MONUMENTAL SHADOWS

Documentary film by Frederic Leitzke about the project “Monumental Shadows – Rethinking Colonial Heritage”, Berlin 2021.

“Monumental Shadows – Rethinking Colonial Heritage”

A participatory project on public monuments reexamining and transforming the shadows cast by colonial figures into the present.

Even though more and more European countries are beginning to come to terms with their colonial history, the prevailing culture of remembrance is darkened by deep shadows. Former colonizing and colonized regions are linked together by a complex and violent past that reverberates into the present. The art project “Monumental Shadows” explores the culture of remembrance critically and deals with monuments that continue to inscribe and reiterate the colonial logic in public space.

Paper molding of the Bismarck statue, Berlin 2021. Photo: Raisa M. Galofre Cortés
Paper molding of the Bismarck statue, Berlin 2021. Photo: Raisa M. Galofre Cortés

In a combination of artistic collaboration, thematic debate, and public discussion, the project makes visible connection between colonialism and contemporary racism. Within the framework of “Monumental Shadows”, a series of seven artistic paper molds of historical monuments in European cities is planned. Backdropped by the infamous “Congo Conference” (1884/85 in Berlin), these monuments are entangled with the European colonization and division of Africa. They play a significant role in shaping the national identity for countries that participated in the conference and to this day continue to benefit from it.

The selected monuments and the represented historical figures are still positively portrayed or even glorified in the historiography of their respective countries (and beyond). By publicly commemorating these figures, the colonial exploitation and imperialist atrocities for which they were responsible are concealed, downplayed, or glossed over. On the one hand, their active participation and facilitation of colonialism remains invisible to the general public, while on the other hand, their past actions cast long-lasting shadows over countless lives to this day, in the form of structural racism and everyday inequalities.

Intervention by Various & Gould in collaboration with Colonial Neighbours (SAVVY Contemporary), Berlin 2021. Photo: Raisa M. Galofre Cortés
Intervention by Various & Gould in collaboration with Colonial Neighbours (SAVVY Contemporary), Berlin 2021. Photo: Raisa M. Galofre Cortés

Using a technique based on papier-mâché, the monument is temporarily covered with thin, adhesive layers of paper, which, however, do not stick to the statue itself. After several days of teamwork, a three-dimensional paper shell is created. During the entire working process, active dialogue with visitors and passer-by is an essential part of the project. Once the paper shell has dried, it can be opened and removed from the statue.

The aim of the project is to demonumentalize these monuments by symbolically knocking them off their pedestals and charging them with new meanings. In the visual design of the paper molds, we address the respective monument and its colonial history. Through the lightness and malleability of the paper, their transience becomes visible.

Performance by Thomias Radin with Natisa Exocée Kasongo, Jumoke Adeyanju and Delawhere, Berlin 2021. Photo: Raisa M. Galofre Cortés
Performance by Thomias Radin with Natisa Exocée Kasongo, Jumoke Adeyanju and Delawhere, Berlin 2021. Photo: Raisa M. Galofre Cortés

Subsequently, the resulting molds are transformed by artists in urban performances through which the paper fragments become tangible. This shows: History is not static, and we are all part of it.

Our concern is to raise and strengthen the public awareness of the on-going consequences of the colonial era. The fundamental change and multiplication of perspectives are the essential steps to disrupt the one-dimensionality of a white hegemony in Eurocentric historiography. It is long overdue that today’s collective memory work includes the experiences and voices of BIPOC, which have so often been silenced or ignored until now.

First iteration: Berlin

“Monumental Shadows Berlin” is an artistic exploration of Germany’s colonial heritage and current culture of remembrance. The project ran from August to the end of October 2021 in Berlin and was divided into four parts, so-called “Shadows”. In different formats, the participating artists and speakers questioned the effects of colonialism to the present day.

The starting point is the experience that German colonialism is often played down in public discourse. It thus lies in the shadows for many people and at the same time casts a long shadow over the lives of many.

The project was initiated by artist duo Various & Gould and developed in cooperation with Colonial Neighbours a project by SAVVY Contemporary.

Bismarck and the German colonies
Shadow #1
Intervention

“Monumental Shadows Berlin” kicked off with an urban intervention by Various & Gould at the Bismarck statue in Berlin’s Tiergarten, Großer Stern, 10557 Berlin. Using a technique related to papier-mâché, the two artists and the Colonial Neighbours team have temporarily molded the monument and removed this paper shell from its pedestal.

