European Network of Cultural Centres (ENCC)

Living Cultures: Collecting & Exhibiting Stories of Migration to & from Africa

Kollektiva for Social Innovation and Culture
"Living Cultures" invites people of African descent in Greece and Greeks in Africa to showcase their stories and representations of Africa as part of an exhibition at the Benaki Museum entitled "Africanisms". Two researchers will conduct interviews, collect material culture and produce exhibitory narratives from four diaspora Greek families. This is part of a larger project of story-collecting and content-creating that builds bridges between Greece and African countries.

"Living Cultures" is a strand of Benaki Museum's "Africanisms", a research, community and audience engagement project, culminating in a co-curated exhibition and public events due February 2025. As an act/concept and as a space/framework, it uses the Museum to elaborate on perceptions of African cultures.

Community narratives explore past and present representations, break down stereotypes and create fresh, living knowledge that represent the diversity and richness of African, Greek-African, and pan-African heritage. It is the first opportunity in Greece for diverse audiences to encounter African cultures at this scale and for African communities to create content within a Greek museum.

Storytelling and oral tradition are dominant in African cultures and for this Kollektiva collects testimonies and experiences of families that have migrated to and from Africa. The need to find ways of meaningful participation with a direct impact on people's lives has become critical in museum practices. This applies to curatorial methods that seek ways to amplify voices that often remain unheard. In the exhibition, the medium becomes the message.

We use an existing model of participation and "augment" it with elements relevant both to the cultures represented - orality - and to the context where their meaning is formed: in a country with migratory rather than colonial history, where museum audiences are used to receiving knowledge passively rather than contributing to it.

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