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«To-gather» Multi-discipline

To-gather: The time for denial is over

The time for denial is over

3-5 June 2022, various places in Palermo

25 September 2022, Stuttgart

30 September & 1 October 2022, Kaserne Basel

8 October 2022, Vorarlberger Landestheater Bregenz

8-10 November 2022, Schauspiel Leipzig

February 2023, Centre d’Art Waza [Lubumbashi]

Palermo programme

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The «To-gather» International Collaboration grant supports the development and testing of new long-term frameworks and methodologies for working internationally premised on more equitable and sustainable dialogues between cultures.

Read more about the funding structure.

“The time for denial is over” is a long-term multidisciplinary project by Group50:50 exploring the role of artistic practices in the accelerating international debate around the restitution of African cultural heritage, artefacts and human remains. Group50:50 a collective of artists from DR of Congo, Switzerland and Germany that produce transnational artistic cooperation projects that address the history of globalisation, colonial domination of the African continent and neo-colonial practices of exploitation.

Since the 1960s, a movement of globally connected artists, intellectuals and activists has been persistently campaigning for the restitution of African cultural artefacts and human remains as part of the decolonisation strategies. After a long period of stagnation, the debate has accelerated in recent years with the recent return to Nigeria of the Benin Bronzes by the two museums with the largest collections of African art in Europe. “The time for denial is over” seizes upon this moment to mobilise a broad transnational network of artists and civil society to accelerate and accompany this process. The project foregrounds the central questions: “How can these objects be returned in their symbolic, social and historical significance? How can restitution be linked to contemporary contexts of knowledge production, social interaction and global justice?”

Beyond the European perspective, plundered skulls, bones and cultural artefacts are more than objects of scientific and ethnographic interest. They are inhabited by ancestral spirits violently uprooted from their habitat, locked away in forgotten collections haunting the European continent. Drawing inspiration from the writing of French art historian Bénédicte Savoy (author of Africa’s Struggle for Its Art: History of a Postcolonial Defeat), the project recognises that the restitution process must, for communities in Europe and the former colonies, open dialogues about the long history of physical violence, economic exploitation and plunder, alienation, cultural appropriation and dislocation that are embedded in the meaning of these objects. “The time for denial is over” asks: What rituals can be invented to accompany the return of these objects? How can this process of alienation induced by hegemonic Euro-centric thinking imposed by colonial violence be reversed?

Through a series of debates, artistic pieces and workshops in 2022 and 2023 in Palermo, Lubumbashi, Kinshasa, Basel and Leipzig, Group50:50 will explore artistic practices that can accompany the restitution of cultural heritage to the African continent. In each city they will address these issues in collaboration with invited artists, activists and thinkers to take the transnational restitution movement forward.

Beginning in Palermo from 3-5 June 2022, Fondazione Studio Rizoma and Group50:50 have invited artists, activists and thinkers from Europe and Africa to lay the foundations for a broad transnational restitution movement. In a series of lessons, concerts, screenings and interventions, artistic and political practices will be presented and discussed, redefining African and European identities, exploring the links between cultural and natural heritage looting, and reframing transcontinental dialogue and cooperation.

“Time for denial is over” is a project of Group50:50 (Basel-Lubumbashi) in coproduction with Studio Rizoma and Centre d’Art Waza (Lubumbashi) and in cooperation with PODIUM Esslingen, european alternatives, The European Pavilion, CTM Festival Berlin, euro-scène Leipzig, Kaserne Basel and Vorarlberger Landestheater.

ABOUT THE PARTNERS

Group50:50 is a collective of artists from the DR of Congo, Switzerland and Germany who together tell the transnational stories that link their countries and address the economic and cultural inequalities and injustices that separate them. The group’s focus is on a transnational dialogue about historical and current trade relations, global economic inequalities and, not least, the relationship between the so-called neo-extractivism of raw material exploitation and art production. 50:50 stands for the principle of radical sharing of resources and opportunities, which includes both shared artistic direction and a balanced budget. The group formed through the 2020-2021 multidisciplinary project, “Office for Transnational Financial Compensation” (supported by Pro Helvetia), which included the acclaimed music theatre piece “Hercules of Lubumbashi – An Oratorio of Mines” by the Congolese choreographer Dorine Mokha, curator Patrick Mudekereza [Lubumbashi], musician and theatre-maker Elia Rediger [Basel] and dramaturg Eva-Maria Bertschy [ Berlin/ Palermo]. After the sudden passing of Dorine Mokha in January 2021, the group decided to continue their collaboration, and have been joined by theatre makers Christiana Tabaro and Michael Disanka of Collectif d’Art-d’Art [Kinshasa], composer and guitarist Kojack Kossakamvwe (Kinshasa), artist and viola player Ruth Kemna [Palermo], percussionist Huguette Tolinga [Kinshasa]; musician and filmmaker Franck Moka (Kisangani) and Merveil Mukadi (Lubumbashi).

Studio Rizoma is an international cultural and political production hub based in Palermo and with an outreach office in Berlin. It has been established by the international NGO European Alternatives, in cooperation with Allianz Kulturstiftung. Studio Rizoma provides a stable basis for cultural and social experimentation at the crosswords of arts and social engagement at the heart of the Mediterranean. Rizoma leverages on its geographical position to focus its work on issues of transnationality, transcendence of borders, post coloniality, migration and integration, and the future of globalisation. Rizoma has developed a unique methodology combining a focus on original artistic productions with the direct engagement of social and political groups. The work produced does not merely place a spotlight on todays’ contradictions: rather, the very construction of the projects and their production process engages communities in the definition and implementation of the activity, embedding the artistic process in existing sites of struggle and political imagination – in an approach called “mythopoetic”.

Centre d’Art Waza has developed as an artistic resource and project initiator, speaking strongly to the specific history and contemporary reality of Lubumbashi. Waza is one of the few independent art spaces in Congo and provides resources for artists and cultural practitioners of all disciplines to develop critical thinking through artistic research, exchange with local communities and international art professionals. They develop projects at the intersection of art, research and social engagement and have been working for years on the complex issues of restitution of cultural property, among others. In 2019, Waza initiated and chaired the symposium “Les Musées en Convers(at)ions, Perspectives Congolaise sur la transformation des pratiques muséales et la restitutions des biens culturels africains”, in Kinshasa (Académie des Beaux Arts and Goethe Institut). The conference is considered a reference on this topic in the Congolese context. Since 2020, Waza has been working on the HOME (Human Remains Origins Multidisciplinary Evaluation) project, conducting consultations with politicians, theorists, cultural actors and civil society on the possible return of human remains from museum collections in Europe.