Quick access:

Go directly to content (Alt 1) Go directly to first-level navigation (Alt 2)
ReverseForward© Goethe-Institut / Max Mueller Bhavan

Disrupting Coloniality, One Game at a Time

ReverseForward is a GameLab that brings diverse people, skill sets, and perspectives together to discuss and critique the role of colonialism and its impact on contemporary societies.

The key thematics of the lab are reimagining decolonial praxis in culture producers - both institutions and individuals, the role of play and narrative strategies, and social game design. About the Project

Upcoming Event


Amarnath Praful

Amarnath Praful © Amisha Bajpai Amarnath Praful is a visual artist, writer and teacher who primarily works with photography. His artistic and research practice explores elements from performance, text, video, archive and found material. His work is often guided by the landscape, folk and oral traditions, modernities, and cultural and political histories of Kerala, India. His pedagogical concerns on which he has been writing and teaching are in the area of contemporary photographic practices, representational politics, the history of photography in the subcontinent, intermedia image practices and cinema studies. Currently, he is a Faculty at the Photography Design master’s program at the National Institute of Design, Gandhinagar.

Avni Sethi

Avni Sethi © Avni Sethi Avni Sethi is an interdisciplinary practitioner with her primary concern lying between culture, memory, space and the body. She conceptualized and designed the Conflictorium, a Museum of Conflict situated in Ahmedabad, Gujarat and Raipur Chhattisgarh in 2013 and 2022 respectively. The museum has since been home to diverse critical explorations on conflict transformation and art practice. She currently serves as its Artistic Director. Trained in multiple dance idioms, her performances are largely inspired by syncretic faith traditions and sites of contested narratives. She has been continually interested in exploring the relationship between intimate audiences and the performing body.

Laxmi Khanolkar

Laxmi Khanolkar © Laxmi Khanolkar Laxmi Khanolkar is the co-founder and CEO of Apar Games. Apar Games is an indie game development company based in India. It specializes in developing games based on sports, arcade, adventure, and puzzle genres. It develops games for Android and iOS platforms. It also provides services such as advertisements, game porting, game development and art outsourcing to its clients. It has clients including Cartoon Network and Big Fish Games. It generates revenue through advertisements, in-app purchases, and paid games.

Tom Lilge

Dr. Tom Lilge © Dr. Tom Lilge Dr. Tom Lilge co-founded gamelab.berlin at Humboldt University in 2013. This academic research and development platform conducts interdisciplinary research on games in theory and practice. Over 30 prototypes, primarily digital applications, have been created in this research context. The most successful ideas and applications became the basis for the spin-off of three companies. Tom is the co-founder of Playersjourney, an agency for digital products in the field of knowledge transfer, and co-founder and managing partner of Homo Ludens GmbH, which offers a gamified museum app, and software-based business consulting. Tom has extensive experience in designing and implementing playful experiential spaces, whether as a mobile app, a spatial installation, or a hybrid experience.

Vera Marušić

Vera Marusic © Marina Marusic Vera Marušić is Consultant to the Director and in charge of Program and Strategy Planning at the Rautenstrauch-Joest-Museum – Cultures of the World located in Cologne, Germany since November 2019. After graduating in law, she has worked in various functions as a research assistant, project coordinator and curator in complex, international and interdisciplinary projects in the cultural/arts field and higher education: Hessisches Staatstheater Wiesbaden, HELLERAU - European Center for Contemporary Arts Dresden, Stiftung Deutsches Hygiene-Museum Dresden, Dresden University of Fine Arts and Dresden State Art Collections.


Colonizing <=> Decolonizing <=> Re-imagining | How to Re-imagine a Museum

Anchored by Vera Marušić

Colonizing <=> Decoloniing <=> Re-imagining is an inter-connected never-ending cycle that when read forward results in a positive outcome but when looked at in reverse highlights the challenges that come with trying to dismantle colonial structures in order to imagine otherwise. Colonizing here is defined as taking up space in institutions in order to allow for declonizing-the act of dismantling and critizing, which thus brings forth re-imagining, the creation of new inclusive structures and forms of knowledge production.

