Rethinking Africa. (De)Coloniality – 130 Years after the Berlin Conference

The third annual conference "ReThinking Africa : Decolonialities-130 years since the Berlin Conference" took place on the 25th and 26th September 2015 at the Ökumenisches Zentrum Christuskirche in Frankfurt. The conference attempted to commemorate the 130th anniversary of the Berlinisation of the African continent a process which has had an ernomous impact worldwide. Just a few weeks prior to the conference, the German government had formally acknowledged the gruesome war crimes that were commited upon the Nama and Herero between 1904 and 1908 as a Genocide, clearly demonstrating the topicality of a seemingly bygone Epoch. The reappraisal of (German) colonialism and a critical engagement with its heritage: coloniality in its infancy in Germany (as it is in many parts of Africa.)

 

The Conference was organized in two blocks with an artistic and keynote bloc taking place on Friday Evening and Saturday morning, a panel discussion on Saturday morning and a Workshop bloc taking place on saturday afternoon. The Keynote bloc featured, inter alia, Prof. Elikia M´bokolo, an influential congolese historian. The conference was concluded on Saturday evening. The target group of the conference was diverse, seeking to reach out to the young and old generation alike, as well as to an academic and non academic audience. The workshops were specifically curated to cater to different needs and levels of specialisation and thematic interests, adressing diverse topics such as diversity in education, Racism and power relations, human rights, critical whiteness, migration and the state of refugees etc. A total of 200 people attended the conference. AGGN fellow Eric Otieno was part of the organizational team.

 

A key discussion that dominated the conference is how African solutions are affected by Africas Identity crisis. Colonialism, which forcefully constructed the African subject and defined it from without, has remained a dominant discoure even years after it ended in many African countries. African identity is still very diffuse, and African initiatives to improve living conditions for its people are often best practises that are borrowed from other regions of the world, and that often fail due to their lacking adaptability to local African needs and contexts. This failure was attributed to a lacking sense of identity, rather than lack of the required material and technical skills, for it is difficult to achieve generally accepted ways of societal organisation without first thinking about how such a society should look like, even when it may seem easier to look at what somebody else has done and want the same for onseself. So while coloniality (the echo of colonialism) is a real challenge to the world today, decolonisation is still not taken seriously. It is not yet widely percieved as being necessary to Africas quest to define itself and tell its own story. Meanwhile African languages continue to become extinct almost daily, and with them huge oral libraries and halls of wisdom, science and technology disappear. If it is about Agency: defining oneself and telling ones own story , then it is clear what needs to be done

 

(Re)thinking  Africa is an annual conference, and the next one will take place this September. Kindly visit www.afrika-im-zentrum.de for details and for articles and for videos from the 2015 conference. For more information on how to get involved, please get in touch with co-organizer Eric Otieno.

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