We promote critical discourse on the effects of colonialism and the notion of a postcolonial world. In this section you can read articles on decolonisation, cultural heritage, identity, memory and restitution of looted artefacts.
Demonstrating perspectives for living together in diversity is the mission of the makers of the interdisciplinary fluctoplasma festival, which took place in Hamburg for the third time last October. In an interview, project director Nina Reiprich and artistic director Dan Thy Nguyen talk about the lessons they have learned from their work, their relationship to optimism and the status quo of political education in Germany.
How have African nations contributed to the democratisation of world sports and fought exclusion in the quest for freedom and equality? Kenyan writer Oyunga Pala traces the introduction and development of sport as a catalyst for democracy in Africa.
“A Gathering In A Better World” wants to create a worldwide network for artists with disabilities in dance, for whom there are still hardly any structures or offers. An interview with Calvin Ratladi about directing the project’s Johannesburg iteration.
Both among official organizations and communities of United States citizens, the effort to establish general names for Latin Americans has caused disagreements to this day. However, that effort has also sparked important debates about the identity and visibility of entire populations.
Quite a number of words are still firmly established in German language use today – even though they came into existence at a time that barely has anything to do with our diverse present. In this series, Elisabeth Wellershaus tries to fathom them out and reinterpret them from a decolonial perspective. This time she takes a look at the term “Ferngespräch”.
Young rappers of indigenous origins are entering the Brazilian music scene and creating a legion of fans. As they strive to defend the rescue of their own origins and denounce the violence in their communities, they also face prejudice and hate on social networks.
Côte d’Ivoire is famous for its cocoa, which has been sold at rock-bottom prices since colonial times. The cultivation and processing of organic cocoa could show farmers the way out of poverty and dependence, as the cooperative in the village of M’Brimbo and the initiative of the Ivorian chocolate manufacturer Axel Emmanuel Gbaou demonstrate.
Bread is at the heart of a majority of Tunisian dishes and remains a potent cultural, spiritual, and political symbol in the country. Nonetheless, the longevity of this cherished food is at risk. The Tunisian government’s failure to prioritise food sovereignty is pushing the bread industry to the brink, finds Tunisian author Yasmin Houamed.
A visionary idea to modernise museum practice in Africa has come to fruition, thanks to a collaborative effort of cultural activists, academics and political leaders. Ruby Ofori on the launch of Africa’s first digital museum.
There are thousands of languages all over the world. But the existence of many is threatened with dwindling numbers of active speakers. How do factors such as colonialism contribute to language endangerment in Africa and elsewhere, even today?
How can the cultural otherness of African art and culture practices be given space to develop whilst not over-alienating it from the West? Philosopher Michaela Ott is campaigning for cooperation between people of equal status, to allow new strategies for aesthetic inclusion.
It is now called atmospheric colonialism when the reckless behaviour of the industrialised countries in the Global North has a negative impact on living conditions in the Global South as well. Elisabeth Wellershaus asks whether there will ever be an end to this “Durststrecke”.
Do Europeans really understand the complexities or ethnic compositions of the African continent? Dance anthropologist Adebayo Adeniyi questions the Eurocentric account of dance history and contradicts the term referring to “African dance“ as a phenomenon.
In the animal kingdom there are no good or bad parents – and yet in German the term “Rabenmutter” (mother raven) has become established to brand women as bad mothers. Elisabeth Wellershaus examines some figures of speech in which parents symbolically stand for a Eurocentric way of thinking.
It was only recently that the statement by Argentinian president Alberto Fernández caused outrage at national and international level, when he claimed that Argentines all arrived by ship from Europe, while Mexicans were descended from the Indians and Brazilians came from the jungle. In saying this he was repeating a time-worn cliché, as Ezequiel Adamovsky explains.
A “decolonial” aesthetic, or what Grit Köppen calls an “aesthetic of rebellion”, can be found in every art form – whether music, theatre, literature, film, photography or the visual arts. And not only in 20th century artistic productions, as shown by some striking contemporary examples.
To what extent can art change or shape political discourse in the society? South African artist and curator Molemo Moiloa sheds light on how artists in Africa have and continue to interrogate unfavourable power relations.
