MANGI MELI REMAINS

MANGI MELI REMAINS
2018

Video installation and photography exhibition

In Old Moshi, Tanzania, a head is missing. The head is of Chief Meli who fought the German colonial occupation of territory in Kilimanjaro and was executed as a result in 1900. His head is said to have been shipped to Germany at the request of the Ethnological Museum director Felix von Luschan. Von Luschan collected thousands of skulls from all over the world for scientific testing based on racial ideology. Many of the skulls, including those from Old Moshi, are still stored in Berlin. The search for the head of Chief Meli has been ongoing for over 50 years, led by Meli’s grandson but until now without success.

Yet traces of Chief Meli can still be found in songs, stories and archives. This has formed the basis for a Tanzanian-German collaboration where a video installation depicts the life story of Meli: as a freedom fighter, his violent death and the possible journey of his head. Re-examined historical photographs and documents complement the exhibition.

Mangi Meli Remains  traveled from Berlin via Dar es Salaam to Old Moshi, where the exhibition has remain edas a place of remembrance and a placeholder for Chief Meli’s missing head until today.

Film version

The film version of Mangi Meli Remains (Swahili with English subtitles) has been screened at festivals in 2020 and used in education.

Artistic direction, concept, script, animation: Konradin Kunze / Concept, script, exhibition: Sarita Lydia Mamseri / Storyboard, drawings: Amani Abeid, Cloudy Chatanda / Animation: Sharron Mirsky, Malte Stein / Sound Design, Composition: Dr. Andi Otto / Historical Consultancy: Dr. Holger Stoecker, Prof. Arnold Temu / Community consultancy, management Old Moshi: Gabriel Mzei Orio /
Voices: Nkwabi Elias Ng'hangasamala, Michael Ojake and others / Song: Mary Charles Mrema / Technical solutions: Georg Werner / Oral history: Isaria Anael Meli / Company Management: Helena Tsiflidis

A Flinn Works Production in coproduction with Ethnological Museum Berlin and Tieranatomisches Theater at Humboldt University Berlin.

Supported by Senatsverwaltung für Kultur und Europa, Goethe-Institute Tanzania and Between Bridges

Shows

Tieranatomisches Theater Humboldt University Berlin, Germany:  November 8 (Opening), 2018 / November 9, 2018 - January 12, 2019

DARCH, Old Boma, Dar es Salaam, Tanzania: February 5, 2019 (Opening), February 6 - 22, 2019

Court Building, Tsuduni, Old Moshi, Kilimanjaro, Tanzania: March 2, 2019 Opening - today

Press

The exhibition itself is primarily about changing perspectives. This is shown particularly impressively in a room that deals with a personal search, the search of a grandson for the skull of his grandfather. Mangi Meli, the leader of the Wachagga in Moshi, Tanzania, opposed the Germans and was executed as a conspirator and criminal. It is said that his head was shipped to Germany. Mangi Meli's grandson Isaria Anael Meli has been searching for his grandfather's head in German archives and collections for 50 years. So far without success. But the search itself has become a narrative. Together with Tanzanian artists, actor and director Konradin Kunze has turned the story of this search into a play and an animated film, which is projected into the half-broken shell of a clay pot. In Meli's homeland, it is customary to bury the heads of the deceased in clay pots. An empty space that hurts. But who has the power of interpretation at the end of the story? Mangi Meli himself seems to provide the answer to this question in the exhibition. His almost life-size portrait hangs on the wall: he stands there, vigorous and youthful, looking condescendingly into the face of his photographer. This is not the look of a subjugated man. (deutschlandfunk)

For 50 years, Isaria Anael Meli has been searching for his grandfather's skull. Chief Mangi Meli, hero of the Tanzanian resistance against colonial tyranny in former German East Africa, was hanged and beheaded, his head presumably shipped to Germany. Meli's name is representative of the countless people who were killed by members of the Schutztruppe. Many people in this country are still under the mistaken impression that German colonialism should be neglected in terms of remembrance politics due to its comparatively short duration. It is to be hoped that exhibitions like this one will change this. And that Mangi Meli's grandson will eventually be able to bring his grandfather's head home. (tagesspiegel)

For a few months now, an exhibition in Old Moshi has been telling the story of Mangi Meli's life and struggle. A little coming to terms with the past, after all. His skull is probably one of thousands that the German colonial rulers brought to Germany from all over the world for racial research. (ZDF heute journal)

In January, the district of Moshi officially requested that human bones in the archives of the Prussian Cultural Heritage Foundation be returned. “These demands have also been submitted to the Federal Foreign Office,” says Konradin Kunze. Together with the Berlin artists' collective Flinn Works, Kunze has made a film about Mangi Meli, which can now be seen in an exhibition in Old Moshi. The film tells the story of Mangi Meli in Swahili, German and English. 'This is important so that our children know what happened here and who they are descended from,' says his grandson Isaria. (rbb24.de)

The return of the stolen human remains is a moral obligation to heal spiritual wounds in the Tanzanian society. The exhibition 'Mangi Meli Remains' is a mediation service in this sense. It tells the story of one of the most important leaders in the resistance against the German colonial power and makes it accessible to German and Tanzanian society. In the inaugurated exhibition, which is now open to the public, the legacy and search of chief Meli's remains have been keenly reflected on through the critical mining of photographs and documents in colonial archives. (The Citizen on Sunday)

Executed Tanzanian hero's grandson takes DNA test to find lost skull (BBC)

As a German, I can’t describe things from an African perspective (Interview with Konradin Kunze by Goethe-Institute)