The Challenges & Realities of Humboldt Forum in #Berlin #NoHumboldt21

Three years ago I wrote an article for Indian Country Today Media Network, which was titled “Naked Faux Savages and Neo-Racism in Berlin”, to which I posted a link here on my blog. A particular museum in Berlin has chosen to have a theater troupe perform a fake potlatch ceremony, in which naked performers sexualized their interpretation of such an indigenous gathering. The museum’s director Viola König continues to work for the Humboldt Forum project, and to me symbolizes all that is wrong with the project: the entire idea and still being built edifice to its colonial brutality hidden behind a “civilized” facade.

The challenge and reality is European museum directors, curators, supporters and others, including many of the European visitors have benefited from white privilege and supremacy for centuries, educated to believe this is civilized, conservative behavior to preserve what remains of certain cultures and peoples for posterity. This is the lie of the whole thing, and ignores the crimes against the survivors who have been petitioning and ignored though rightfully demanding their peoples objects be repatriated.

When anyone has been taught that culturally abuse, misinterpretation, misrepresentation and misattribution is normal, who have been taught to believe these things are civilized parts of their society, they keep perpetuating these crimes. Other challenges and realities is that there are persons who work for Humboldt forum and/or within the German (colonial) museum system who recognize and admit these are stolen items but who wish to keep their jobs.

On 15 October I will participate is a two-day event titled, “Prussian Colonial Heritage”, which discussions and challenges the continuing colonial practices and behaviors where Europeans justify and excuse the monumental crimes against other cultures, primarily those of people of color, and their refusal to return stolen objects, sacred items and even the remains of indigenous peoples and others. Protests against the project have continued before and since the foundation stone was laid in 2013, and the Humboldt Forum’s planned completion is 2019. Another protest is planned for 20 September, as members of various organizations such as Post-Kolonial Berlin, continue to work a forcible change in policy and protocols at HF and other museums.

From the 2014 article at ICTMN: “The Ethnological Museum continues to be the center of controversy regarding cultural insensitivity, misinformation and shock-value displays of indigenous items from around the world. One such was a display case of sacred Native items alongside a crushed Budweiser can and empty flask of whiskey, with a blurb stating that the biggest problem among Native Americans was alcoholism.

The museum’s director, Viola König, defended the sexualized performance and the museum’s collection. “Das Helmi were simply, playfully implementing all typical contemporary prejudices in a vivid, imaginative way to entertain,” she said. Regarding the controversial objects and displays in the museum, she said, “Organizers of the Humboldt Lab said, ‘Cultural appropriation is always a violent act, and direct or structural violence were likely used in acquiring many objects of our ethnological collections, but they still need to be shown.’”

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12 &15 October: A Workshop on Native Issues Then A Conference on “Stolen Sacred Objects & Human Remains”

And if you don’t know the backstory on this: here’s a briefer. The Humboldt Forum is a German state funded multimillion-dollar recreation of a Prussian emperor’s palace. Began in 2013, scheduled for finish in 2019, it will house the multiple thousands of looted and stolen indigenous and other cultural objects from around the world, including human remains.
There has been an on-going protest against the project, especially as reparations for colonial genocide are being met with resistance and apathy by many Germans, and like the “new” airport (did they ever finish it?) has been troubled with internal and external problems. There are those who work with or in association with the Humboldt Forum who agree items were stolen and should be returned, that continue to internally advocate for change. This conference gives voice to encourage they and others to be more demonstrative in their advocacy.

French art historian Bénédicte Savoy recently quit the project, to the great consternation of the Forum, because of the continued ignoring of unethical procurement Humboldt has the opportunity to correct, but thus far does not. Even in the consultation work on the items and remains, indigenous persons, peoples and tribes are ignored in favor of Eurocentric German opinion.

I’ll be speaking on and sharing information about stolen sacred items, objects and human remains on 15 October at this conference. Learn more about the event and other details at the Facebook page.


 

On 12 Oct. I’ll be giving a workshop at the Brebit event “Fachtag ‘Entwicklungshilfe’ oder Reparationen?” Themes of rethinking Columbus Day, indigenous activism, and contemporary issues. Find more details at their event page

 

Another Pop-Up Cinema in #Berlin, #Free Screening & Discussion of “Reel Injun” (2010) on 27 July

I’ll be speaking at the Pop-up Cinema screening of “Reel Injun” on 27 July, with Berlinale NATIVe in association with Humboldt Forum. The event takes place at MACHmit! Kinder Museum at Senefelder 5/6 in Prenzlauer Berg, 10437, Berlin. Please follow BerlinaleNAtive to learn of upcoming events, as several more are planned through the end of summer, with films from around the world.

