Invisible Inventories Exhibition

Invisible Inventories Exhibition_ FB © IIP

Tuesday 5th October - Sunday 9th January 2021

As part of its effort to make its research available to the public and further the debate surrounding Kenyan objects held in foreign institutions, IIP is producing an exhibition titled Invisible Inventories. Through contemporary artworks and academic research, the artists and scholars involved in the exhibition project approach the question of how to make objects—which currently reside in institutions within the global North—present again in contemporary Kenya.

The exhibition will be shown consecutively in the three participating museums in 2021/2022, starting with the Nairobi National Museum (March 17th 2021 to May 2nd 2021), followed by the Rautenstrauch-Joest-Museum in Cologne (27th May 2021 to 29th August 2021) and finally in the Weltkulturen Museum in Frankfurt/Main (5th October 2021 to 9th January 2022).

Alongside opening a conversation about the presence of these objects in Germany, and their provenance, the project questions the results of the objects’ absence in Kenya. Hence, for the first time, Invisible Inventories opens up a public and open platform for Kenyan knowledge, experiences and ideas about this controversial and emotional topic. Its aim is to decolonize the discourse on restitution by distributing African perspectives and positions underrepresented in international discussions, thus contributing to a larger, much-needed debate on colonial histories, and how societies can negotiate and learn from them more honestly.

Next to the artistic responses to the topic by the artist collectives The Nest and SHIFT and to the research presentation on the collections by the three museums involved, this exhibition will also feature a visual presentation of the database of Kenyan objects held in museums abroad, which represents one of the main endeavours of the International Inventories Programme.

A diverse, lively accompanying programme in Nairobi, Cologne and Frankfurt will contribute to open up a dialogue with different audiences. A magazine and a reader of the project also distributes the artistic and research approaches to a global audience. In the spirit of the project as a collective endeavour, the artistic direction of the project is assumed collectively by the International Inventories Programme’s team.

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