Have you heard about this curious fact before? The pinnacle of Kilimanjaro mountain can be found in Potsdam, Germany! It is located in the Grottensaal, the concert hall of Neues Palais in Potsdam. In 1889, the German Hans Meyer was the first European to climb the Kilimanjaro (of course he was not alone but he managed to take all the credit for it). To manifest his achievements and as a tribute to the German Emperor, he named the mountain Kaiser-Wilhelm-Spitze (Emperor-Wilhelm-Peak). Hans Meyer even took a little lava rock of the peak home for his majesty to symbolically declare it his. This was a time when ‚exotic‘ rocks and shells from the colonies were valued exhibits of power or esteemed gifts among the European potentates. As a result, strange collections of stolen objects can still be found all over Europe.
When Johanna Ackva and Eva Busch stumbled over the curiosity of the little rock from the former German colony Deutsch-Ostafrika (German East Africa) which found its way into Neues Palais over 100 years ago, they were inspired to create a play. Their Kilimanjaro Tripadvisor documents parts of Germany’s colonial history which mostly seem to be forgotten. The play also addresses the powerful processes which determine the writing of history, glorifying the actions of German explorers and, simultaneously, making the exploitation and subjugation, which happened alongside, invisible. This history is commonly fashioned as one of travel and adventure and, as Johanna and Eva noticed, it finds its contemporary repercussions in tourism, the commercialized form of exploration.
Kilimanjaro Tripadvisor is a patchwork of scenes examining the entanglements between Germany and Tanzania beginning at the time of the so-called Prussian ‚discoveries‘ and colonial occupation, leading up to the present time when touristic travel and globetrotting have become normal, at least for the majority of Europeans. Based on research, interviews and personal experiences, Johanna and Eva point to the relevance of colonial artifacts even in form of little rocks. They end their play by asking what should be done: How could the German government deal responsibly with the colonial past? How could a single person deal responsibly with an unearned privilege inherited by colonialism?
On May 29, we had the pleasure to provide a stage for Johanna and Eva’s Kilimanjaro Tripadvisor at freiLand’s Atelier in Potsdam. After a thought provoking performance we invited the audience to discuss colonialism and postcolonialism, historiography, privilege and exploitation, reconciliation and reparation. Many people from Potsdam and Berlin came and joined us for this exciting event.
Thanks to the support of freiLand and AStA and FSR Anglistik/Amerikanistik of the University of Potsdam we were able to conduct this event and we hope that many will follow.