Topic: “What kind of image do Native Americans have in Westerns, what do the cowboy-and-Indian myths mean for North America, and how did this genre shape the way cinema developed? In the German-speaking world, Karl May’s Wild West fantasies and Pierre Brice, the “French Winnetou”, still influence people’s notions and images of Native Americans in North America. In this second part of its programme, the Pop-Up Cinema invites you to watch two very different films, both of which question the familiar clichés of prairie romanticism.2
DANCE TO MISS CHIEF
D: Kent Monkman, 2010, 5 min, music video
REEL INJUN
D: Neil Diamond, Catherine Bainbridge, Jeremiah Hayes, Canada 2010, 88 min, English with German subtitles
ADMISSION
free
———
“Was ist das Bild der amerikanischen Ureinwohner in Westernfilmen, was bedeuten Cowboy- und Indianermythen für Amerika und wie hat all das die Entwicklung des Kinos beeinflusst? Karl Mays Wildwest-Wunschträume und der „französische Winnetou“ Pierre Brice prägen unsere Vorstellungen und Bilder von Native Americans in Nordamerika bis heute. Das Pop-up Cinema lädt in seinem zweiten Filmblock zu zwei sehr unterschiedlichen Filmen, die beide jedes bekannte Klischee von Prärieromantik hinterfragen.
DANCE TO MISS CHIEF
R: Kent Monkman, 2010, 5 Min, Musikvideo
REEL INJUN
R: Neil Diamond, Catherine Bainbridge, Jeremiah Hayes, Kanada 2010, 88 Min, Englisch mit deutschen Untertiteln
EINTRITT
frei

Who Is The Enemy To This Land? #DefendTheSacred

This land does not belong to us. It is not ours. We don’t know the stories here. Our ignorant bliss offends and desecrates. We remain an enemy to all life. This is a hard understanding because it asks us to stop and consider how blindly we walk on stolen land that is not ours. We […]

via We Don’t Know the Stories Here — Awakening the Horse People

Background On Our #Documentary Directors (us!) & The Last Official Week of our #Crowdfunding Campaign

Around three years ago, I first heard through a mutual acquaintance, that a German guy named Timo Kiesel was interested in doing a film project about Native stereotypes. While not skeptical, though knowing nothing about him (and the mutual friend wouldn’t have passed the message along if he was sketchy), Timo’s motivation and aim was my concern. Understanding the issues? Honesty? Trustworthiness?

Since I’ve been in Germany, my work is out there such as in ICTMN or my website, and I’d been contacted before by German studios or individuals seeking “authenticity” for their productions, but almost all of which turned out to be deliberately ignorant because they rejected historical accuracy (even in documentaries) in favor of stereotypical Indians and stories that were “fun for German audiences” but misrepresentative or are outright offensive in content. One example? In 2013, “The White Comanche” (very loosely interpreted to tabloid level) documentary (originally titled “The White Squaw”, I’m dead serious), I was asked to be a consultant under contract.

Very enthusiastically, the representative assured me the writers and producers wanted to be accurate, such as having natives play natives, and I began working for those aims. Yet as the days passed, the contract never came, the script and story became more eccentric and misrepresentative of known facts, and the rep finally admitted they had been contacted by hobbyists or clubs which acts as “Indians” willing to work and provide equipment and a setting just to be in the production. I was never paid for the work I’d done, they still owe me, and the production itself ended up being horrendously demeaning to the Comanche people. I’m looking at you Bilderfest.

So, I was deeply wary of anyone seeking me out for consulting on a documentary anymore. I told our mutual friend to have Timo contact me directly, no intermediaries, but due to schedules or whatever, I didn’t hear from him again for nearly a year. During the time, working as I still did in a small local restaurant to support myself, doing supplementary workshops on native themes, going to university full-time and as a single parent of a special needs teen, I had little time anyway. Through 2014, separately, we continued our research, gathering experiences and observations, even filming material for the eventual product. I continued writing on the themes, and expanding my knowledge, contacts and awareness through native organizations, communities, relatives and friends, and Timo did the same in his own networks and contacts throughout Europe, while working as a trainer and consultant at the anti-racism organization, glokal e.V.

In February 2015, we met for the first time and had a productive conversation. The proverbial wheels were set in motion, plans were laid and built upon, yet as ever, life had unexpected twists and turns. Continue reading