Thanks to increased postcolonial awareness, Western philosophy today must question itself as to what extent it has contributed epistemologically to the subjugation of the global South and to the discrimination or even enslavement of its population.
The photo of a Black woman on the white Brazilian grandmother’s kitchen wall of author Alma Kaiser gives rise to many questions. Her grandmother calls the woman her “mãe preta”. But who was she really?
How does contemporary policing relate to practices used in colonial states? Tanzil Chowdhury explains the “colonial boomerang” – a concept that describes how for example forms of violence applied in the colonies were transported back to the metropolitan centres.
In this essay, Idalia Sautto writes about the notion of monuments in Mexican history and why we need them to live on naturally, appropriated by the community and not seen as an old part of history that no longer fits into the present.
Mexico City resigns itself to its changes, to a ruin that is rebuilt through another name. This personal essay by Idalia Sautto narrates the transformations that the emblematic church of San Hipólito has undergone and reflects on the different versions of history that are colliding in the same place.
The German and Namibian government negotiated a reconciliation agreement regarding the genocide of Ovaherero and Nama peoples by German colonial forces in the early 20th century without involving the descendants. Ngondi Kamatuka analyses the failures of the agreement.
In June 2021, the German and Namibian governments announced their declaration on coming to terms with the colonial crimes in present-day Namibia. However, it only speaks of genocide “from today's perspective”. Is the German government trying to evade responsibility by interpreting the law in a specific way, ask Karina Theurer and Sarah Imani.
Between 1904 and 1908 the colonial forces of the German Reich murdered tens of thousands of Ovaherero and Nama people in what is now Namibia. After more than five years of negotiations, Germany recognised this as genocide. Henning Melber discusses the shortcomings of these negotiations, as well as the process of colonial powers coming to terms with the past.
The General Director of the Humboldt Forum in Berlin, Hartmut Dorgerloh, was invited to attend the opening of the “L’inarchiviabile” exhibition in the Goethe Art Space in Rome. We spoke to him about the Humboldt Forum, coming to terms with colonialism in Europe, the restitution of looted artefacts and the urgent need for a new perspective in culture.
Monuments in the public space in Brazil continue to promote the image of a patriarchal and racist country characterised by white settlers in which women and Indigenous ethnic groups do not exist, states Ana Paula Orlandi.
Brazilian anthropologist Luiz Mott is the figurehead of the campaign for citizens’ rights for the LGBTQ+ community in Latin America and its history. In his research he has established that persecution for sexual motives coincides with the start of colonisation of the continent.
The Humboldt Forum defines itself as a “place that links differences” and intends to deal intensively with the issues of colonialism in its programme work. The historian and genocide expert Jürgen Zimmerer takes a stand on what is probably Europe’s most controversial museum.
A new reference work about the Black Continent sheds light on the interdependences of the precolonial, colonial and postcolonial history of Africa. Its author, Helmut Bley, is professor emeritus of African history,
Germany is often seen as a model for how to confront a nation’s history. However, rather than looking only at the results of Germany’s reckoning with its past, it is more instructive to understand the process that led to the current situation, writes Jenny Wüstenberg.
How do monuments shape the commemorative culture? How can they become places of participation? The project “Shaping the Past” of the Goethe-Institut, the Monument Lab and the Federal Agency for Civic Education brings together initiatives from North America and Germany.
Germany and the Germans brought unprecedented suffering to the world during the Nazi era. The way Germany dealt with its past is considered an example of a successful historical reappraisal. But does that really correspond to reality? Social scientist Anna Delius investigates how the two German societies dealt with National Socialism and the Holocaust after 1945.
The reference to all of Africa except the predominantly Arab North as “sub-Sahara” not only defies the fundamentals of geography but also smacks of stereotypical racist labelling, according to Herbert Ekwe-Ekwe.
In Spain a growing number of art and research projects are combating the loss of colonial memory. However, they are barely noticed and the lack of political will to engage with them is a wall that is difficult to break through.
Iltisstrasse, Berlin-Dahlem: In German, the word “Iltis” means “polecat”, evoking that little native carnivore from the marten family after which the road must surely have been named. But actually it wasn’t at all – to this day the street name commemorates a chapter in the history of German colonialism.
