An Examination of the Post/Colonial Here and Now

That objects from Germany's colonial past remain in our basements, attics and book shelves is of little wonder: The German empire had an enormous impact on both the lives of those it colonized and the formation of modern Germany itself. Although often seen to be small and short-lived, Germany had colonies as far afield as China. The impact of this colonial past is reflected today, for example, in many German streetnames such as Mohrenstraße, and commercial products such as chocolate manufacturer Sarotti.

Today, however, knowledge of this history and its impact is hardly present in the German public sphere. Official German 'collective memory' actively displaces, silences, or denies this history. Many schoolbooks, media outlets, and politicians ignore this period, downplay its importance, or portray it as if it evolved in isolation from an alleged ‘core’ of “German history”. As a consequence, colonialism is often seen as part of the 'distant' past. As some are now trying to say, however, we cannot understand Germany without understanding its role as a colonial power.

Our project intends to work upon a new form of 'collective memory' by turning to private documents, photographs, stories, and any other 'traces' of colonialism. Since Colonial Neighbours is a constant work in progress it builds on collaboration with the neighbourhood, artists, activists, researchers and initiatives. The location of the archive in Neukölln, Berlin, is especially significant. The cultural diversity of our ‘Kiez’ reflects the historical interconnections between Berlin, Europe and the Global South.


The city of Berlin, with its long history of migration itself, has a crucial role in the history of colonialism. Its representatives in power chose the capital to host the famous Berlin Conference, also known as the Congo Conference in 1884-1885, where the African continent was divided between European rulers. Berlin consolidated the process of global European expansion, as it was here that the political rules which would install formal colonial power over African territories were established. Colonialism is connected to the history of racism, and that racism haunts us until today. Minorities continue to be victims of Germany’s racist legacy. Berlin, which is home to people from up to 160 different nationalities, has to face and question on-going modes of injustice based on racism.

What histories are hidden under the beds and in the wardrobes of our city? Why are these objects there and what part do they play in our family histories and our daily lives? Can the objects tell (us) their stories? How can objects function as an intermediary between past and present to make these stories and personal memories visible? We want to create a platform that is accessible to the community, where these histories, past and present, can be discussed, contextualized and shared.


The collected objects and stories are meant to be stored in an open archive, accessible to the community at the SAVVY Gallery in Berlin Neukölln. The archive will also be in digital form via the project’s website. In the words of Edward Said: “collective memory is not an inert and passive thing, but a field of activity”. Following from this, the public archive is meant to be built upon the technique of “crowd­archiving”. As a living archive it is conceived as a non­hierarchical platform of dialogue and exchange. We invite you to take part in this community project and to share your perspective. We hope that such an archive can break the power and totality of history making and produce an alternative and challenging reality.


_Archive: Send us an email with your object or story and a short explanation why this contribution is of importance for you!

_Collaboration: Colonial Neighbours as participatory project is based on the collaborations with the neighbourshood, artists, researchers and activists. If you are interested in a collaboration, please contact us!

_Donation: For the extension of our archive we appreciate any form of donation, no matter how small it is!

Please send us an email:

Team: Lynhan Balatbat, Nadia J. Kabalan, Marleen Schröder, Howard Taylor In collaboration with Marie Kirchner, Fábio Mota

For further information and updates please visit our website:

Colonial Neighbours is a project by SAVVY Contemporary - initiated by Bonaventure Ndikung and co-developped by Saskia Köbschall.


An examination of the post/colonial here and now


Thursday, February 13, 2014, 6.30pm

Schleswig-Holsteinische Landesvertretung

at Ministergärten 8, 10117 Berlin

Art directors: Dr. Bonaventure S.B. Ndikung, Dr. Elena Agudio

Photo from the private album "Kamerun“, 1919

The project Colonial Neighbours aims at addressing gaps in Germany’s politics of memory and challenging dominant bodies of knowledge by creating an archive of German colonial history. The archive serves as an information space, in which art, politics and science come and work together. Personalization of history encourages the deconstruction of threadbare perspectives. Historical and contemporary everyday objects, memorabilia and other artefacts narrating the entangled histories of the imaginary geographies of Germany and the African continent, should be collected and worked on. The outcome will be a collection documenting and critically investigating the histories of the long-term relations between Germany and Africa, both by analysing (historical) colonialisms and present-day post/colonialities. Following the concept of “entangled histories” (cf. Conrad & Randeria), the project searches to break up historical dichotomies between Germany and Africa and draw a more differentiated picture of current life-worlds in Berlin.

On February 13, in cooperation with Michael Bonk, the artistic director of Arthur Boskamp-Stiftung / M.1 in Hohenlockstedt, SAVVY Contemporary presented a preview of the project Colonial Neighbours, coordinated by Lisa Hillers and Bonaventure Ndikung, at the "Seitenflügel Vernissage“ in Schleswig-Holsteinische Landesvertretung. The evening featured short interviews with the Minister-President of Schleswig-Holstein Torsten Albig, curator Michael Bonk, and Ulrike Boskamp, the head of Arthur Boskamp-Stiftung/M.1.