Symposium on Decolonial Art

Symposium: The Kick-off Event for the Decolonial Memorial

The first public event of the project "Decolonial Memorial" took place at Berlin Global Village on October 31, 2023. The kick-off event, a thematic symposium on decolonial art and the culture of remembrance, attracted over 350 attendees. The evening was hosted by Johara Sarhan.

 

Opening and Welcoming Remarks

Armin Massing, managing director of Berlin Global Village gGmbH, opened the symposium with a warm welcome, highlighting the significance and impact of the art project on the culture of remembrance in Berlin, Germany and internationally. He emphasized that it is not possible to engage with contemporary global North-South politics without addressing the colonial past and its continuities.

 

Claudia Roth, Minister of State for Culture and Media, delivered an inspiring welcome speech. As the project's patron, she thanked civil society actors, especially those from the African diaspora, for their dedication and perseverance. Roth reaffirmed her commitment to making the examination of colonial heritage a cultural policy priority.

 

Joe Chialo, Senator for Culture and Social Cohesion in Berlin, emphasized the project's relevance in a video message, calling it a "significant step for Berlin." The patron of the Decolonial Memorial praised the inclusion of artists from formerly colonized countries, who are given the opportunity through the competition participate in the debate about German colonial crimes.

 

Introduction to the Decolonial Memorial

Michael Küppers-Adebisi, Diversity Advisor at Berlin Global Village, provided a comprehensive introduction to the "Decolonial Memorial" project. He explained its origins, objectives, and progress, underscoring the importance of critically examining and addressing the colonial past.

 

A keynote by Gary Stewart, artist and lecturer at Queen Mary University London, was another highlight of the evening. He shared his experiences as a juror of the art competition and pointed out the uniqueness of the Decolonial Memorial as an inherently inclusive pilot project. "It was refreshing to be part of a project that doesn't just act performatively," Stewart said. The memorial illustrates that it's time to evolve the slogan "think globally, act locally" to "think globally, and act globally."

 

Versatile Program and lively Discussions

The afternoon and evening offered a versatile program: A guided tour of the exhibition "Who works at Berlin Global Village?" provided insights into the diverse work of the associations residing at the Berlin Global Village and supporting the Decolonial Memorial as cooperation partners. Claudia Roth honored their commitment with personal conversations.

 

Rafaella Braga captivated the audience with her live painting in the Patrice-Lumumba Gallery. The Berlin-based Brazilian artist, known for her large-format works, created an impressive painting during the event, now permanently displayed at Berlin Global Village.

 

In the Paulo-Freire Room, curator Nnenna Onuoha, in cooperation with Barazani, presented her short film program "SET IN STONE: FOUR POSITIONS ON HISTORY, ITS MONUMENTS AND THEIR AFTERLIVES." Onuoha showcased selected short films, documentary material, and fictional discussions on Germany's memory culture as a perpetrator nation, including loans from The Legacy Museum in Montgomery, Alabama.

 

A highlight of the evening was the panel "Art of the Global South in German Exhibition Spaces" in the Miriam-Makeba Hall. The inspiring discussion featured Ibou Diop from the Stadtmuseum Berlin Foundation, Dr. Matthias Henkel from the Museum Neukölln, hn. lyonga from the Gropius Bau Berlin (Neighbour in Residence), independent artist Monilola Olayemi Ilupeju, and Sylbee Kim from Berufsverband bildender Künstler*innen Berlin. They discussed the development, conditions, and hopes for art from the Global South in Germany. The discussion highlighted the challenges and opportunities associated with presenting art from the Global South.

 

Ibou Diop, currently developing a citywide concept on remembrance culture with the Berlin Senate as a project manager, stressed: "It is essential that Black artists are not only brought on stage to entertain but that their perspectives shape society. It is about ensuring that artists from the Global South are not only visible in German exhibition spaces but also find the conditions to authentically tell their stories."

 

Artistic Performances and Musical Finale

The symposium concluded with the performance "Dance meets Opera meets Memory" featuring MFA Kera and Kameron Locke (voice), Thomyas and Anita Castro (dance), and Julia Kny (composition). The evening ended with a vibrant DJ set by DJ Prince (M.I.K.) at the Afrika Yetu Bar, where guests celebrated and enjoyed the relaxed atmosphere.

 

Feedback and Outlook

The symposium was a great success, far exceeding the project team's expectations. Originally planned for 100 attendees, the event ultimately attracted over 350 visitors to Berlin Global Village.

 

We thank all participants and supporters who contributed to the event's success and now look forward to the next phase of the project: selecting the 20 final designs for the Decolonial Memorial.

 

For those who missed the symposium or wish to revisit the speeches and discussions, video recordings are available on the Berlin Global Village YouTube channel.

part 1: https://youtu.be/SAdPCp07AqE?si=qyw4tjciA1NvhN4o

part 2: https://youtu.be/C99jzoXxb8g?si=lMJztQQ7ekCRF4Vm

 

Here you can find the program of the Symposium

Pictures by Sedat Mehder.

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