Paper molding of the Bismarck statue, Photo: Raisa M. Galofre Cortés
Paper molding of the Bismarck statue, Photo: Raisa M. Galofre Cortés

02.–21.08.2021
Performative process: paper molding of the Bismarck statue

The artists duo Various & Gould temporarily concealed and molded the Bismarck Monument (1901 by Reinhold Begas) with multiple layers of paper.

Photo: Raisa M. Galofre Cortés
Photo: Raisa M. Galofre Cortés

Bismarck knocked off his pedestal
21.08.2021

Various & Gould’s working process has been accompanied by an artistic intervention by Daniela Medina Poch and Juan Pablo García Sossa. (See following photos!)

Photo: Raisa M. Galofre Cortés
Photo: Raisa M. Galofre Cortés

On the last day of work at the statue, the paper form has been opened …

Photo: Raisa M. Galofre Cortés
Photo: Raisa M. Galofre Cortés

… and taken down from the pedestal under the eyes of dozens of visitors.

Photo: Raisa M. Galofre Cortés
Photo: Raisa M. Galofre Cortés

At the same time, Daniela Medina Poch & Juan Pablo García Sossa scratched a large lettering in the path to the monument:

Photo: Raisa M. Galofre Cortés
Photo: Raisa M. Galofre Cortés
Photo: Raisa M. Galofre Cortés
Photo: Raisa M. Galofre Cortés

View from the scaffolding at the monument: Fragmentary pieces of the Bismarck paper shell (Various & Gould) and lettering intervention (Daniela Medina Poch & Juan Pablo García Sossa).

Shadow #2
Performance

„Gospel of Wealth“, urban performance by Thomias Radin with Natisa Exocée Kasongo, Jumoke Adeyanju & Delawhere.
The fragments of the paper-Bismarck from Shadow#1 were part of this performance on the Open Monument Day, 12th of September 2021.
The location of the event is another public square that bears a history of violence in its name: Nettelbeckplatz, which commemorates the colonial propagandist and slave trader Joachim Nettelbeck.

Photo: Raisa M. Galofre Cortés
Photo: Raisa M. Galofre Cortés

Gospel of Wealth

Viewing life as a gold rush will result in worshiping the golden calf and the golden rule becomes that those who have the gold, rule!
Spirituality drops out! Morality drops out!

Collateral damage. The myth of the one over the existence of many.

Many of you, many of us, many of them, many of me are echoing inside the empty shell of the one.

Bigidi !
Move forward!
Bigidi bigidi, head up fast forward!

Photo: Raisa M. Galofre Cortés
Photo: Raisa M. Galofre Cortés

‚GOSPEL OF WEALTH‘ questions the impact of the glorification of a western colonial figure and its heritage within the individual and collective consciousness, from an Afro-diasporic perspective. From Nigeria through Congo to the Caribbean.

Photo: Raisa M. Galofre Cortés
Photo: Raisa M. Galofre Cortés

In the performance, we encounter several mythologies, embodied by sonic and danced intervention. We aim to open a new conversation acknowledging and valuing collectivity over the myth of a political figure and material wealth.

Photo: Raisa M. Galofre Cortés
Photo: Raisa M. Galofre Cortés

Concept : Thomias Radin (Guadeloupe/FR)
Performers: Natisa Exocée Kasongo (Congo/FR), Jumoke Adeyanju (Nigeria/DE), Thomias Radin
Sound artist: Delawhere (FR)

Photo: Raisa M. Galofre Cortés
Photo: Raisa M. Galofre Cortés
Shadow #3
Workshop

September-October 2021
Youth workshops with João Eduardo Albertini at SAVVY Contemporary.

In artistic and creative workshops, we worked with pupils on remembering, history, colonialism and racism.

João Eduardo Albertini and Lynhan Balatbat-Helbock. Photo: Raisa M. Galofre Cortés
João Eduardo Albertini and Lynhan Balatbat-Helbock. Photo: Raisa M. Galofre Cortés

Impressions from the youth workshops with João Eduardo Albertini.

Photo: Raisa M. Galofre Cortés
Photo: Raisa M. Galofre Cortés

Impressions from the youth workshops with João Eduardo Albertini.

Photo: Raisa M. Galofre Cortés
Photo: Raisa M. Galofre Cortés

Impressions from the youth workshops with João Eduardo Albertini.

