Dt this would be more than simply handing over the post of director in a well-established house was already evident from what followed Bonaventure Soh Bejeng Ndikung’s assumption of office in January: nothing. For two and a half months. The Berlin House of World Cultures closed its doors and its website, which only read that the institution’s “rhythm, pulse and melody” would change in 2023.
On Tuesday, this new tune swelled briefly. Ndikung invited to the program conference and introduction of the team, accompanied by the jazz-funk-R&B-Afrobeat band “The Swag”, which was fitting insofar as having a lot of “swag” – which when trying to translate something like “coole Radiance”, immediately fizzled out – has been part of Ndikung’s reputation since he founded the exhibition space “Savvy Contemporary” in Berlin in 2008 and became a fixture in the German and international art scene as a curator.
With a casual timbre
In fact, rarely has anyone pronounced the word “world” with such a casual timbre and declared it a verb: “to unworld, to world, to reworld”. The worlds that we have formed in the past and continue to form are diverse, Ndikung referred to the name of the former congress hall, which reopened in 1989 and which is almost touchingly naive today, and which was exactly what it meant at the time.
The House of World Cultures was intended to be a place for non-Western art and culture, although the Western perspective remained the frame of reference. This was only finally overcome by Ndikung’s predecessor, Bernd Scherer, who retired at the end of December after 17 years in office. In a way, Scherer continually subverted the name of the institution by making it a unique think tank for the big global issues that always questioned the systems of knowledge that produce an understanding of the world, most thoroughly in the ten-year Anthropocene project.
allegations of anti-Israel
This is probably one of the continuities between the old and the future HKW: Ndikung, who was born in Cameroon in 1977 and holds a doctorate in biotechnology, is concerned with creating new areas of knowledge that are not shaped by Eurocentrism. Before introducing the program to give an idea of how he intends to do this, he conjured up the spirit of the house as a place of love and respect where racism, anti-Semitism, sexism had no place.
This could be read in response to allegations of anti-Israelism inherent in Ndikung’s post-colonial agenda; the question of how close he is to the BDS boycott movement has accompanied his way to the prestigious office. He distanced himself, the suspicion remained. In any case, the exuberant programme, presented by an international team of sixteen curators, does not feed him.
It reflects a decentralized view of the world in the best sense of the word, which includes perspectives from the Global South as well as those from the North, while promising a sensuality and accessibility that the previous program has at times lacked.
The discursive deep drilling that characterized the HKW under Scherer will continue to be cultivated: one project will shed light on the relationship between the GDR and its sister countries, another the topic of climate anxiety, a third invites literary festivals, starting with Jamaica, a fourth cooks, first from Sierra Leone. The publicist Max Czollek will be responsible for the “Reconciliation Theater” series of talks. A music festival travels to three places in the world that have “Congo” in their names. It will be renovated by the end of May. Then the HKW invites you to the three-day opening ceremony.