks to the power of resilience and resistance of Africa against colonisation. It is, what Soyinka describes as “self-restoration through a humanistic ethos”, arguing that it enables a way to complicate memory that on the one hand burdens Africans to remember and not to forget, and on the other hand, speaks to the desire to move on from this past and to heal. Titling this work in reference to Soyinka’s work, we contemplate the doors that practitioners have opened in their reflections about the way African societies are rebuilding themselves in the contemporary from this colonial past. 

Princesse Marilyn Douala Manga Bell
Rose Jepkorir Kiptum
Nontobeko Ntombela


Princesse Marilyn Douala Manga Bell from Cameroon

Princess Marilyn Douala Manga Bell was born in Cameroon in 1957, into the royal family of the Bell lineage. She runs the Doual'art Contemporary Art Centre, founded in 1991 with the art historian Didier Schaub. It is imperative to them both that new urban identities accompany the construction of a contemporary citizenship through artistic action in the urban social space. Further, they view this kind of practice as crucial to popular education as well as the constant construction and rehabilitation of collective memory. Doual'art's main tool is the international triennial of public art, SUD - Salon Urbain Douala - which, since the first edition in 2007, has offered more than 80 works of art and art events in the city of Douala. Each edition has a specific theme. The next edition, SUD2021, aims to visit the concept of heritage and to challenge the question of the Western museum in Africa. Since 2014, Princess Marilyn Douala Manga Bell has been working on memorial projects about German colonial history in Cameroon.

ROSE JEPKORIR KIPTUM © Goethe-Institut Kamerun

Rose Jepkorir Kiptum from Kenya

Rose Jepkorir Kiptum is a curator working with artists and others from Nairobi. She has developed and participated in a range of collaborative projects and events including exhibitions, texts and readings. Selected work includes; From Here to When(2019), Wanakuboeka Feelharmonic (2018), Naijographia: A play on travelling time and place(2017), and 28 Words in Maputo (2015). Jepkorir participated in Curatorial Program Research residency; We are (not) one - Artists, Curators, Institutions and Diversity in Latin America, the inaugural Goethe-Institut, Nairobi curatorial workshop, and is an alumnus of the Asikó International Art School.

NONTOBEKO NTOMBELA © Goethe-Institut Kamerun

Nontobeko Ntombela from South Africa

Nontobeko Ntombela is a curator based in Johannesburg. She currently works at the Wits School of Arts developing the postgraduate programs in curatorial and exhibition practice.She previously worked as the curator of the contemporary collection at the Johannesburg Art Gallery (2010–12) and the Durban Institute of Technology Art Gallery (2006–10). Some of her curatorial projects include; being a member of the curatorial team of the newly established Stellenbosch Triennale which opens in February 2020; Solo at Cape Town Art Fair (2018); A Fragile Archive at Johannesburg Art Gallery (2012); MTN New Contemporaries (2010) for which she was a guest curator; Layers at the Goodman Gallery project space, Johannesburg (2010); Modern Fabrics at the Bag Factory, Johannesburg (2008); From Here to There at the Association of Visual Arts (AVA), Cape Town (2007), as part of the CAPE 07 fringe. Ntombela is the co-editor (with Reshma Chhiba) of the recently launched book titled The Yoni Book. She has participated in international programs including the Bilateral Exchange Project between Germany and South Africa (2007); Close Connections (Africa Reflected) Curator’s Workshop in Amsterdam (2009); Break the Silence Scotland (2002–3).