When reflecting on the shared history between India and Nigeria a key similarity is the colonial legacy of the “divide-and-rule” colonial legacy of the British that was intentionally used to diffuse nationalism among the native population. In both countries the shadow of economic exploitation and seeds of division planted by the British continue to this day. Nonetheless as the largest economies in their respective regions with a diverse set of economic and natural resources both countries have built strategic and commercial ties. Drawing from these shared histories and present relations, the aim is to create a collaborative medium where themes of decoloniszation can be discussed as in relation to looted cultural artefacts and artworks.

In an ethnological museum the artefacts that have been plundered during colonisation are rendered silent. They are stored away often to be forgotten, (re)presented outside their original context and spoken about/of. Therefore, the artefacts that are forced to make ethnological museums their homes are subaltern entities devoid of agency. If they could speak, what would they say? How do we re-imagine a musuem? Who gets to re-imagine and who is missing from these conversations? What is the museum of the future?


Uwagbale Edward-Ekpu © Uwagbale Edward-Ekpu © Uwagbale Edward-Ekpu Uwagbale Edward-Ekpu is a Nigerian writer who analyses data through storytelling, especially those about Africa. Uwagbale writes about Edo history, art, culture, and languages, for the purpose of education and public engagement. Uwagbale teaches, explains, and communicates science trends and concepts to young people, encouraging reading, curiosity, innovation, and critical thinking among the African youth. An advocate for increased funding for research and the improvement of technical education in Nigeria; Uwagbale is the founder of Scitech Africa, an Africa-focused science and tech online publication. And is also member of “Activating the Archive: African environmental histories and knowledges materialised in museum collections” a research group at the Pitt Rivers Museum.

Prof Dr. Peju Layiwola © Prof Dr. Peju Layiwola © Prof Dr. Peju Layiwola Prof Dr. Peju Layiwola is a professor of art history and a descendant of the royal house of Benin, granddaughter of Oba Akenzua II, Layiwola has been working on the restitution of looted cultural goods from the Kingdom of Benin for decades. In 2010, Layiwola's solo exhibition "Benin 1897" was the first exhibition on looted art to be held in Nigeria. "Benin 1897" was also the name of the autonomous space Peju Layiwola curated for "RESIST! The Art of Resistance" exhibition at the Rautenstrauch-Joest-Museum. To Layiwola “resistance is an instinctive response to oppression and denigration. In Africa, resistance has subsisted long after colonial oppression ended, taking the form of a call to right the atrocities and injustices of that inglorious era. Ethnographic Museums housing many collections. from the colonies seem to be addressing the epistemic violence of colonialism. Such a creative intervention, I believe, will serve history and the colonised people of Africa better if it occurs in their own spaces and on their own terms.” Layiwola played a crucial role both as a historian and as part of the curatorial team for “I MISS YOU” which is a series of exhibitions about missing, giving back, and remembering. An exhibition where each of the 92 Benin works are staged in their special individuality and not only is their beauty shown, but the pain, loss and grief associated with them are also remembered.
Aurora Rodono © Jörg Pastler © Jörg Pastler Aurora Rodono is Diversity Manager at the Rautenstrauch-Joest-Museum in Cologne, also Lecturer at the Institute for Art and Art Theory at the University of Cologne and freelance cultural worker/curator at the interface between migration, anti-racism and art/culture. She was a research assistant at the Documentation Center and Museum on Migration in Germany e.V. (DOMiD), where she helped realize the research and exhibition project Projekt Migration. Subsequently, she was an assistant professor (on a substitute basis) of Italian literature and cultural studies at the Institute of Romance Studies at Heinrich Heine University in Düsseldorf, and from 2012 to 2014 she was a project officer at the Academy of the Arts of the World/Cologne. Work focus: cinema & migration, art & science and questions of representation. Other areas of interest: Cultural Studies, Postcolonial Studies, Italian Theory, Aesthetics, Transnationalism, Nomadism.

Tensae Desta © Tensae Desta © Tensae Desta Tensae Desta has a Bachelors in international relations: Politics and History with a minor in Psychology and is currently completing a Masters in North American Stuidies at the University of Cologne, Germany. Tensae started working as a junior curator at the Rautenstrauch-Joest-Museum in December 2022 and has since curated events that center community knowledge production and foster intercultural and cross racial dialogues. As a curator and an academic Tensae is committed to intersectional Black feminist modes of storytelling and togetherness with a research interest in post-colonial studies and Afro-Asian shared histories.