Photo: Raisa M. Galofre Cortés
Photo: Raisa M. Galofre Cortés

Impressions from the youth workshops with João Eduardo Albertini.

Photo: Raisa M. Galofre Cortés
Photo: Raisa M. Galofre Cortés
Shadow #4
Panel

Friday, 29th of October 2021, 19:00
„A Place in the Sun“ & its long shadows | Closing Event: Lynhan Balatbat-Helbock talked with Fernande Bode, Jumọke Adejanyu and Josephine Apraku. Film premiere by Frederic Leitzke. DJ-Set: Hanaby.

SAVVY Contemporary, Reinickendorfer Str. 17, 13347 Berlin

Photo: Raisa M. Galofre Cortés
Photo: Raisa M. Galofre Cortés

To close the Berlin chapter, we invited to an exchange with performances, lectures and conversations about interdisciplinary experiences and strategies in dealing with colonial heritage.
As a premiere there was a screening of the documentary film “Monumental Shadows – Rethinking Colonial Heritage” by Frederic Leitzke. [Film music by Levitation (Stefan Rusconi & Tobias Preisig) and Delawhere.]

Photo: Raisa M. Galofre Cortés
Photo: Raisa M. Galofre Cortés

Moderator Lynhan Balatbat-Helbock talked with Fernande Bode, Jumọke Adejanyu and Josephine Apraku.

Photo: Raisa M. Galofre Cortés
Photo: Raisa M. Galofre Cortés
Photo: Raisa M. Galofre Cortés
Photo: Raisa M. Galofre Cortés

Then Jumọke Adejanyu recited poetry in English, German, Swahili and Yoruba.

Photo: Raisa M. Galofre Cortés
Photo: Raisa M. Galofre Cortés

Jumọke Adejanyu recited poetry in English, German, Swahili and Yoruba.

Photo: Raisa M. Galofre Cortés
Photo: Raisa M. Galofre Cortés

Finally there was a DJ set by Hanaby.

Photo: Raisa M. Galofre Cortés
Photo: Raisa M. Galofre Cortés

Various & Gould

The Berlin based artist duo Various & Gould works in close collaboration since 2005. After studying at the Berlin-Weissensee School of Art (KHB), the artists graduated under the tutelage of Prof Alex Jordan (Grapus collective) in 2010. Various & Gould are known for constantly reinventing themselves. Whilst methods of screen-printing and collage are their speciality, their art can also emerge in a public performance or an installation as they like crossing borders and do not stick to a certain medium. Various & Gould often deal with socially prominent themes such as work, migration, gender, death, religion or the financial crisis in a playful, intuitive manner.

Colonial Neighbours

Colonial Neighbors is a long-term project by SAVVY Contemporary in Berlin. It is a participatory archive and research project which invites international artists, historians, cultural scholars, curators and other activists to engage with German colonial history and its aftermath in the present.

Team Monumental Shadows Berlin (2021)

Artistic Direction: Various & Gould
Curation: Lynhan Balatbat-Helbock

Projekt Management: Britt Janina Heinker
Curatorial Assistance: Lili Somogyi, Antonio Pedro Mendes

Additional artistic intervention: Daniela Medina Poch & Juan Pablo García Sossa

Performance: Thomias Radin, Natisa Exocée Kasongo, Jumoke Adeyanju & Delawhere

Production Assistance: Billy Fowo, Sagal Farah, Jörg-Peter Schulze, Alina Kologriwaja, Ahmed Isam Aldin, Mohamedali Ltaief, Sh. M. Mudassir

School Workshops: João Eduardo Albertini

Panel Discussion: Josephine Apraku, Fernande Bode, Jumọke Adejanyu
Panel Moderation: Lynhan Balatbat-Helbock
DJ-Set: Hanaby

Communication: Anna Jäger
Management: Lema Sikod
Design: Juan Pablo García Sossa

Accessibility: Annika Hirsekorn
German Simple Language: Christina Stark
German Sign Language: Ina Peters
German Sign Language Videos: Rolando Octavio González

Photo Documentation: Raisa Galofre
Video Documentation: Frederic Leitzke (editude pictures), Florian Lampersberger

The pilot project in Berlin was funded by Senatsverwaltung für Kultur und Europa des Landes Berlin and Berliner Projektfonds Urbane Praxis, with kind suppport by Zapf Umzüge.

Contact to the current team of the Monumental Shadows project series in Europe:
Various & Gould
Nan Xi (Assistance)
vasb@zbahzragny-funqbjf.arg