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The Struggle of Memory – PalaisPopulaire, Germany

19 Apr — 11 Mar 2024

The Struggle of Memory – Deutsche Bank Collection

“The first step in liquidating a people … is to erase its memory. Destroy its books, its culture,its history. Then have somebody write new books, manufacture a new culture, invent a new history. Before long that nation will begin to forget what it is and what it was. The world around it will forget even faster.“
– Milan Kundera, The Book of Laughter and Forgetting, 1980

Societies require continuity and connection with the past to preserve social unity and cohesion and people need to know where they come from to be able to adjust to the circumstances of the present and challenges of the future. One of the most insidious consequences of the slave trade and European colonialism in Africa was the devaluing and dismantling of precolonial histories and cultures. The African artifacts in Western museums are symbols of the cultures that were robbed of their people and material heritage, ruthlessly subjugated, or gradually hollowed out and disassembled.

Restitution is only one step in a long journey toward the reconstruction of memory and cultural self-reinvention. Artists are taking other steps, mining family archives, highlighting individual stories, recuperating lesser-known histories, imagining different power dynamics, and constructing alternative narratives.

Curated by Kerryn Greenberg, Independent Curator and Co-Director New Curators

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