What constitutes as musical heritage? How can it be made audible? The exhibition project “Mirath:Music” invited various musicians from West Asia, Northeast and North Africa to explore their regions' traditions. Lebanese author Rayya Badran takes a look at the musical history of the region and the produced tracks full of past struggles.
In September 2021 the authorities in Mexico City decided to replace the Christopher Columbus monument by a statue of an Indigenous woman aiming to decolonise the country's past. Archaeologist Daniel Salinas explains why the use of archaeological artefacts of pre-colonial times is not enough to decolonise the Mexican state.
The first restitutions of human remains from ethnological collections in German museums demonstrate an enormous willingness to accept change with regard to human remains from colonial contexts, explains provenance researcher Ilja Labischinski.
Many objects found in museums were looted during the colonial era. Many are in archives, others could be traumatising or humiliating for the societies of origin. How can museums decolonise their work? Léontine Meijer-van Mensch speaks with us about possible solutions.
Dispute between Brazil and Germany over a rare dinosaur fossil generates discussion about colonialist practices in science. Meanwhile, scientific studies of the animal are suspended, Juliana Vaz reports.
In recent years, Mexico’s government has increased efforts to recover the nation’s archaeological heritage from abroad, fighting against trafficking and commercialisation, and repatriating over five thousand artefacts. Recently a grand exhibition opened in Mexico City displaying many of them for the first time, but not without controversy, as Daniel Salinas Córdova reports.
The German government expressed its “willingness in principle to make substantial returns of Benin Bronzes”, but the road to restitution is not easy. Oluwatoyin Zainab Sogbesan on issues of ownership and the importance of the Benin Bronzes to the Nigerian identity.
Benin Bronzes are exhibited in museums around the world, but the largest collection can be found in the British Museum. Barnaby Phillips analyses how much the government impacts British museums’ ability to return the objects.
In the context of the debate about restitution of artworks with an African origin by European museums to their rightful owners, the director of the Egyptian Museum in Turin Christian Greco is encouraging people to view the subject from a different perspective.
The restitution of material objects to its land of origin is a sensitive topic between European countries and its former colonies. In the case of Denmark and Greenland, thousands of objects have been repatriated. And yet, is the physical return of an object all that restitution implies, asks Magdalena Zolkos.
Freda Nkirote from the British Institute in Eastern Africa takes a critical look at the laborious back and forth on the restitution of cultural objects from Africa and calls for a paradigm shift in the debate.
The demands for restitution of illegally acquired objects from colonial contexts back to the communities of origin are getting louder. George Gachara suggests there may be other alternatives to the seemingly endless negotiations.
At the moment there is lively debate about the return of cultural artefacts from colonial contexts to the origin societies. The discussion has given rise both to plausible solutions and new, even more complex questions, according to Uta Werlich, the director of the Museum Fünf Kontinente in Munich.
The renowned art historian Bénédicte Savoy is an expert on the forced appropriation of cultural assets through war and colonialism, an area of research that concerns everyone in Europe. This historical moment is an opportunity for museums and their visitors.
“Invisible Inventories”, a series of exhibitions coordinated by the Goethe-Institut, is based on a research project to record Kenyan cultural objects in museums of the Western world. George Juma Ondeng’ from the National Museums of Kenya talks about well-founded provenance research and the emotionally charged restitution debate.
The exhibition series “Invisible Inventories” showcases the results of an international research project whose aim is to build a database of Kenyan art objects in museums in Europe and North America. Shortly before the digital exhibition opening, Clara Himmelheber from the Rautenstrauch-Joest-Museum and Frauke Gathof from the Weltkulturen Museum talk about the work on establishing an equal relationship.
Important positions in Brazilian art institutions are often occupied according to a fixed scheme: male, upper class, white. This affects the collections and programmes; Afro-Brazilian and Indigenous positions are underrepresented. But an opening to more diversity is emerging, Anna Azevedo observes.
The German Lost Art Foundation helps to determine the origin and whereabouts of illegally taken artworks. The focus lies on objects stolen during National Socialism from Jewish property, but increasingly collections from the colonial era gain attention, explains the head of the new department, Dr Larissa Förster.
