The RJM and the post-migrant society
The post-migrant society is a reality. Cities in particular are characterized by social diversity. Many institutions have begun to reflect the new urban society in their programming. However, the cultural diversity of the cities is not yet sufficiently reflected in the areas of program, staff or audience in the cultural institutions. The share of 30% people with a migration history in NRW is not matched by a diverse staff structure - especially in decision-making positions - nor by an equally heterogeneous and transcultural audience. So what can a museum practice look like that is critical of discrimination and that reflects the society of the many both structurally and in terms of content?
The Rautenstrauch-Joest Museum has long set out to help shape a diversity-sensitive transformation - with a much-noticed change of perspective in the permanent exhibition or new special exhibition content. Since August 2019, there is now also for the first time a position for diversity in the house, which was established for the duration of four years (2019-2023) as part of the program "360° - Fund for Cultures of the New Urban Society" www.360-fonds.de initiated by the Federal Cultural Foundation.
With this program, the Federal Cultural Foundation supports museums of art and cultural history, institutions from the fields of art, music, performing arts, literature, architecture, new media and related forms, as well as cross-disciplinary institutions. In the respective field, the entire society is to be taken into consideration. The aim is to actively promote cultural diversity as a topic for the future that is as rich in opportunity as it is controversial, both within the institution itself and in urban society. In addition, the aim is to reduce structural exclusion in the cultural sector. In this way, the Federal Cultural Foundation supports a wide range of approaches, strategies and methods that demonstrate in an exemplary manner how institutions - in terms of topics and personnel - can effectively develop their potential to help shape the new urban society.
With the help of this funding, the museum will further embed a diversity-oriented transformation process in the coming years. A concrete example of this process was the inauguration of the open space DIE BAUSTELLE rjm-baustelle.de as a meeting place for a diverse and pluralistic urban society, which is given the opportunity here to engage in conversation about pressing social and museum issues. DIE BAUSTELLE, conceived as a "contact zone," is now part of the special exhibition "RESIST! The Art of Resistance" rjm-resist.de, which focuses on colonial and postcolonial resistance strategies, and will be further developed.
3 questions for Nanette Snoep
As long as the voices from the communities from which the objects in a museum's collection come are not heard, as long as monocultural, Western perspectives dominate, the system of coloniality will continue in museums. We need a museum of diversity of stories, voices, and perspectives. Museums should dedicate themselves to becoming empathetic forums and open their doors wide.
You have been director of the RJM since January 2019: What does the RJM stand for today?
The RJM has long had the reputation of being a house that has never concealed its colonial past, has worked in an interdisciplinary manner, and has always built bridges to the present in its exhibitions. Impressive examples of this are, of course, the internationally renowned, comparative cultural exhibitions such as "Intoxication and Reality" (1981), "Bride" (1997), "Männerbunde" (1998) under the direction of Dr. Gisela Völger (1979-2000) or "Namibia Deutschland" (2004), the first exhibition to address the German colonial period in Namibia and thus also the genocide of the Herero and Nama, but also the new permanent exhibition inaugurated in 2010 under the direction of the then director Dr. Klaus Schneider (2000-2018) illuminates the history of the RJM's collection with its colonial heritage. An important symbolic step in the repositioning of ethnological museums in 2018 was the restitution of a mummified head to New Zealand. Over the past two years, we have sought to make many voices heard. Lectures by and discussions with personalities such as Felwine Sarr (Senegal), Ciraj Rassool (South Africa), Amber Aranui (New Zealand), Achille Mbembe (Cameroon), Esther Muinjangue (Namibia) or Bénédicte Savoy (France) have helped to open the museum even more. In December 2019, the open space DIE BAUSTELLE was created for exchange and togetherness; in September 2020, "The Shadows of Things #1" launched a series on object histories and provenance of the RJM's collection; and with the major special exhibition RESIST! The Art of Resistance will focus on 500 years of anti-colonial resistance with objects from the collection, historical documents and more than 40 participating artists* and activists.
What should the ethnological museum of the future do?
The ethnological museum of the future is a place of conversation. It works transparently. What is absolutely necessary is the active and inclusive participation of artists, scientists, clergy, activists, members of the diaspora, but especially descendants of the societies that created the objects in the RJM's collection. It should become a place where multi-layered knowledge and ideas of our world are united. A place where transcultural dialogue is actually conceived as a two-way conversation. It should build bridges and ask how knowledge has been created, adapted, accepted, rejected, integrated or ignored within the past centuries. The ethnological museum of the future should be a place where the stories of globalization, encounters, confrontations, and interconnections are conveyed, and where uncomfortable topics such as colonialism and its effects, as well as racism, are also brought into focus. Last but not least, a museum of the future must enable learning and "unlearning" as well as aesthetic experiences, emotion, curiosity and empowerment.
What is your personal wish for the RJM?
Only if we actually open our doors can we address the changes in society. That requires flexibility to explore these new unknown paths and allow other ways of thinking. Museums should create space for letting people speak and listen, for networking, togetherness and solidarity.