“The time for denial is over” is supported by a «To-gather» International Collaboration grant, focusing on the development and testing of new long-term frameworks and methodologies for working internationally premised on more equitable and sustainable dialogues between cultures.
The acclaimed multimedia musical theatre production “The Ghosts Are Returning” and discourse programme “The time for denial is over” by GROUP50:50 will premiere on the continent with programmes in Lubumbashi and Kinshasa, DRC in February.
In “The Ghosts Are Returning”, artistic directors Christiana Tabaro and Michael Disanka from Kinshasa and the Berlin-based Swiss artists Elia Rediger and Eva-Maria Bertschy begin from a premise that connects their home countries: In 1952, a Swiss doctor brought seven “pygmy skeletons” from the Congolese province of Ituri (today Haut-Uele) back to Switzerland and gave them to the University of Geneva for research purposes. Unlike other African skeletons and skulls, thousands of which still remain in the archives of European museums, the names, dates, causes of death and the approximate origin of the seven skeletons are known.
GROUP50:50 embarks on journey into the equatorial forest to meet the nomadic Mbuti people, who are threatened by illegal logging and being driven out of their home territory. Do they want to have the skeletons and spirits of their ancestors back? Because what is rarely considered in the debate on restitution: Along with the masks, skulls and skeletons, the spirits that the Europeans abducted and locked away in the colonial era also return. Using song and dance alongside the Mbuti, GROUP50:50 develop a ritual for the seven spirits – in hopes that they will find peace. The result is a multimedia musical theatre piece about (neo)colonial crimes, death and mourning.
In conjunction with the rehearsals and performances of the piece, GROUP50:50 in collaboration with Studio Rizoma Palermo invite artists, activists and thinkers from Europe and Africa to develop a foundation for a broad transnational restitution movement under the title “The time for denial is over”. Through lectures, discussions and interventions, the discourse programme explores artistic and political practices that promote and accompany the restitution of cultural artifacts and human remains, thereby redesigning transcontinental dialogue and cooperations.
In Lubumbashi and Kinshasa, the programme is co-curated by Centre d’art Waza, the Lubumbashi University and the University of Geneva, and will revolve around the meeting of a delegation of four representatives from Wamba and Mbuti communities with the University of Geneva to discuss the repatriation of the seven skeletons. The colloquium will be broadcast on Waza Radio.
10 & 11 February 2023: “The Ghosts are Returning” 17h00, at
9-11 February 2023: “The time for denial is over” from 9h30, at Salle Mgr Thibangu
15 February 2023: The time for denial is over” 16h00, at Académie des Beaux-Arts
17 & 18 February 2023: “The Ghosts are Returning” 17h00, Mont des Arts
GROUP50:50 is an artist collective from DRC, Switzerland and Germany as well as a production structure based in Basel, Berlin and Lubumbashi, committed to the realisation and production of transnational artistic cooperation projects. GROUP50:50 tells stories about historical and current economic and political interrelations between their countries, and demands the return of cultural heritage and reparations for colonial crimes and present-day human rights violations. The group addresses the history of globalisation, the colonial rule over the African continent and neo-colonial practices of exploitation of humans and nature to extract raw materials. The GROUP50:50 critically reflects on the forms of their collaboration, which are disturbed by historical economic inequalities, cultural misunderstandings and unequal access to means of artistic production.