Unexpected Lessons: Decolonizing Knowledge and Memory

Our very own Njoki Ngumi and Jim Chuchu in collaboration with Chao Tayiana of African Digital Heritage, and independent curators Kahira Ngige and Rosie Olang took part in the Unexpected Lessons Symposium co-hosted digitally by Nairobi and Berlin! Unexpected Lessons is a performative discursive event by Talking Objects Lab, a think tank, exhibition and event series that features video conversations, lectures, talks and discussions by different cultural curators, researchers and artists from around the world, exploring the topic ‘Decolonizing Knowledge and Memory’. We were also thrilled to have the opportunity to have conversation and break bread with some really amazing people: independent scholar Keguro Macharia; Kenyan writer and secret-choir member Carey Baraka; maker, storyteller and performer Aleya Kassam; writer and scholar Neo Musangi; and poet, editor and historian bethuel muthee.

Through vox pops, panel discussions, video conversations and a card game (currently in development), we explored, imagined and unpacked decolonization within the universe of object movement through two main areas. The first is Decolonization Labour is Emotional Labour, where we examined the skewed levels of discomfort, resentment and hurt that occur when communities who have experienced extraction deal with issues of object movement across international exchanges. We also reflected on the skewed gender-representation in the labour of decolonial work, and the role of guilt and other defensive emotions that underpin how contemporary intercultural exchanges are communicated by states and institutions. In The Other Objects, our second area of discourse, we considered landscapes, people, nature, built environments, spaces and colonial archives as objects, by seeking to expand the idea of what an ‘object’ is, considering how disruptive forces of acquisition have been applied on them as well. We did this in order to counter the Eurocentric model of cultural preservation through the specific idolization of physical objects, alongside the exclusion of their communities of belonging, under the pretext of conservation. 

We’re incredibly grateful to our very own JP, who led production for some of the video contributions, which were directed and edited by our very own Noel, with location sound by our very own Mars. We were also glad for the opportunity to work with the cool folk at Baruu Collective, who helped out with the vox pop contributions.

We unpacked this interesting discussion, through pre-recorded audiovisuals, live streamed video conversations and panel discussions this last weekend Friday (11th June 2021) and Saturday (12th June 2021). Stay tuned for the videos!

The Nest Collective is a multidisciplinary arts collective living and working in Nairobi, Kenya—working with film, music, fashion, visual arts and literature since 2012.

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