Decolonization Labour is Emotional Labour

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

»Why are we keeping our heritage in someone else’s country?«

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. 

The first day of UNEXPECTED LESSONS in Nairobi features a 90 minute session in three parts, themed around the statement ‘decolonisation labour = emotional labour’. In Part A, the team presents a series of vox-pops with Kenyans on the street, giving their opinions about decolonisation and what it means to them. Part B (What I Felt / What I Said) unpacks the contrasting words and feelings that accompany decolonising labour in different projects and contexts. Part C presents a live interactive discussion led by the Nairobi team, followed by an opportunity for audience members to participate with questions, comments and reflections.

Vox Pops — Sentiments on the Street 
What I Felt / What I Said

Curated by Jim Chuchu, Njoki Ngumi, Chao Tayiana, Rosie Olang and Kahira Ngige, with contributions by people in Nairobi.
Artistic Presentation and Interactive Discussion

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© Thabo Thindi, 2021 Unexpected Lessons – Nairobi: Decolonization Labour is Emotional Labour
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