Between 1893 and 1896, more than 200 objects from Cameroon found their way into the exhibition rooms and the storerooms of the former Völkerkundemuseum in Munich. Where do they come from, what is or was their purpose? A research project dedicated to these questions at the Museum Fünf Kontinente Munich is searching for answers.
During the colonial era of the German Empire, more than 200 artefacts from Cameroon were brought to Munich by Max von Stetten. The gaps left in the origin country by their absence are being investigated within a research project.
Several ethnological museums in Germany are currently researching their collections from the colonial era in cooperation with the societies of origin. In Munich the interests of Cameroon are represented by Albert Gouaffo, a professor of German literature and culture.
The return of both human remains and cultural objects held in Western museums back to the communities of origin must be on the same agenda, says history professor Ciraj Rassool. He spoke to “Latitude” on new ethics for museums.
Where is the (de)colonial film material? What do modes of preservation and access reveal about global structures? An interactive map of (de)colonial archives, which requires collective collaboration to become a tool for international networking and educational purposes.
How many Black female writers have you read? The question is more of an invitation to the group Mulheres Negras na Biblioteca. The “Black women in the library“ like Carine Souza propagates literature by Brazilian women writers, who are invisible from a historical perspective.
What we think of as world history is still dominated by white men. This dominance is not only based on the selection of stylised, allegedly epoch-making figures – but also on the perspectives and identities of those telling the story. An interview with author Sharon Dodua Otoo.
Translation is incredibly challenging: translating sensitively demands that historical, geographical, political and social contexts be taken into account. In their article, the literature scholars and editors of the platform poco.lit. Lucy Gasser and Anna von Rath look specifically at English and German, and discuss ten terms related to race that are difficult to translate.
Black, Indigenous and People of Colour (BIPoC) children and the societies are depicted systematically as laughable, comical, barbaric, naïve or immoral, as beings closer to nature than to culture, as beings who are dependent on white knowledge and benevolence, writes Maisha M. Auma.
The Portuguese spoken in Angola since colonial times is still peppered with black African expressions, which are part of the Bantu experience and only exist in Angola's national languages. José Luís Mendonça on “Portungolano” and its echo in the Portuguese language.
Why are there two terms for people that leave their home country to live and work elsewhere? The connotations of the notions “expat” and “immigrant” reveal the colonial power structures that shape migration today.
Algeria has one official language: Arabic. But French is an integral part of everyday life and Tamazight, a Berber language, is also designated in the constitution as a national and official language. Journalist Nourredine Bessadi takes a look at the emotional discussion about Algeria’s official languages.
Being Black should be completely unremarkable in today’s multicultural Germany. Yet many people still struggle with everyday discrimination and sometimes even blatant racism. Their stories are increasingly finding their way into German literature.
Is there a relation between the migratory movement of Peruvians to Germany and the postcolonial structures in Peru? The author and artist Helga Elsner Torres questions why her German great-grandfather Otto Elsner moved to Peru in the 1920s and goes on a rather personal journey of discovery.
The recently released “Enciclopédia Negra” (Black Encyclopedia), the result of six years of work, with individual and collective life histories, aims to expand the visibility of more than 550 Black personalities who lived in Brazil from the 16th to the 21th century. A joint effort by the historians Flávio dos Santos Gomes and Lilia Moritz Schwarcz as well as the artist Jaime Lauriano.
Teacher training in art education at German universities is faced with a dilemma: Instruction is seldom diverse and rarely influenced by non-European perspectives. An interview with the project manager of “Exploring Visual Cultures” Professor Ernst Wagner, Academy of Fine Arts Munich.
It was a premiere to show African Americans in one of the most respected magazines in the USA - at a time when racial segregation still existed there. The illustrations were supplied by Miguel Covarrubias.
Filmmaker Inadelso Cossa explains via five stills how his documentary “Uma memória em três atos” (A Memory in Three Acts) engages with images and voices of past and present – treading on a path toward reconciliation.
