Regarding Decoloniality and the Afterlife of Cultural Heritage Objects
June 21, 2022
1017 CA Amsterdam
A transcultural research and artistic project initiated by Goethe-Institut that is conceptualized and curated by the Artistic Directors Amal Alhaag and Selene Wendt.
In recent years, ongoing debates about the restitution of cultural heritage objects that were stolen within various colonial contexts have gained momentum in tandem with a general awareness about the prevalence of various social injustices throughout society. While these discussions have primarily involved scholars, academics and museum professionals, artists, activists and community members have also played an important role in reconfiguring and complicating the discourse around decoloniality, restitution and reparations.
As engagement with social justice initiatives and movements such as Black Lives Matter continues to grow worldwide, so too does social pressure and the collective call to create change. Essential to these discussions and debates are the artists, communities, activist initiatives and intellectuals from the Global South and the diaspora whose voices and involvement are crucial to ensure a successful re-imagining and re-defining of how we think about the care and placement of illegally obtained artifacts and cultural objects currently housed within European collections. In keeping with this line of thinking, European museums are increasingly becoming interested in confronting the violent histories of their collections.
The concept of practicing freedom draws inspiration from Kaiama L. Glover’s book Regarded Self. As a title, Practicing Freedom hints at the radical potential that lies in Glover’s thinking. It helps define the scope and ambitions of the project while also allowing for multiple trajectories and narratives to unfold over the duration of the project, providing a conceptual starting point for the many paths we will embark on during the project, individually and collectively.
With this project, we attempt to facilitate opportunities to collectively unpack the topic of restitution by focusing on artistic practices, cultural work and initiatives that are founded on the desire for radical transformation and a commitment to creating change. With cultural heritage objects at the center of the project, and even more importantly, the life and spirit of cultural heritage objects as depositories of flows and energies, Practicing Freedom is also about confronting cultural amnesia through everyday memory work and a recognition of the knowledge and spiritual systems that are connected to cultural heritage objects.
Working with researchers, artists, museum professionals, and existing collaborative initiatives and research projects, Practicing Freedom will take the shape of workshops, residencies, panel discussions and lectures, podcasts, artistic interventions, and a final exhibition project and publication that will tie the numerous threads of the project together.
The first public event for Practicing Freedom will take place on June 21 at the Goethe-Institut in Amsterdam. This event will feature a live conversation between Wayne Modest (Director of Content National Museum of World Cultures, Rotterdam and Head of the Research Center for Material Culture, Amsterdam) and Nanette Snoep (Director of the Rautenstrauch-Joest Museum, Cologne). This is the first in a series of public conversations that will take place within the Practicing Freedom project. The program for the evening also includes a poetic intervention by Quinsy Gario. For more detailed information about Practicing Freedom or to sign up for this public event, please follow this link: Practicing Freedom, Goethe-Institut.