The Other Objects – A New Behaviour

UNEXPECTED LESSONS – Decolonizing Memory and Knowledge, June 11-12 2021 in Nairobi

“The Other Objects” explores the idea that the framework of object movement needs to expand beyond the three-dimensional artefact and consider the public space, the constructed environment as objects upon which the same forces of colonial appropriation and movement. The Nairobi team wishes to invite the public to rename Kenyan public spaces, towns, estates and buildings with inscrutable, derogatory or ill-suited etymologies. The results of this participation are unpacked in Session A. Session B explores a new set of use cases for the ‘museum object’ - other than the default institutional urge to conserve, to store, to hold. What does it mean to use, wear, dance with the objects?

The curatorial team of UNEXPECTED LESSONS in Nairobi departs from the street: from the lived space and the lived experiences of the public who have to do the decolonising labour in their day to day. As an essential balance and expansion of the academic and institutional work, this also moves the focus away from the museum as the sole or primary agent of change. African objects were not taken from institutions, they were taken from people: any process of object return must therefore include the descendants of these people from its very start. The holding of these objects in European museums as historic artefacts also strips them of their functionality, significance and meaning. The program intends to explore ways of activating, resurrecting and situating these objects in everyday life.

The feelings and injuries of the people from whom objects were extracted are rarely accounted for in program design. Via open and honest discussion and interaction, the curatorial team in Nairobi will hold space for one another and for participating audience members to give each other permission to acknowledge, and perhaps even negotiate, the conflicting and uncomfortable truths that come with these challenging efforts. 

For their contributions, the UNEXPECTED LESSONS team in Nairobi chose the form of video, artistic presentations and performance, writing, and collaborative, speculative world-building. A focus on the streamed screen will allow a multidisciplinary inquiry.

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UNEXPECTED LESSONS in Nairobi: The Other Object – A New Behaviour