UNEXPECTED LESSONS Decolonizing Memory and Knowledge

11 and 12 June 2021

Performative conference in Berlin, Nairobi and in digital space with:

Nathalie Anguezomo Mba Bikoro, Stefanie-Lahya Aukongo, Aïcha Diallo, Ibou Coulibaly Diop, Natasha A. Kelly, Nadia Yala Kisukidi, Syowia Kyambi, Nora Landkammer, Elsa M’Bala, Carmen Mörsch, El Hadji Malick Ndiaye, Nana Oforiatta Ayim, Peggy Piesche, Magnus Elias Rosengarten, Felwine Sarr, Bénédicte Savoy, Vanessa Eileen Thompson among others

For decades, debates have been simmering about the colonial pasts of major European nations and their handling of provenance, restitution, and the return of looted objects from colonial contexts. In recent years, the reach and complexity of the debates has become increasingly visible. It is also no longer possible to deny the racist continuities that have been systematic for a long time in society and are still in effect today.


New perspectives and questions are needed in order to break up colonial thought patterns and challenge Eurocentric, “white” views that are deeply rooted in the European understanding of culture and knowledge that continues to shape Europe’s interaction with non-European cultures today. What is needed is a new historiography, other productions of knowledge, and an “epistemic disobedience” as described by the literary scholar Walter Mignolo. This however, must first be preceded by an “Un-learning” and “Re-thinking” of Eurocentric perspectives of the world. What can knowledge be today, beyond European knowledge systems?

The performative conference UNEXPECTED LESSONS, curated among others by Isabel Raabe (freelance curator and cultural producer in Berlin) and Mahret Ifeoma Kupka (curator at the Museum Angewandte Kunst), dealed artistically and scientifically with the decolonisation of memory and knowledge, with African philosophy and questions about classical museum forms of preservation and presentation, with knowledge systems in music and a critical look at the Eurocentric narrative in art history.

Talks, lectures, films and artistic interventions were broadcasted online from the Akademie der Künste at Pariser Platz in Berlin and from the urban space of Nairobi:

Friday, 11 June 2021, 1.30 – 9 pm
Mit Felwine Sarr, Nana Oforiatta Ayim, Nathalie Anguezomo Mba Bikoro, Elsa M’Bala among others

Saturday, 12 June 2021, 10 am – 9 pm
Mit Bénédicte Savoy, Malick Ndiaye, Nadia Yala Kisukidi, Natasha A. Kelly, Syowia Kyambi among others

Full program, more information and live stream at The contributions are available on the website. The conference language was German and English with simultaneous translation.

You can download the English flyer here.

UNEXPECTED LESSONS took place in cooperation with Dekoloniale – Memory Culture in the City and the Akademie der Künste, Berlin, and was funded by the Capital Cultural Fund (Hauptstadtkulturfonds), the Federal Foreign Office (Auswärtiges Amt), the Federal Agency for Civic Education (Bundeszentrale für politische Bildung), and the Cultural Foundation of the Federal States (Kulturstiftung der Länder/Förderprojekt Kultur.Gemeinschaften).

Part of the programme “Arbeit am Gedächtnis – Transforming Archives” of the Akademie der Künste, May – November 2021,

Curators Nairobi: Jim Chuchu and Njoki Ngumi (Artist collective The Nest, Nairobi), Chao Tayiana (African Digital Heritage, Nairobi)

Curators Berlin: Mahret Ifeoma Kupka (Curator, Museum Angewandte Kunst, Frankfurt am Main), Isabel Raabe (Curator and project developer, Berlin)

Curator Film programme: Nnenna Onuoha (filmmaker and visual anthropologist, Berlin)

Digital city walk by Dekoloniale Memory Culture in the City (Berlin)