“The Mission and the Message” in Boundary Objects, an exhibition at Kunsthaus Dresden, Germany, June 2015.

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The archway to the Moravian missionary graveyard at Genadendal sumperimposed onto an image of the archway to the missionary graveyard in Herrnhut, Germany. In 2015, Burning Museum members return to the headquarters with a new message. (Personal Archives, the Herrnhut Missionary Archives and staged photography)

The Mission and the Message

South Africa and Germany share a colonial and missionary history. As a collective, we have engaged with the specific missionary archives housed at the Moravian missionary station of Genadendal, South Africa and the Moravian headquarters at Herrnhut, Germany.

Through researching these archives and the history which they purport to have documented, in relation to our lived experiences through this history, we have come to recognise our position as products of missionary positions. We are not practicing Moravians nor do we subscribe to a missionary morality but we acknowledge our ancestry embedded in it. As such, we are a sort of ‘boundary object’, neither insider nor able to escape.

Historically, the archive has occupied a central position in history making. The reliance on text, documents, referencing and citation constitute a Eurocentric legacy of, and fetish for objectivity, facts and ‘truth’. It is a positivist methodology that lingers like an epistemological shadow. Arriving in Dresden with the baggage of colonial discourse, we blend the archive in a ‘boundary practise’ of connecting and disconnecting personal narratives with historical narratives, to arrive at a place where we can ask questions differently. We cut out, reframe ourselves in images and the images themselves. The images are collages of photographs from the Herrnhut archive about the mission stations of Genadendal and Elim, South Africa as well as our own personal visual archives.

The installation seeks to invert the binary of missionary and native, subject and object both visually and textually, to the extent that we assume the position of neo-missionary, returning “The Message”.

As a subset of the larger installation we present a performance, #colonialproblems, which attempts to address this objectification. The recording of the hymm ‘God be with you till we meet again’ comes from  the farewell service of the Justin Davy’s great grandfather, a former Moravian minister.

BURNING MUSEUM

"Genadendal girls tower over a bridge in Herrnhut. They look beyond the bridge while simultaneously framing the gaps of the bridge with their gaps" - Burning Museum

Genadendal girls tower over a bridge in Herrnhut. They look beyond the bridge while simultaneously framing the gaps of the bridge with their gaps

 

"A group of girls from Genadendal return the gaze over Moravian missionary  Georg Schidt's letters sent from Genadendal to missionary head, Count Zinzindorf in Herrnhut"

A group of girls from Genadendal return the gaze over Moravian missionary Georg Schidt’s letters sent from Genadendal to missionary head, Count Zinzindorf in Herrnhut

"The four African boys in this image are nameless, their anonymity in the archive is the starting point fro their removal from the picture plane"

The four African boys in this image are nameless, their anonymity in the archive is the starting point fro their removal from the picture plane

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Memorial service funeral leaflet

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Middle pages of the Memorial service leaflet accompanying the installation and performance

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Front and back page of memorial service leaflet accompanying the installation and performance

 

 

 

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