TH Köln supports the design research project »Erinnerungskulturwerkstatt: Koloniale Spuren« by student Darío Morazán in cooperation with KISD Master graduate Byron Co and other partners. With the transfer fund, TH Köln encourages research-based learning projects that build a bridge between the university and society by linking different disciplines. Students work indesign resetensively on current research topics and develop questions, methods and designs.

The »Erinnerungskulturwerkstatt: Koloniale Spuren« (Cultures of Remembrance Workshop: Colonial Traces) is a one-year research-based learning project by KISD student Darío Morazán in collaboration with media scholar Jens Fehrenbacher, historian Fabian Lipki, KISD Master’s graduate Byron Co and in cooperation with the Rautenstrauch-Joest-Museum Cologne, the Swakopmund Genocide Museum in Namibia, the Stadtmuseum Düsseldorf and other colonialism critical organizations.

The project sheds light on the role of Cologne and Düsseldorf in the »colonial project« of the German Empire and examines families, companies, institutions and organizations that directly or indirectly profited from or were affected by the German colonies and the colonial aspirations of the German Empire. In Cologne, colonial monuments, architecture, and urban spaces are examined, such as the Bismarck Tower on the Bayenthalgürtel, the Flora, the Staatenhaus in Deutz, and the so-called Afrikaviertel in Nippes. In Düsseldorf, the focus is on the Zoopark (the former Düsseldorf Zoo), the site of the former »Arabic Café« on Graf-Adolf-Straße, and the Colonial War Memorial on Frankenplatz.

Since the protection of historic buildings and monuments hardly allows any structural interventions in colonial memorial spaces and artifacts, the only option at these sites, if at all, is to contextualize them with an information board. In many cases, however, this is completely absent or does not do justice to the complex problems of multidirectional colonial memory. For this reason, the project shifts the contextualization of the colonial heritage in the Rhineland to the hybrid virtual-urban space.

The aim is to develop and implement an Augmented Reality application for mobile devices that makes it possible to experience the different entanglements of the two cities during and after the period of German colonialism. The application will also suggest virtual changes and additions to the memorial artifacts in order to promote the discourse on the German colonial legacy. Performative elements, which attract the attention of third parties present, result from the use of the AR application on the respective memorial artifacts, from the search for colonial traces and from the exchange between users on site.

Prototypes for the AR application will be developed and tested in transdisciplinary short projects and workshops with students of the TH Köln, the University of Cologne, interested citizens and the partner institutions. In addition, a public KISDtalk by Dr. Fabiola Arellano Cruz from the Rautenstrauch-Joest-Museum Cologne, will take place on May 22, 2024 as part of the research-based learning project.

The results of the short projects and workshops will be used to develop the first prototype of the AR application. To present the project, a public exhibition will take place at the Stadtmuseum Düsseldorf, and public tours of colonial-critical monuments in Cologne and Düsseldorf will be conducted using the AR application.

The »Erinnerungskulturwerkstatt: Koloniale Spuren« follows the guiding principle of the TH Köln to design social innovations with its practice-oriented research approach. The project makes an active contribution to the reappraisal of German colonial history and creates a public space for dialogue and reflection on post-colonial thinking and action.

Principles of Decolonial Education and Museum Practice
by Dr. Fabiola Arellano Cruz, Rautenstrauch-Joest Museum Cologne
Time: May 22, 2024, 5:30 – 7:00 pm
Venue: KISD, Ubierring 40, 50678 Cologne, room 11

Image: The statue of a German colonial leader Curt von Francois in Namibia’s capital Windhoek was on November 23, 2022 taken down following local activists piling pressure on city authorities (Photo by Julia Runge / AFP).