Carla de Andrade Hurst © Carla de Andrade Hurst © Carla de Andrade Hurst Carla de Andrade Hurst is a trained stage dancer, in ballet, modern, contemporary dance and dramaturgy and worked for many years as a contemporary dancer in Germany, USA and Venezuela. In Caracas, Venezuela she joined the modern dance company "Taller de Danca de Caracas" in 1994-95 for their 20th anniversary performances throughout the country. Back in Germany she accompanied various dance-theatre and visual art productions as a dramaturg and project manager. Carla studied theatre, film and tv sciences, Portuguese studies and pedagogy at the university of Cologne. Since 2019 she is Diversity Manager at the Rautenstrauch-Joest-Museum (RJM) in Cologne. As part of the exhibition "RESIST! The Art of Resistance" she conceived and organized the awarness and mediation concept. In addition she works as a speaker and moderator for seminars and panel talks on diversity and decolonial practices in educational and cultural institutions. As a trained awareness facilitator she explores the possibilities for exchange and support within a discrimination critical practice and accompanies various events and conferences as empowerment coach for BIPoC (Black, Indigenous, People of Colour).

The World As a Playground

Anchored by Thomas Lilge

Real-world concepts, ideologies, beliefs, values and much more are reflected in (video) games. As (mass) media, games are always an excerpt from our time. In its original state for example, Monopoly was a protest game against illegal land grabbing and the subjugation of peasants. It became known as a game that conveys capitalist processes in an extremely entertaining way as a playful experience.

In 1938 Johan Huizinga published the book "Homo Ludens". Translated, this means "man at play," and the core message is that man comes into being in play, that man as a species thus "springs from play," and that culture is thus also always initially a playful process. In short, one could say that the world of man arises from play, is play.

Let´s approach the topic “Colonization” as if it would be a real-world game. Which characteristics can we identify in an analysis of the game “Colonization”? What metrics apply here, and what rules must be followed? These are the questions we want to explore together in the first part of the workshop.

Once this is done, we will have the opportunity to turn these work results around. What games are created by this inversion, and what world do we create with this counter-design?

This workshop playfully introduces the thinking and the most important terms of game design and at the same time brings essential factors of colonialism into the discussion.


Moritz Moser © Moritz Moser © Moritz Moser Moritz Moser is an experienced Game designer as well as Game developer and has worked both in the classical game industry as well as with museums and other cultural institutions. He is trained in interdisciplinary and intercultural working situations.

Play and Narrative Strategies

Anchored by Laxmi Khanolkar

Narrative mechanics are responsible for making meaning and manipulation in game design; how do we then utilize narrative techniques and methods to express complex worlds in games?


Vaibhav Chavan © Vaibhav Chavan © Vaibhav Chavan Vaibhav Chavan is a 3d artist who has created 3k+ NFTS and has famously designed a car racing game for Metaverse.

Dhruv Jani © Anant Jani © Anant Jani Dhruv Jani studied Exhibition and Spatial design at the National Institute of Design (NID), Ahmedabad and considers himself a self-taught game designer. He has worked as a researcher for the ‘Tajgunj’ Project at NID and was a participant of the ‘Of Games: Theatre in Code’ residency at Khoj International Artists’ Association, Delhi. He is also the co-founder of the collaborative - Studio Oleomingus. His work has been featured in popular gaming webzines like Rock Paper Shotgun, Intel IQ, PC Gamer and Kill Screen.

