German Colonialism Walking Tour with Josephine Apraku by Katharin Luckey and Ella Simons

Katharin Luckey

Today’s walking tour brought the group to Berlin’s so-called “Afrikanisches Viertel” (African Quarter). In dialogue with Berlin-based African Studies scholar Josephine Apraku, the #FemGeniusesinBerlin discussed the history of German colonialism in Africa from the perspectives of Africans and Afro-Germans, as well as the continuing efforts to address the lasting effects and remnants of German colonialism, including but not limited to various streets and locations in this area of Berlin that bare|bore the names of significant German colonists, such as Carl Peters, Adolf Lüderitz, and Gustav Nachtigal. Apraku themself has been involved in the effort to rename numerous streets in Germany. Discussion of early Afro-German writings by Theodore Michael and Hans-Jürgen Massaquoi followed. Both Michael and Massaquoi were raised in Germany in the early 20th century and wrote extensively about their experiences in addition building upon the growing field of Postcolonial Theory. This tour contributes significantly to intersectional feminism studies in Berlin in that it strongly frames and analyses German colonialism in relation to modern German society, as well as former German colonies in Africa. The lived experiences of Black people in Germany and former German colonies are an oft-unrepresented topic within mainstream German education and historical discourse and has only received some recognition within the past decade as of the writing of this journal. Due to the nuances of this theme, the discussion with Apraku touched on many topics, such as the role of German women as agents of colonialism. The fact that this topic receives very little attention outside of theoretical and activist spaces illustrates a gap in public knowledge to discuss within the context of Postcolonial Theory. The tour also brought the #FemGeniusesinBerlin to the Statue of Limitations, a sculpture of a flagpole at half-mast located in the Afrikanisches Viertel as well as the Humoldt Forum, a museum that holds stolen property from numerous colonized nations around the world. Many thanks to Josephine Apraku for their time and effort in this guided tour|discussion.

Kathrin Luckey is a rising senior double majoring in German and Romance Languages and minoring in Linguistics. She has a passion for languages and is particularly interested in translation, as well as linguistics in the context of intersectional feminist movements. She has previously studied on an exchange semester at the University of Göttingen.

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Ella Simons

During the walking tour led by Josy, several themes surrounding marginalized communities, particularly black people of African descent in Germany, were discussed. These themes consisted of the discourse surrounding Germany’s colonial history emerging as a significant problem within German culture. Josy emphasized that recognition and commemoration of individuals of African descent has only begun to gain traction in the past decade. The tour highlighted the impact of street renaming as a catalyst for this shift in recognition and explored the connection between decolonization and the street named Ghana Straße. Until recently, Germany’s colonial past was not adequately addressed in educational discourse or taught in schools. The omission of German colonialism from the study of German history is purposeful, despite the country being the third largest colonial power in terms of territorial possession. This deliberate oversight has perpetuated a lack of awareness about Germany’s role in colonization and its impact on marginalized communities. The decision to rename streets in the neighborhood, which took place in 2016, marked a significant turning point in recognizing Africans in Germany. The previous street names were associated with colonists and had been in use for years. Ghana Straße, the first street visited during the tour, holds a connection to decolonization. The street derives its name from the fact that the son of Ghana’s first leader studied in Berlin, symbolizing the struggle for decolonization and the recognition of African contributions. Wedding, the neighborhood we explored during the walking tour, serves as a site of collective remembrance, intertwining with German racist discourse. This knowledge I gained from the tour helps me understand the context of Germany’s colonization and that the renaming of streets in the past eight years reflects a shift in Germany’s acknowledgement of this past. I also learned that the ideology of intersectional oppression reveals interconnected struggles faced by Jewish people, people of color, and women. This applies specifically to women of color and the role white women played and continue to play oppressing the most marginalized demographic of women. This reminded me of May Ayim’s “Precolonial images of Africa, Colonialism, and Fascism,” as it mentions the perception of blackness as evil and Black women as unfeminine.

Ella Simons is a rising junior majoring in Political Science and minoring in Environmental Studies at Colorado College. She is from Cambridge, MA and attended Cambridge Rindge and Latin High School. Growing up in Cambridge had a large impact on her perspectives about diversity, equity, and inclusion. Ella cares about issues of social justice and wants to eventually work in global democratization efforts.

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