Warp and Weft

Colonial Neighbours together with Zwoisy Mears-Clarke and Elena Polzer invite you to “Warp and Weft” – an evening of storytelling that brings together the threads of research and creative exchanges of a two-year long project. The event focuses on how the relationship between Germans, Ovaherero, and Nama people were violently entangled at the time of German South West Africa (present-day Namibia), leading to the Herero and Nama genocide. What and where are the traces of this shared history still found in our day-to-day? Where has this thread of history been woven into our life’s fabric?

The structure of fabric is formed by the vertical and horizontal interlacing of threads at right angles. This process of interlacing is what is known as weaving, whereby the horizontal looping of threads, referred to as the weft, over and under the weft, the vertical threads tied within the frame of the loom, transforms these threads into fabric. 

We consider the history of Germany to be a complex fabric of threads from many sources. Some parts of this fabric have long been undervalued, overlooked, and willfully torn out. In the spirit of visible mending, we strive to turn attention to these same ignored patches, recognizing the wounds, acknowledging their existence with multiple threads as we strive to reincorporate them into a fabric that retains awareness of the tears and rips, the hurt and the wrongs, even as it is knotted back together. We believe that the project of decolonisation requires remembering, a regaining of knowledge, rendering visible processes, thefts, appropriations and erasures. 

Similar to the process of weaving the warp and weft, numerous threads have been interlaced during the construction of Germany over time – through the interaction with persons, peoples, cultures, events, ideologies, the unnamed, and more. Pushing deeper into this politically tense notion, we question: which parts of this fabric have not been touched, sensed or fully recognized as yet? What would it mean to touch those parts in such a way that deep knowledge and recognition could be claimed? How does this fabric age? Which strands of the weft are encouraged or allowed to be traced by the governing powers?

A rip in the fabric exposes both the internal material and that which lies beyond it. Between 1884 until 1915, German South West Africa was ripped apart by Germany implementing various violent strategies such as the Nama and Ovaherero genocide. This harm enlists the victim, the perpetrator, and the affliction in an entanglement of relationships, as suggested by Bayo Akomolafe. And thus, connected threads that cross land, language, nation state, culture, knowledge, ecology, sea, and body are exposed by that rip. How could this rip be employed to sense the collective layers of the weave? 

On the day of the event, we invite you to hold different threads with us in the collective attempt of weaving and unweaving them: 

In the process leading to this event, nine Namibian activists, Ronny Dempers, Sam Geiseb, Mbakumua Hengari, Ida Hoffmann, Tjeripo Katjanuga, Nandiuasora Mazeingo, Esther Muinjangue, Vitjitua Ndjiharine, and Michael Uerikua, were invited by Zwoisy Mears-Clarke to share the tracing of their stories, starting from the time of German colonialism. Excerpts of these interviews, which have been artistically transformed by POC Stories and Mona Okulla Obua, will be shared as a video-installation in the space of SAVVY Contemporary from 13.01.–23.01.2022 during the exhibition opening hours 14:00–19:00. Within the scope of “Warp and Weft”, these nine activists helped traverse through the aforementioned rip. The videos are in English with German, English, and German Sign Language subtitles.

Join us for a hands-on workshop held by Vitjitua Ndjiharine and Elena Polzer offering a chance to reflect together on tools and strategies of decolonizing the self in relationship to historical and contemporary objects. Participants will also have a chance to embroider, sew or knit a contribution of their own to the archive of this project. Everyone is welcome, no sewing experience necessary, no registration needed.

In the evening, we will premiere two new works commissioned in the framework of this project. "An Incantation for the Dead and the Living: On the German Genocide of the Herero and Nama" is a text by Sudanese writer Fatin Abbas which will be read by English/Swiss actress Agnes Lampkin. In the text, the author traces the thread from German South West Africa, to sitting down at the computer finishing her doctoral thesis in Boston, to drinking tea while listening to interviews of the nine Namibian activists in her current home in Berlin, and everything else wrapped around, in, over, and under. 

The reading will be followed by the premiere of Unmenschlich, a short play by Tjeripo Katjangua that is based on her experience of being Herero in contemporary Germany. She simultaneously traces the constructed edges of her time in Germany a few years ago, the colonially invalidated German citizenship of mixed German South West African children and their Namibian descendants with the realities of the “Bürgeramt”. Amina Eisner as dramaturg, Benita Bailey as director, Agnes Lampkin as actress, and Jules* Elting as actor* join this thread. 

The event will be accompanied by the bilingual (German and English) zine “Warp and Weft” for you to take home. It is a gift wrapped by Kerem Halbrecht, Zwoisy Mears-Clarke, Elena Polzer, and Neda Sanai. And it is also a tracing. It is filled with threads from Ronny Dempers, Tjeripo Katjanuga, and Vitjitua Ndjiharine that trace and cross the Nama, Herero and German modern cultural spaces. 

This evening wouldn’t be complete without your, our stories. After watching the videos, sewing, reading, playing, reading the zine, we may sense back into our gathered weave. Before we all go home, let’s come together around conversations and maybe some warming tea.