Colonial Neighbours is a participatory archive and research project, located at the art space of SAVVY CONTEMPORARY (Berlin-Wedding), investigating the colonial history of Germany, including its ongoing impacts upon the present.

Today, knowledge of colonial history and its impact is hardly present in the German public sphere. Official German “collective memory” actively displaces, silences, or denies this history. Many schoolbooks, media outlets, and politicians ignore this period, downplay its importance, or portray it as if it evolved in isolation from an alleged “core” of “German history.” As a consequence, colonialism is often seen as part of the ‚distant‘ past. As some are now trying to say, however, we cannot understand Germany without understanding its role as a colonial power.

The city of Berlin, with its long history of migration itself, has a crucial role in the history of colonialism. Its representatives in power chose the capital to host the famous Berlin Conference, also known as the Congo Conference in 1884–1885, where the African continent was divided between European rulers. Berlin consolidated the process of global European expansion, as it was here that the political rules which would install formal colonial power over African territories were established. Colonialism is connected to the history of racism, and that racism haunts us still today.

Photocredit: SAVVY Contemporary Colonial Neighbours


Lynhan Balatbat-Helbock

Lynhan Balatbat-Helbock is a curator and researcher at SAVVY Contemporary. She received her MA in Postcolonial Cultures and Global Policy at Goldsmiths University of London. In her work she looks for colonial traces that are manifested in our present. Most recently, she assisted the management for the documenta14 radio program – Every Time a Ear di Soun, supported the artist Bouchra Khalili and worked on a research project on Julius Eastman. Lately she produced Agnieszka Polska ́s commission for Germany’s National Gallery Prize show in the Hamburger Bahnhof.