Demythologize That History and Put it to Rest

Colonial Neighbours invites you to the third edition of FRAGMENTS - a series of interventions in and out of SAVVY Contemporary's longterm archive project on German colonial history. FRAGMENTS is a series of interventions where artists, researchers and activists are invited to engage critically with colonial histories and legacies. Participators are asked to use the material in the Colonial Neighbours archive as a point of departure in creating a response which critically contributes to the context of the archive.

'Demythologize That History and Put it to Rest' aims at challenging the idea of remembrance formed by statues, monuments, street names and other Eurocentric colonial memorials and sites of remembrance in Lisbon and Berlin's public spaces where statues of, for example Bismarck, as well as monuments and memorials play a similar role on the promotion of German and Portuguese colonial achievements. Lacking a present contextualization, the objects continue to overshadow the perspective and histories of African communities and their epistemological systems and thereby commemorate a romanticized Eurocentric history. The expense there of being the oppression of Black Africans.

The project is involved in creating and presenting artistic interventions in Lisbon and Berlin's public spaces. The aim is to demythologize the narratives around these monuments and their influence on the various aspects of public remembering and forgetting, and to counter the ways they have been shaping our present thinking, experience and imagination. Is there an incapacity or lack of interest from Lisbon and Berlin's state institutions to deal with statues, monuments, memorials, street names and other forms of colonial remembrance? What romanticized understandings do we have of these objects? How can artists and art projects demythologize the colonial narratives which are celebrated as national glories?

Inspired by Edouard Glissant's assertion that history and its formation should not be left to historians alone, the artist Marcio Carvalho invited fellow artists from Angola, Cameroon, Gabon, Iraq, Mozambique and Portugal to present live performances and public discussions to counter-monumentalize these crystalized objects, to demythologize their hegemonic, western narratives and to search for other memories and other narratives. These 9 artists will focus on the monuments of two historical personalities who exerted huge influences on the colonization of Africa by the European powers during the so called Congo Conference (1884/85) in Berlin: Otto von Bismarck (Tiergarten, Berlin) and King Charles I (Palacio da Ajuda, Lisbon).

The project departed from a photo album the artist found in the Colonial Neighbors archive at S A V V Y Contemporary. The Kamerun photo album, brought from Cameroon to Germany, was passed from one generation to the next until it was given to the archive, without much information about its original owner. It consists of photographs showing landscapes, proudly presented ivory tusks, ‘exotic’ fruits and pictures of local people. Sites of colonial power and violence like the German Woermann factories and fields appear in the background of the photos. In the photo album, aspects of the private and collective visual memory intersect and many photos respond to the European desire for the ‘other’, the “exotic”; while the photos of factories, labor and houses promote the colonial achievements and the success of German colonization. In his examination of the archive, Marcio Carvalho let his thoughts wander: What if he accidentally discovered that this photo album was created by Otto von Bismarck himself? Where could the project venture if this finding was its departing point?

Raphael Christian Etongo has devoted his career to performance art for almost two decades. As a nonconformist artist, he researches on the effects of mobility in individual and collective memory formations, and its influence on the development of different societies. Etongo leads Perform’action, an intensive workshop for research and experimentation on performance art, in Yaoundé, Cameroon. Etongo’s work has been featured in various international festivals and projects such as LANA, University Of Cape Town, South Africa 2018; SUPERCOPY Festival, Mannheim, Germany 2017; BONE Performance Festival, Berne, Switzerland 2016; CO-LAB Editions, Copenhagen, Denmark, 2016; WATA DON PASS - Looking West in Malmo, Sweden 2015; "MEDIATIONS BIENNAL'', Poznan, Poland 2016; GIPCA Live Art Festival in Cape Town, South Africa 2014; AFIRIPERFORMA biennial of performance art, Harare, Zimbabwe 2013; "Spines" festival in Johannesburg, South Africa 2012.

Photos by António Pedro Mendes.