Posting 2021-05-05 21:57:01 by Yolanda Gutirrez

By Yolanda Gutirrez / Curator

The process of decolonization requires knowledge, time and the will to change. We are living in a society facing new challenges, knowing about the past means to know about ourselves, about who we are, from where we come from, where we are living. We shape this society together and thats why is so important to watch at history from many perspectives. A multidimensional perspective in this case of the figure of Bismarck allow us to open up our minds and thoughts to recognize other narratives and discourses.

We cannot change history but we can change the way we look at it.

I would like to talk briefly about the monument of Bismarck And later on about him.

If you visit Hamburg you might see near the port a giant statue. What hes wearing refers to a Germanic tradition of brave knighthood. He stands on a socle surrounded by eight figures who represent the Germanic tribes.
This is the largest of 240 memorials of Bismarck worldwide. It was build in 1906. Its a 24 meters granite high monument.
Bismarck never saw this monument. He died in 1898 and it was built to honor him.
Thanks to a benefactor this statue could be built. Right now the city of Hamburg is renovating it for 9 million euros.

1. What is the role of Otto von Bismarck in the colonization of the African continent?
In 1884, the Congo Conference took place, also known as the West Africa Conference or Berlin Conference. It met at the invitation of the German Chancellor Otto von Bismarck in the Reich Chancellor's Palace in Berlin. The representatives of 13 European states as well as the USA and the Ottoman Empire discussed the future course of action of these states on the African continent.
And no African was to be seen anywhere.

These countries as representation of power present laid down the criteria for the recognition of colonial property under international law. This triggered an unprecedented race for the as yet unoccupied areas of Africa. Within a few years Africa was then divided among the European powers. The merchants of Hamburg benefit of this carving up of Africa.

For a long time, the history of the colonies founded in the German Empire played a subordinate role in the collective memory. Even the cruel crackdown on the Herero and Nama in 1904-07 in German South West Africa - or the Maji Maji War in German East Africa, both of which amounted to genocide, was hardly present until a few years ago.

This brings me to the memories as I was in Tanzania and saw a former slave market place in Bagamoyo, which part of the construction is still existing. Men ran to the sea to carry yellow plastic canister of palm oil. They were men carrying them one in each hand and bringing them to the storage. The boat was an old wood boat coming from Zanzibar. This old path to bring palm oil from this island who was used by the colonizers and slave trade is still existing today and the same boat for bring these canisters aswell. These men got paid for each canister just a few cents.
The price of it in the world market is 550 dollars for 50 metric ton. You might not cook with it, but you almost certainly eat or use palm oil: lipsticks, pizza dough, detergents, instant noodle, shampoo, ice cream, margarine, chocolate, cookies, biodiesel, chocolate, package bread.
According to the World Wildlife Fund: Palm oil is the most widely consumed vegetable oil on the planet, found in many packaged products sold in the supermarket. While palm oil is the most efficient source of vegetable oil, its rapid expansion threatens some of the planets most important and sensitive habitats

2. How to start a decolonization process around the statue of Bismarck in Hamburg?

In my point of view this decolonization process can only be possible if we listen to the narratives of those who were affected by this European colonization, specifically the voices and narratives from the German former colonies. This enables a necessary change of perspective, and this is very important to start a decolonizing process.

Therefore, the focus of BISMARCK DEKOLONIAL are the artistic narratives of people of some artists coming from the former German African colonies like Cameroon, Namibia, Tanzania, Togo and Ruanda. To wide out the view of this process of decolonization I invited aswell an artist from Mexico.

The central questions are: 3. What do they think coming from the former German colonies and seeing this huge monument of Bismarck?

4. What forms of artistic actions can decolonize Bismarck?

The first part of the project will take place today. In this LAB= FORUM the artists will present their ideas, and have a discussion about the topic

The second part will follow in the summer of 2021, when these artistic interventions will be presented live at the Bismarck monument in Hamburg.

On April 16th at 6 pm a LAB=FORUM Laboratory took place online via FACEBOOK. MORE INFOS UNDER NEWS