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Since the 1960s, a movement of artists, intellectuals, and activists over the globe, has persistently advocated for the restitution of robbed African cultural heritage and Ancestral Remains to advance the process of post-independence decolonisation. After a long period of stagnation, the debate has accelerated over the recent years, with examples of physical restitution such as the Béhanzin treasures to the Republic of Benin, or the Benin bronzes to Nigeria. Countless initiatives by artists and cultural institutions have emerged worldwide to advance and accompany this restitution process. At this historic moment, GROUP50:50 invites artists, activists, and intellectuals from Europe and Africa to further discuss the foundations for a transnational restitution movement.
Following encounters in Palermo and Leipzig, they will discuss the significance of intangible cultural heritage and music for the restitution process in a series of lectures, performances, and screenings in Berlin. What happens to all the knowledge and music extracted by missionaries, ethnographers, salesmen, and officials of the colonial powers, that have been locked away in European archives? How can they be made accessible again for people in the African countries and regions whose heritage they represent? How can the musicians and artists working between continents deal with this heritage? And how can we prevent the same mechanisms of violent extraction and appropriation of knowledge and cultural practices from being reproduced in a different form today?
Who is the Thief, Who is the Owner?
February 3rd, 3 p.m – 4:30 p.m, HAU2
Screening: »You Hide Me« by Nii-Kwate Owoo
Talks by Mwazulu Diyabanza and Sarah Imani, moderated by Eva-Maria Bertschy.
Regarding cultural objects and Ancestral Remains in European museums, private collections, and university archives, a whole series of complex legal questions arise. Who is the owner of the objects? Are they objects at all or are they humans? Were they expropriated, taken by force, or legally acquired? To whom should they be returned?
Because essential information is often missing to clarify these questions, many argue for the status quo. How do questions of ownership relate to the cultural rights and human rights of dispossessed peoples? In the course of restitution, the legal premises of our current world order are also subjected to a decolonial critique.
Following a short film screening will be short talks by Congolese activist Mwazulu Diyabanza (Multicultural Front Against Looting) and researcher Sarah Imani (ECCHR), moderated by Eva-Maria Bertschy.
»You Hide Me«
Film by Nii-Kwate Owoo (1972, 16 min)
In 1970, Ghanaian filmmaker Nii Kwate Owoo obtained permission, with a twist, to shoot a film for one day in the archives of the British Museum. In 1971, the film, titled »You hide me« was banned in Ghana as »anti-British,« which caused a great uproar. More than half a century later, »You hide me« was awarded the prize for best documentary at the Paris Short Film Festival in 2020. The film ends with the sentence: »We the people of Africa and of African descent, demand that our works of art which embody our history, our civilisation, our religion, and culture, should be immediately and unconditionally returned to us.«
The Restitution of Intangible Cultural Heritage
February 3rd, 4:45 p.m – 6:30 p.m, HAU2
Introduction by Lars-Christian Koch
Screening: »Sometimes it was Beautiful« by Christian Nyampeta
Christian Nyampeta in conversation with Patrick Mudekereza
In addition to cultural artefacts and Ancestral Remains, ethnographers, art collectors, and missionaries in the former colonies have also recorded and collected music and other intangible cultural heritage in order to make it available to European museums and universities for research purposes. So far, these have received little attention in the current restitution debate. How can these recordings be made accessible to artists, musicians, and researchers, but also to the local communities whose cultural heritage they represent? How can they be reappropriated? And how do we deal with the knowledge and representations that reproduce colonial violence?
Following an introduction by the Director of the Ethnological Museum and the Museum of Asian Art in BerlinLars-Christian Koch, the session will continue with a screening and conversation between film director Christian Nyampeta and writer and curator Patrick Mudekereza.
»Sometimes it was Beautiful«
Film by Christian Nyampeta (2018, 40 min)
Christian Nyampeta’s film is about a meeting between an improbable group of friends, who gather to watch »I fetischmannens spår« (In the Footsteps of the Witch Doctor), one of the six films that the Swedish cinematographer Sven Nykvist made about the Congo between 1948 and 1952. Postcolonial luminaries, a filmmaker, and a high ranking royal of a former colonial empire talk about the »traces of a history that is filled with pain« and the »balance of composition.«
Towards Non-extractive Practices in Contemporary Music
February 4th, 3 p.m – 5 p.m, HAU2
»Temporary Stored« talk and listening session with Joseph Kamaru (KMRU)
Talks by Ketan Bhatti and Pamela Owusu-Brenyah, moderated by Elia Rediger
To this day, musicians from the Global North appropriate music from countries in the Global South and achieve great financial and professional success with it, while the musics’ creators or the cultures of origin receive neither attention nor recognition. In doing so, Western artists disregard the musicians' copyrights, which cannot be enforced due to a lack of legal foundations or appropriate collection societies. Thus, extractive practices of ethnomusicologists during the colonial period, who served the European archives, continue. How can new forms of collaboration develop and foster an equal and inspiring exchange?
The sound artist Joseph Kamaru aka KMRU will present a talk and listening session examining his work, »Temporary Stored« in which the artist questions the significance of sound archives for the history of colonial violence. Using synthesiser sounds, field recordings, and recordings from the archives of the Royal Museum of Central Africa in Tervuren, he sets out to reappropriate the sounds that were stolen.
Following the presentation, curator Pamela Owusu-Brenyah and composer and musician Kettan Bhatti present short talks moderated by GROUP50:50 co-founder Elia Rediger.
The Use of Music for a Decolonial culture of Remembrance (FR/ENG)
February 4th, 5:15 p.m – 6 p.m
Performance by Fabrizio Cassol and Kojak Kossakamwe
Fabrizio Cassol and Kojak Kossakamwe in conversation with Patrick Mudekereza
Music plays a central role in the ritual practices interwoven with cultural artifacts in European museums, as well as in the inhumation of Ancestral Remains formerly stored in museums and university archives. How can contemporary musicians accompany the restitution of cultural artifacts and Ancestral Remains and participate in a decolonial culture of memory in European and African cities?
Following a performance, the musicians Fabrizio Cassol and Kojak Kossakamwe speak with writer and curator Patrick Mudekereza.
Curated by GROUP50:50 in cooperation with CTM Festival, PODIUM Esslingen, Centre d’Art Waza Lubumbashi, and Fondazione Studio Rizoma Palermo. Funded by the German Federal Agency of Civic Education.
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