The exhibition ‘Namibia-Germany: a shared/divided history’. Resistance, violence, memory

Clara Himmelheber


The year 2004 was the centenary of the outbreak of a colonial war in former German South West Africa in which thousands of Africans were killed by the colonial power. Although of crucial importance for Namibia, the war had not entered public memory in Germany. The exhibition aimed at presenting colonial history, as well as the contemporary relationships between the two countries, showing a ‘shared’ and a ‘divided’ history. The exhibition created a public debate, which certainly supported the initiative of the German Minister of Economic Co-operation and Development to deliver an apology at the commemoration in August 2004 in Namibia. The article is a post-reflection of one of the co-curators on the exhibition putting it into a larger context and reviewing it concurrently.



Namibia, genocide, museum, anthropology, colonialism, German South West Africa

Full text: Himmelheber_p.61-71 (PDF, 913 KB)


Biographical note

Clara Himmelheber is head of African Collections at the Rautenstrauch-Joest Museum – Cultures of the World in Cologne. She is also a lecturer at the Institute of Anthropology, University of Cologne, teaching ‘Museum Anthropology’. In 2004 she was co-curator of the exhibition Namibia − Germany: A Shared / Divided History: Resistance, Violence, Memory with exhibition venues in Cologne and Berlin.

An earlier version of this material was presented on the occasion of the project conference ‘Disturbing Pasts: Memories, Controversies and Creativity’ (20 -22 November 2012, Museum of Ethnology/Weltmuseum Wien, Vienna). To view the film footage on the Open Arts Archive,, follow this link: