Innsbruck (AT) / London (GB)

Emma Wolukau Wanambwa

*1976 in Glasgow, Scotland, lives and works in London and Berlin

“The starting point for most of my recent work has been the question of what we remember and how and why we remember it.”

Born in Glasgow, Emma Wolukau-Wanambwa studied English literature in Cambridge from 1995-98 and art at the Slade School of Fine Art, University College London, from 2006-08. In 2012 she was Fine Art Researcher at the Jan van Eyck Academie in Maastricht, from 2012-14 Research Fellow at the Graduate School of the University of Fine Arts Berlin, in 2014/15 stipend recipient of the International Fellowship Program for Art and Theory at Künstlerhaus Büchsenhausen, Austria.

Emma Wolokau-Wanambwa’s scholarly-artistic works are based on comprehensive research, often guided by questions as to the reasons, scope and form of commemoration. Against the background of her Ugandan roots, she has created projects related to the social, political and economic changes in the collective memory of Uganda. She presents the results of her research in various media, including videos, installations, performances, prints, drawings, and—most recently—texts.


Emma Wolukau-Wanambwa’s work is a gaze back to the future. Von Eingeborenen beschädigt reconstructs a part of the Dresdener Kolonialausstellung in 1939. The artist raises the question of how a colonial setting was staged in a time when Germany no longer possessed another part of the world as a colony. In 1922, the Kolonialkriegerbund had been founded in Dresden by Georg Maercker, a general who played a decisive role in the genocide in German Southwest Africa (today’s Namibia).

Using plastic plants, sisal and buck antler trophies, she revives a part of the show and questions the production of the “colonial gaze.” Her reconstruction deconstructs the visual strategies of “bringing home” the colonies. The work includes symbols of German colonial times, such as the equestrian statue of Windhoek in Namibia. On a historic photo of the monument for a German “protection force horseman”, which served as emblem for the Colonial Exhibition, the artist found the note “damaged by natives- von Eingeborenen beschädigt”. This “protection force” was responsible for the genocide against the Herero and Nama, between 1904 and 1911 over 95.000 men, women and children lost their lives in German South-West Africa.

She simultaneously explores the zeitgeist of the exhibition that not only revealed a nostalgia for the colonies, but demanded them as necessary for a European nation-state, thus exposing the loss of the colonies as a German inferiority complex.

The Deutsche Kolonialausstellung was held from June 21 through September 10, 1939, in the Dresdner Johannstadt, on the grounds of today’s Gläserne Manufaktur. It was the last annual exhibition in Dresden. Numerous institutions demanding the return of the former German colonies took part: the Museum für Völkerkunde, the Reichsinstitut für ausländische und koloniale Forstwirtschaft and the Bergakademie Freiberg. Constructional traces of the exhibition no longer exist today.