UNEXPECTED LESSONS #2 - Decolonizing Nature

TALKING OBJECTS LAB @Goethe Morph* Iceland

The three-day performative conference UNEXPECTED LESSONS #2 took place as part of the festival Goethe Morph* Iceland at Nordic House in Reykjavik on September 13th - 15th, 2022.


“We must all decolonize our minds in Western culture to be able to think differently about nature, about the destruction humans cause.”

bell hooks (Belonging: A Culture of Place, 2008)



Just like its predecessor event in Berlin and Nairobi, UNEXPECTED LESSONS #2 is dedicated to the theme of decolonization. This time we put a focus on nature, from different perspectives. The UNEXPECTED LESSONS are organic. As part of the TALKING OBJECTS LAB, they provide starting points and intermediate points, interweaving thematically with think tanks in Dakar, Nairobi and Frankfurt (2022).

The extraordinary nature of Iceland, the geologically highly interesting area that can be experienced as an archive of the earth's history, becomes the “other object” in Reykjavik, based on the idea of an expanded concept of an “object”. What makes nature the other? What role does the decoupling of nature and culture play in this? Is the culture/nature dichotomy tenable at all? And how can we decolonize our view of the world and think nature differently?

UNEXPECTED LESSONS #2 is preceded by a think tank in July 2022 in Nairobi. The event addresses seed archives and their colonial entanglements, colonization of land, lost indigenous knowledge on plants and medical botanicals, nature as an archive of memory and the philosophy of nature.

Livestream available on Sep 14 & 15 via the website of Nordic House


13. September 2022



Afrofuturistic Conscious Cuisine

A Decolonized Plate

Lecture and dinner with Chef Kabui (organic farmer, anthropologist, cook, activist, Nairobi)


14. September 2022


11.30am (UTC/GMT)                                      

Welcome Remarks


12.00am – 12. 30am (UTC/GMT)                

The Indigenous Forest

Input by Harriet Chebet Ng’ok (Harriet’s Botanicals, Nairobi)


12.30am – 12.45am (UTC/GMT)                

Muthi (UK. 2016-2018. 17min. Dir. Uriel Orlow)


12.45pm – 1.15pm (UTC/GMT)                  

Njoki Ngumi in conversation with Harriet Chebet Ng’ok


1.15pm – 1.45pm (UTC/GMT)                      

Digital Lesson from Nairobi #1 with Partick Maundu (ethnobiologist, Nairobi)


1.45 – 2.45                              

Lunch Break - Decolonized Plate


2.45pm – 3.00 pm (UTC/GMT)                     

The Intersection of Landscape and Memory

Input by Chao Tayiana Maina (African Digital Heritage, Nairobi)


3.00pm – 3.15 pm  (UTC/GMT)                    

Memories of trees – tree routes and other Universes

Poetic Intervention by hn. lyonga (writer, Berlin)


3.15pm – 3.30pm (UTC/GMT)                     

Dogs Hunting in The Park

Artistic Lecture with Neo Musangi (artist, Nairobi)


3.30am – 4.30am (UTC/GMT)                     

Telling Nature - About the importance of Storytelling

Talk with Chao Tayiana, hn. lyonga, Neo Musangi (moderation Isabel Raabe, TALKING OBJECTS LAB)


4.30pm (UTC/GMT)                                           

Digital Lesson from Nairobi #2 with Anna Moraa


4.35pm – 5.00pm                                   

Short Break


5.00pm – 5.30pm (UTC/GMT)                     

The Museum as Plantation

Lecture Performance with Ayesha Keshani (artist, museum worker, London)                               


5.30pm – 6.00pm (UTC/GMT)                     

Do we need a different way of thinking?

Input by Sigridur Thorgeirsdottir (philosopher, University of Iceland, tbc)


6.00pm – 6.45pm (UTC/GMT)                     

Talk with Ayesha Keshani, Sigridur Thorgeirsdottir (Moderation Mahret Ifeoma Kupka)


6.45pm – 7.15pm (UTC/GMT)                   

Pumzi (KEN, ZAF. 2009. 33min. Dir. Wanuri Kahiu)


7.15pm – 7.30pm                 

Short Break (change of location)



Lucky 3 presents: Kamayan

At the Greenhouse

Communal Eating Experience with the artists collective Lucky3 (Reykjavik)


15. September 2022


Film program

The film programme expands on the topics of the conference and looks the journey of seeds between the Svalbard Global Seed Vault and Lebanon, patent battles over traditional plant medicine in South Africa and the traces of colonial ambitions of explorers in the Natural History Museum Berlin.


6.30pm (UTC/GMT)                                         

Wild Relatives (NO, DE, Palästina . 2018. 66min. Dir. Jumana Manna)


8.00pm (UTC/GMT)                                         

Short Film Program

Theatrum Botanicum Trilogy by Uriel Orlow

Imbizo Ka Mafavuke (Mafavuke’s Tribunal) (2017. 28min. Dir. Uriel Orlow)

Muthi (2016-2018. 17min. Dir. Uriel Orlow)

The crown against Mafavuke (2016. 18min. Dir. Uriel Orlow)

The Conspicuous Parts (DE, PL. 2018. 35min. Dir. Assaf Gruber)


Participanting artists and experts:
Chef Kabui, Harriet Ng’ok, Uriel Orlow, Patrick Maundu, Neo Musangi, Ayesha Keshani, Sigridur Thorgeirsdottir, Wanuri Kahiu, Artist Collective Lucky 3, h.n. lyonga, Jumana Manna, Assaf Gruber

Curatorial Team:
Mahret Ifeoma Kupka (Frankfurt, Germany), Njoki Ngumi, The Nest Collective (Nairobi, Kenya), Chao Tayiana Maina, African Digital Heritage (Nairobi, Kenya), Isabel Raabe (Berlin, Germany)

UNEXPECTED LESSONS #2 – Decolonizing Nature is supported by Goethe Institut London in the frame of the festival Goethe Morph* Iceland. The preparatory workshop “Anticolonial Approaches to Nature” in Nairobi was funded by the Heinrich Böll Foundation and supported by the Rosa Luxemburg Foundation.

Filmstill. Mafuke. Uriel Orlow. 2017
Filmstill. Wild Relatives. Jumana Manna. 2018