Re-connecting “Objects”

Akademie der Künste, Pariser Platz
Pariser Platz 4, 10117 Berlin

How can action-oriented research transform practices with “objects” contained in colonial collections? Involving three African and two European universities and museums (the Théodore Monod Museum of African Art in Dakar and the Pitt Rivers Museum in Oxford), the international research project Re-connecting “Objects”: Epistemic Plurality and Transformative Practices in and beyond Museums strives for new models of engaging with artifacts and cultural practices by building symmetrical structures for collaboration and exchange and by engaging with anti-colonial resistance and transmission on the African continent. The project critically interrogates the histories of colonial collections, engages in the re-connection of interrupted chains of knowledge, and examines alternative forms of custody, object-handling, and display in African and European museums, and beyond. It thus seeks to produce multi-perspectival and transformative approaches to collections, contributing to dismantling the Eurocentric order of knowledge and to displacing the authority of expertise. Epistemic plurality is at the core of this project. A digital working tool is developed with the team of La Villa Hermosa, a Brussels-based graphic design studio, which will enable sustainable long-distance collaboration. Drawing relationships between the artifacts and documenting their historical evolution without reifying them, it acts as a transversal working instrument to be used by researchers across all continents.

The project brings together an international team of researchers from Senegal, Cameroon, South Africa, Germany, and Great Britain who work in close dialogue with artists, museum professionals, students, and various stakeholders on both continents. At the five partner institutions, postdoctoral researchers conduct individual research, while contributing, to the overarching common endeavor: the creation of two complementary, site-specific research exhibitions held simultaneously in Oxford and Dakar during the 2024 Dak’art Biennale. Throughout the duration of the project, a number of collective meetings are organized, unfolding the research over time. This session within the framework of the 12th Berlin Biennale is one of them.

With: Lennon Mhishi, Lotte Arndt, Lucie Mbogni Nankeng, Marian Nur Goni, Rossila Goussanou, Sophie Schasiepen

Organized by: Prof. Dr. Bénédicte Savoy (Head of Project) and Dr. Lotte Arndt, Technische Universität Berlin; Prof. Dr. Ciraj Rassool and Dr. Sophie Schasiepen, University of the Western Cape; Prof. Dr. Albert Gouaffo and Dr. Lucie Mbogni, Université de Dschang; Dr. El Hadj Malick Ndiaye and Dr. Rossila Goussanou, Institut Fondamental d’Afrique Noire (IFAN), Théodore Monod African Art Museum, Université Cheikh Anta Diop de Dakar; Prof. Dr. Dan Hicks and Dr. Lennon Mishi, University of Oxford, Pitt Rivers Museum; Dr. Marian Nur Goni, Université Paris VIII. In exchange with: La Villa Hermosa (Ayoh Kré Duchâtelet, Lionel Maes).

This conference is part of the discursive program of the 12th Berlin Biennale. Taking the restitution debate as a starting point, it explores how colonialism and imperialism continue to operate in the present.