The Colonial Misunderstanding

Introduced by LaToya Beck

LaToya Beck is a Ph.D. student in the African Diaspora Studies Program in UC Berkeley's Department of African American Studies.

(Le Malentendu colonial). The line connecting religious zeal and colonial conquest is drawn with unerring sharpness in this exposé of the German missionary experience in Africa by Jean-Marie Teno, who was an artist in residence at PFA last year. Teno's investigation moves from the German town of Wuppertal, home of many nineteenth-century missionaries, to Namibia, visiting archives, churches, and historical sites and uncovering the truths, myths, and forgotten stories of Europe's missionary-turned-colonial activities in Africa. He uncovers the breaking point where missionaries of God became ambassadors of Country, and where souls to be saved became workers to be exploited. The Colonial Misunderstanding offers far more pointed and unsettling revelations: the 1904 use of German missionaries to lead trusting Herero tribesmen into concentration camps (the first documented use of the phrase), or the fact that the church's leader in Namibia later became a strident Nazi, and from there one of the leaders of apartheid.

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