“I was a stranger and You took me in” – Stop the displacement of the obelisk!

In Kassel and throughout Germany, initiatives (including glokal) and individuals are protesting against the attempt to move the artwork of documenta 14 artist Olu Oguibe from the central Königsplatz in Kassel, thus robbing it of a central dimension of its significance. The protest can be supported here.

We call for recognizing the work of the artwork on Königsplatz: that is, understanding how it most successfully makes visible the rise of racist, anti-Semitic, anti-Muslim discourses. At the same time, the quadrilingual nature of the work invites multilingual arguments. This formulates a hopeful vision in which people of different origins live together peacefully.

“I’m staying here!”

The obelisk by Nigerian/US documenta 14 artist Olu Oguibe has stood on Königsplatz in Kassel since June 2017 – it was specially designed for this central public space in the city. Inscribed on the sculptural object, in gold letters and in English, German, Turkish and Arabic, is the phrase: “I was a stranger and you took me in.” Oguibe, who was awarded the prestigious Arnold Bode Prize in Kassel in July 2017, calls the obelisk a “call to action,” referring to the plight of people in the diaspora who have been forced to flee due to war, famine and globalized economic-political grievances.

However, since the end of the documenta 14 exhibition, the artwork has been the target of numerous, often racially tinged controversies. At first it was heard from the Kassel City Council that the crowdfunding campaign to buy the obelisk had not generated enough money to purchase the artwork, whereupon it was discussed whether it was therefore at all ‘ethical’ and ‘necessary’ to keep the obelisk in Kassel. Despite the insufficient income from donations, gallery owner Olu Oguibes is willing to sell Oguibe’s artwork to the city for the available amount.

In the course of this negotiation process, we witnessed an enormous lack of professionalism on the part of the Kassel city administration and the city’s cultural office, as well as the political parties represented in the city government. We also observed how the artist was made to legitimize the site-specificity of his work in order to resist the arguments of those of the local politicians who tried by all means to remove the obelisk from Königsplatz and transfer it to Holländischer Platz, a heavily migrant site. Clearly, they want to push him out of the center. This denies that the addressees of the monument are those who inhabit the center and not the migrant population. The obelisk represents the call of the periphery (migrants, people of color, diasporas) to the center (majority society), which is represented by Königsplatz. Thus, the location is central to the meaning of the artwork.

We demand that the citizens of Kassel treat female artists with respect. We demand that the city’s professional cultural workers and politicians deal with art in a way that meets the standards of the international art and culture scene. We demand from all thinking people to welcome artistic, social and political actions that counteract the structural marginalization of African and Black artists in Germany!

Most postcolonial documenta = most controversial documenta – no coincidence!

The controversies surrounding the whereabouts of the obelisk on Königsplatz culminate the defamations that accompany documenta 14 due to its postcolonial and critical focus on racism. documenta 14 addressed European colonialisms and racisms, it addressed the role of global elites and national politicians within financial and migration crises, and it emphasized the protagonism of Black, decolonial, anti-racist, and queer-feminist perspectives.

She thus created a platform on which art and popular politics collided and provoked each other. Despite great recognition in the art world, documenta 14 met with hostility and resistance from some local political actors. AfD politician Thomas Materner, for example, called the obelisk “ideologically polarized, distorted art.” Increasing racism is thus the context of the fight against the obelisk, and so it is no coincidence that it is precisely the anti-racist work of a Black artist that is being targeted.

Racism is the problem. But city politics has a democratic mandate. We therefore call on them to refrain from any complicity with racist tendencies and to fulfill their mandate to contribute to a democratic and peaceful coexistence.

Advocate to leave the obelisk at its location Königsplatz!

For Kassel as part of a society that opens itself locally, nationwide, transnationally to the diversity of the world!

For Kassel as a city that welcomes critical attitudes!

Initial signatories:

Prof. Dr. Encarnación Gutiérrez Rodríguez, Giessen, Board of Directors of Fachgesellschaft für rassismuskritische, postkoloniale und dekoloniale Forschung und Praxis (DeKolonial e.V.).

Prof. Dr. Iman Attia, Berlin, Board of DeKolonial e.V.

Prof. Dr. Manuela Boatcă, Freiburg, Board of DeKolonial e.V.

Dr. Mariam Popal, Bayreuth, Board of DeKolonial e.V.

Dr. Noa Ha, Dresden, Board of DeKolonial e.V.

Dr. Pınar Tuzcu, Kassel, Board of Directors DeKolonial e.V.

Prof. Dr Sergio Costa, Berlin, Board of DeKolonial e.V.

Dr. Vannessa Thompson, Frankfurt a.M., Board of DeKolonial e.V.

Murat Çakir, Kassel, Managing Director RLS-Hessen

Violetta Bock, Kassel, City Councillor Kassel Left Party

Mirko Düsterdieck, Kassel, City Councillor Kassel Left Party

Lutz Getzschmann, Kassel, City Councillor Kassel Left Party

Stephanie Schury, Kassel, City Councillor Kassel Left Party

Ilker Sengül, Kassel, City Councillor Kassel Left Party

Marlis Wilde-Stockmeyer, Kassel, City Councilor Kassel Left Party

Tamim Mohammed, Kassel, independent entrepreneur

Serdar Kazak, Kassel, screenwriter

Ralf Gentzsch, Kassel, Self-employed entrepreneur, Kassel

Yiğitcan Yılmaz, Kassel, Student

Ute Brinner, Kassel, Educator

Ceren Türkmen, Berlin, Sociologist, Institute of Sociology, Justus Liebig University

Women’s group Loose Threads, Kassel, working housewives and mothers

Each One Teach One e.V., Berlin

SAVVY Contemporary e.V., Berlin

No Humboldt 21! Alliance, Berlin

Inititative Black People in Germany / ISD e.V., Berlin

Berlin Postkolonial e.V., Berlin

AfricAvenir International e.V., Berlin

AFROTAK TV CyberNomads, Berlin

glokal e.V., Berlin

kassel postcolonial

Yaseen Mohammed, Kassel, resident physician

Daniel Bendix, Kassel/Berlin

Authors: Céline Barry – Each One Teach One e.V; Dr. Pınar Tuzcu, Board DeKolonial e.V, Ayşe Güleç – kassel postkolonial