Cape Town (ZA)

Burning Museum

founded in 2013 in Cape Town, South Africa: Justin Davy (*1987), Jarrett Erasmus (*1984), Grant Jurius (*1984), Tazneem Wentzel (*1987), Scott Williams (*1980)

The interdisciplinary collective Burning Museum evolved in 2013 in Cape Town, South Africa, from the work of the five members on questions related to dealing with histories of exclusion, identity and structures in the urban space of their city. With collages made of enlarged historical photographs, documents and texts pasted to walls at publicly accessible places, they reveal layers of history, making the invisible visible. The collective criticizes the politics of suppression and silence, and the effects of the gentrification of urban spaces, especially in post-apartheid South Africa. Since the first joint works with the archive of the District Six Museum in Cape Town, their Wheatpastes have also appeared on walls in Johannesburg, Durban, Istanbul, or Cotonou (Benin), and since 2014 they have been creating works in gallery spaces as well, for example, in TO LET (2013), Center for African Studies Gallery, Cape Town, and  Plakkers (2014) in the Gallery Brundyn+, Cape Town.



South Africa and Germany share a common colonial and missionary history. In their work, the Burning Museum collective deals with the specific archives of the Moravian Mission Station Genadendal in South Africa and the foundation site of the Brethren Church in Herrnhut in Lusatia, Germany.

Starting with the pun—missionary position and the position of missionaries in the colonies—they they conduct research in the archives and set their personal experiences within this history in relation to the archival material. They grasp their own position as a consequence of missionary perspectives. The life stories of the ancestors of several artists of the collective, and thus of the artists themselves, is closely tied to the Moravian Mission. However, none of the members of the collective are practicing Moravians or adhere to missionary moral values. They therefore become “boundary objects” of sorts: neither insiders nor able to withdraw from history.

Burning Museum view the trust placed in texts, documents, references, and citations as a Eurocentric legacy and a fetish of objectivity, facts and “truth” accompanying us like an epistemological shadow. The collective links and untangles personal and historical narratives along a thin line leading to a place where questions can be raised in a different way. The collages are based on photographs of the South African mission stations Genadendal and Elim from the Unity Archive of the Evangelische Brüdergemeine Herrnhut and from the personal picture archives of the artists.

Their installation seeks to visually and textually reverse the duality of missionary and native, subject and object, and to bring back the message from a neo-missionary Position.