3 questions for Nanette Snoep
You have been director of the RJM since January 2019: What does the RJM stand for today?
The RJM has long had the reputation of being a house that has never concealed its colonial past, has worked in an interdisciplinary manner, and has always built bridges to the present in its exhibitions. Impressive examples of this are, of course, the internationally renowned, comparative cultural exhibitions such as "Intoxication and Reality" (1981), "Bride" (1997), "Männerbunde" (1998) under the direction of Dr. Gisela Völger (1979-2000) or "Namibia Deutschland" (2004), the first exhibition to address the German colonial period in Namibia and thus also the genocide of the Herero and Nama, but also the new permanent exhibition inaugurated in 2010 under the direction of the then director Dr. Klaus Schneider (2000-2018) illuminates the history of the RJM's collection with its colonial heritage. An important symbolic step in the repositioning of ethnological museums in 2018 was the restitution of a mummified head to New Zealand. Over the past two years, we have sought to make many voices heard. Lectures by and discussions with personalities such as Felwine Sarr (Senegal), Ciraj Rassool (South Africa), Amber Aranui (New Zealand), Achille Mbembe (Cameroon), Esther Muinjangue (Namibia) or Bénédicte Savoy (France) have helped to open the museum even more. In December 2019, the open space DIE BAUSTELLE was created for exchange and togetherness; in September 2020, "The Shadows of Things #1" launched a series on object histories and provenance of the RJM's collection; and with the major special exhibition RESIST! The Art of Resistance will focus on 500 years of anti-colonial resistance with objects from the collection, historical documents and more than 40 participating artists* and activists.
What should the ethnological museum of the future do?
The ethnological museum of the future is a place of conversation. It works transparently. What is absolutely necessary is the active and inclusive participation of artists, scientists, clergy, activists, members of the diaspora, but especially descendants of the societies that created the objects in the RJM's collection. It should become a place where multi-layered knowledge and ideas of our world are united. A place where transcultural dialogue is actually conceived as a two-way conversation. It should build bridges and ask how knowledge has been created, adapted, accepted, rejected, integrated or ignored within the past centuries. The ethnological museum of the future should be a place where the stories of globalization, encounters, confrontations, and interconnections are conveyed, and where uncomfortable topics such as colonialism and its effects, as well as racism, are also brought into focus. Last but not least, a museum of the future must enable learning and "unlearning" as well as aesthetic experiences, emotion, curiosity and empowerment.
What is your personal wish for the RJM?
Only if we actually open our doors can we address the changes in society. That requires flexibility to explore these new unknown paths and allow other ways of thinking. Museums should create space for letting people speak and listen, for networking, togetherness and solidarity.