Panel discussion #4 Entanglements of Social, Environmental and Climate Justice

6 - 8 pm

online event, English language

The documentation of the event can be found here

GUESTS: Ayọ̀ Akínwándé, Rebecca Abena Kennedy-Asante (Black Earth Kollektiv), Fossil Free Culture NL, MODERATION: Ayasha Guerin

In 2019, primary energy consumption per capita in Germany amounted to 43,703 kWh. According to Our World in Data, the average energy consumption across the African continent in turn amounted to only 4,220 kWh per capita, with South Africa (25,620 kWh) being the only country to remotely resemble the European average of 31,160 kWh per capita. These figures roughly correspond to the annual CO2 emissions, meaning that in 2019, a person in Germany produced around ten times the amount of climate-damaging greenhouse gases in comparison to a person living on the African continent. Yet the consequences of global warming are set to be most pronounced in equatorial, tropical and subtropical regions, where local temperatures are predicted to rise to unprecedented levels over the next thirty years. Climate change’s repercussions will hit those regions hardest that have historically contributed to climate change the least.

European companies have an ongoing presence on the African continent that began in the early days of European colonisation, and persisted despite the fight for decolonisation in the mid- to late 20th century. Many of these companies are still focused on (out)sourcing both human labour and raw materials to serve Western-dominated markets and energy-thirsty lifestyles. One key player is Shell, which discovered oil in the Niger Delta in 1956 following half a century of exploration. Formed in 1907 when Dutch and British petroleum-producing companies merged, Royal Dutch Shell had already become one of the world’s largest petroleum and natural gas companies, and was the sole owner of oil exploitation rights in the region. Shell is responsible for decades of severe oil spills, environmental devastation, and human rights abuses connected to oil extraction in the Niger Delta.

Departing from Ayọ̀ Akínwándé’s video performance Ogoni Cleanup, on view in the exhibition Fossil Experience, this panel will examine Shell’s responsibility in the Niger Delta. How do visual arts and activists address the local impacts of oil extraction, oil’s global supply chains, and the involvement of the oil industry in the sponsorship of culture? Can points of solidarity be formed between cultural workers in countries in the Global North and the Global South? Expanding the frame, the panel will discuss decolonial perspectives on climate and environmental justice. How to redress the traumata of centuries of colonial and corporate exploitation, which has reached genocidal and ecocidal proportions? Where should finances for climate adaptation plans and the repair of ongoing environmental devastation come from? Which forms of mobilisation are necessary in order to effectively push for reparations in post-colonial regions – including ecological reparations?

Ayọ̀ Akínwándé is an interdisciplinary artist, architect, curator, and writer based in Edinburgh. Working across lens-based media, installation, sound, and performance, he deals with topics related to politics and power structures. Power dynamics in democratic discourse, and the relationship between the “powerful” and the “powerless” as it manifests in the multi-faceted layers of more-than-human realities.

Fossil Free Culture (FFC) is a collective of artists, activists and researchers working at the intersection of art and climate justice activism. Founded by Teresa Borasino and Daniela Paes Leao, they have successfully worked to eradicate fossil fuel sponsorship in the Dutch cultural sector. FFC designs campaigns that consist of participatory performances, public interventions, films, graphics, objects, and subvertising editorial material challenging the ties between fossil fuel corporations and cultural institutions. Following their interventions, the Van Gogh Museum ended its sponsorship agreement with Shell in 2018, the Concertgebouw followed in 2020 and Nemo Science Museum in 2021.

Rebecca Abena Kennedy-Asante (Abeni) studied naturopathy, nature conservation and ecology in Berlin and Potsdam. In addition to Abenis botanical interests, Abeni is concerned with how the oppression of marginalised groups and the exploitation of ecosystems are linked. Abeni is part of Black Earth, a BIPoC Environmental & Climate Justice collective, which is centering anti-racist, queer, and ecosystem perspectives through its existence and actions.

Ayasha Guerin is an interdisciplinary artist, researcher and curator who lives between Berlin and Vancouver. She holds a PhD from New York University, American Studies, and is currently Assistant Professor of Black Diaspora Studies at the University of British Columbia in the Department of English. Ayasha Guerin is invested in art practices that are also forms of activism and believes a responsibility of the research profession is to make knowledge accessible through public actions and exhibitions.

This event is part of the project Fossil Experience by Prater Galerie. More information about the exhibition and program can be found here.

Fossil Experience is supported by Stiftung Kunstfonds, LOTTO-Stiftung Berlin, and the Senate Department for Culture and Europe, kindly supported by Förderband Kulturinitiative Berlin and Schankhalle Pfefferberg.

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