Afrah Shafiq © Afrah Shafiq © Afrah Shafiq Afrah Shafiq is a multi/new media artist based out of Goa, India. Using the process of research as an artistic playground, Afrah intertwines archival findings, history, memory, folklore and fantasy to create a speculative world born of remix culture. Her work moves across various mediums drawing from the handmade language of traditional folk forms and connecting them to the digital language of the Internet and video games. Her work has been included in the 2023 Dhaka Art Summit, 2nd Lahore, 4th Kochi- Muziris and the 8th Asian Art biennales besides other exhibitions in India and abroad. She has been a research fellow at the Institut d’études avancées de Nantes, France, attended an archival research residency in Texas and New Mexico with Fluent Collaborative, been a fellow at the Field Research Programme by the Garage Museum of Contemporary Art in Moscow and worked with a series of archives in the North of England through a New North and South residency with the Liverpool Biennial of Contemporary Art. Afrah is currently developing a body of work centered around Ants and Data titled ‘Where Do The Ants Go’ as part of the “To-gather” International Collaboration Grant by Pro Helvetia, Swiss Arts Council. She also works as a researcher, video editor and producer on various projects in the world of documentary film, visual arts and the internet. When she is not glued to her computer she makes glass mosaics.

On Translations: Contemporary Art Practice and Research

Anchored by Amarnath Praful

The table brings together various contemporary practitioners who use research and art practice situated in the interstices of language, performance, drawing, image, text, and sound. The propositions that will be presented operate within, against, and adjacent to systems such as documents, archives, institutions, and scholarships in relation to the colonial matrix of power. One Imagines that the traces of coloniality, its attitudes, hierarchies, and effects can be detected in the premises of these knowledge systems. That the research and practice stems from and gives body to certain subversive impulses towards Decoloniality.

The table proposes that these acts situated in the transitory present can be acts of translations. If so - What are these acts of translations? From archive to performance, theory to praxis, language to orality, geographies to the internet, how do we translate for our collective moment – colonial pasts to decolonial present and towards many emancipatory future(s)?


Sajan Mani © Sajan Mani © Sajan Mani Sajan Mani is an intersectional artist and curator hailing from a family of rubber tappers in a remote village in the northern part of Keralam, South India. His work voices the issues of marginalized and oppressed peoples of India, via the “Black Dalit body” of the artist. Mani’s performance practice insists upon embodied presence, confronting pain, shame, fear, and power. His personal tryst with his body as a meeting point of history and present opens onto “body” as socio-political metaphor. Several of Mani’s performances employ the element of water to address ecological issues particularly related to the backwaters of Kerala, as well as to the common theme of migration. His recent works consider the correspondence between animals and humans, and the politics of space from the perspective of an indigenous cosmology. Unlearning Lessons from my Father (2018), made with the support of the Asia Art Archive, excavates the artist’s biography in relation to colonial history, botany, and material relations.

Suvani Suri © Suvani Suri © Suvani Suri Suvani Suri is an artist and researcher, working with sound, text, and intermedia assemblages and actively engaged in thinking through listening. Her practice is informed by the techno-politics of sound, aural/oral histories and critical imaginations activated by the relational and speculative capacities of voice. Alongside, she composes for video/ performance works and teaches at several educational spaces where her pedagogical interests conflate with a sustained inquiry into the digital and sonic sensorium.

Priyakshi Agarwal © Priyakshi Agarwal © Priyakshi Agarwal Priyakshi Agarwal is an independent choreographer and dancer. Her primary practices are rooted in movement with Kalaripayattu, Bharatanatyam, and folk dances from Rajasthan. She was awarded an Erasmus Mundus scholarship toward the mobility Master’s program Choreomundus (France, Norway, Hungary, United Kingdom). She completed her MA in Dance Anthropology with fieldwork on Dancehall dance in Jamaica in 2022. She has performed in several countries- France, the United Kingdom, Denmark, Hungary, Norway, Austria, Jamaica, and India. She has also choreographed a performance in collaboration with Odin Theatre, Denmark. She has worked with Dr. Mallika Sarabhai for several years as a performing artist. She also contributed in the curation of the Natarani amphitheater. More recently in 2022, she performed a feminist piece at Cambridge University. The main themes in her work are intersectional feminism, social justice, domestic violence, menstruation, and many such issues which require urgent focus. Currently, she is an active member of the International Council for Traditional Music and co-director of the Oralities Research Lab Foundation. She is going to present her research work at the 47th ICTM world conference in Ghana in July 2023.

Get in Touch

For any inquiries, write to us at Nidhi.Kol@goethe.de.

In partnership with

Rautenstrauch-Joest Museum © Rautenstrauch-Joest Museum