The degree to which Indigenous peoples have influenced eating habits in Brazil today is being completely repudiated, says sociologist Carlos Alberto Dória, one of the best-known connoisseurs of Brazilian cuisine.
Black German literature has a long history and embraces a broad spectrum – it ranges from poetry and autobiographies to academic and activist writings. Yet even today, Black German authors are still less visible, especially when it comes to fiction, writes Philipp Khabo Koepsell.
Usually portrayed as a mythical, exotic location, the Amazon is now also being depicted in the cinema as a place with multiple Indigenous identities and a region of cultural diversity – especially in local productions. A report by Camila Gonzatto.
The corresponding relationship between landscape and identity requires a critical reconsideration of the traditional landscape genre in art and photography. The Namibian artist Nicola Brandt urges for a more balanced interrogation of the concept of landscape.
Are Black people in Brazil really free? Historian Luciana Brito takes a look at the consequences of slavery that have left their mark on Brazilian society to this day. Clearly, the struggle for freedom for all is not yet over.
Amid the reporting on the war in Ukraine, racist relativisation and stereotypes are surfacing as rarely before. One reason for this is a lack of diversity in the media landscape, says journalist Sham Jaff.
How free are we to travel wherever we want to go? Nigerian author Chika Unigwe asks herself this question and is faced with the hard truth that travel is not free for everyone. It depends on your passport.
Enissa Amani’s show “Die beste Instanz” is her response to the controversial WDR show “Die letzte Instanz”, and it creates space for discussion about racism with the people affected by it on a daily basis. In this interview she explains what we still need to do in order to achieve greater diversity in Germany’s media landscape.
By entering existing narrative spaces and creating new ones, Africans are re-writing the stories in the history books that they have encountered in school for many generations – they are moving from being objects to becoming subjects of their stories. Nobantu Modise, founder of the online platform “Afrophilia”, talks about the mission of reclaiming agency through digital storytelling.
The Pan-African Free Trade Agreement AfCFTA is meant to benefit the continent's creatives in particular. Adwoa Ankoma, Legal and Public Policy Advisor, explains the opportunities of a domestic market for Africa.
Reporting on the Global South is regularly criticised for attitudes more befitting of the colonial era than today's world. Terms such as “third world” or “developing country” hint at inherent biases. Patrick Gathara portrays these practices in a series of cartoons.
Philosophy practised outside the Western axis often remains invisible, if it is not considered exotic or underrated anyhow. The website “Filosofia Africana”, created by the Brazilian Wanderson Flor, is attempting to change this.
Even now, language includes terms that originate from deep-rooted colonial racism and discriminatory structures in our society. How can vulnerable minorities find a voice? Journalist and book author Mohamed Amjahid takes a look at decolonisation of the German language from an everyday perspective.
There is more content on “Wikipedia” about France than about all the states of Africa combined. The WikiAfrica Education initiative aims to counter that. Adama Sanneh, co-founder and CEO of the Moleskine Foundation, the organisation which founded this initiative, discusses the importance of adding African languages and histories to online databases and the global discourse.
The concept of humanism involves much more than just being human. After all, as philosopher Michaela Ott writes, for a long time colonialism defined who was viewed as a person and who was not, and which compelling reasons there are for replacing this term with something more inclusive.
Carola Lentz, an internationally acclaimed anthropologist, has been president of the Goethe‑Institut since mid-November 2020. She talks to “Zeitgeister” about her focus on central themes of the global discourse and the role of educational and cultural work in a globalised world.
The upheavals and instability in many African countries are often linked with the legacy of colonialism. Richard Ali’s critical analysis of the situation in Nigeria not only points to other origins of the crises as well but also offers solutions.
Emerging technologies present opportunities for countries in the global South to realise exponential change and growth. But just as abundant as the potential is, so are the bottlenecks. Nanjira Sambuli explains.
The internet is characterised by power structures. Digital colonialism shows how established hierarchies can also become entrenched on the world wide web. But activists and artists are growing increasingly resistant, says Ina Holev.
As nations and communities increasingly withdraw into their identitarian shells, postcolonial theorist Achille Mbembe counters with an ethics of ”passage, circulation and transfiguration” that breathes fresh air into the confines of increasingly musty national spaces.