[Post-]Kolonialismus & Rassismus

Within the scope of an annual school outing at the Bettina-von-Arnim Secondary School in Berlin, Reinickendorf, the comprehensive students, including the student council, addressed the subject of colonialism and racism within a workshop setting.

First of all, the participants were presented with the 17 Goals for Sustainable Development 2030 as adopted by the UN and these were subsequently discussed. The subject matter of this workshop was in direct relation with SDG number 10: “Reducing inequality within and among countries”.
To demonstrate the global inequality, we executed a game titled Weltverteilungsspiel which translates as the World (re)distribution Game. First, the group was divided by continent across the room, in sizes relative to the correlating populations. Thereafter, a bar of chocolate is divided and each group received pieces in the amount relative to the average national income rate (per capita) of countries on that continent. In so doing, the disparity soon became apparent. Every European was given two pieces of chocolate each whereas participants acting as people on the African continent had to share one piece amongst five! This merely demonstrates the lack of equality already in place globally, before the social inequalities within the individual societies themselves are even considered.

The workshop then started with 15 representatives. To begin with, we exchanged our pre-existing understanding of subjects such as slavery and colonisation. We had all learned a lot on the subject in school but by the end, we all understood a great deal more. The electoral prince and ruler of Brandenburg in the 17th century, for example, was himself heavily involved in the slave trade. The Brandenburg fort, or Fort Gross Fredericksburg, from which the slaves were once shipped off into the New World was named after him and remains standing in modern-day Ghana to this day.

Thereafter, we addressed the era of imperialism or colonialism, including a rather crass citation from a text written by Immanuel Kant, who is widely regarded as the grandfather of Enlightenment philosophy, in which he warrants the colonisation of African countries. {-Conveys moral justification in support of colonisation in African countries.}

After researching different sources and analysing the information they provide, we discussed them collectively in a plenary session. We first discussed the Berlin Conference (referred to in  German as the Kongokonferenz) of 1884/85. It was during this conference, organised by Reich Chancellor Otto von Bismarck, that the leading powers of Europe agreed upon the division of land on the African continent into colonies. Borders were drawn up arbitrarily and with no consideration for the people who lived there. After many of these countries realised their independence in the 1960’s, the borders, however, remained unchanged despite the fact that they do not represent any tribal borders or affiliations of the peoples living within them.


Beim Skype-Austausch mit Ayo Ladeji aus Lagos in Nigeria

In so doing, we were able to explore various backgrounds behind modern-day global phenomena. We were also able to exchange viewpoints with two young project partners from Lagos and Nigeria via Skype. Odujun Taiwo Jacob is a dance and multi-media artist and Ayo Ladeji is a political scientist.

After mutual introduction, we asked ourselves why post colonisation is such an important subject for us personally.

Taiwo explains, how he deals with the subject in his art. The primary points in short:

In Nigeria, as in most countries south of the Sahara, children are still educated in schools using the language of their former colonial masters, in this case English.

Local languages and cultural norms are only marginally included, if at all. He, himself knows very little of his cultural heritage and identity. The state borders bear no relation to the peoples who live there, on the contrary, more often than not they divide tribes into different states. The classrooms are overcrowded and learning material is scarce, which makes it very difficult to realise a good education.

Nigeria exports raw materials, like oil, commercially at low prices and imports a lot of high priced manufactured goods from the north in turn. As a result, there are very few well-paid jobs available for young people which is why they seek emigration to Europe or other wealthier countries. We are aware of the phenomenon in Germany, but until now we had not inquired after the (full extent of) the reasons behind it.

Finally, we asked ourselves why these problems persisted to this day. In the course of this debate we touched on the high levels of corruption prevalent in various governmental and administrative institutions but also on the positive changes that international and national development cooperation has had in the past decades. In conclusion it would seem apparent, both sides profit from the current situation and therefor have very little incentive to change the situation.