Mnyaka Sururu Mboro, born and raised in Tanzania, came to study in Germany in 1978 and then settled in Berlin.

Mnyaka Sururu Mboro, born and raised in Tanzania, came to study in Germany in 1978 and then settled in Berlin.

He is a board member and co-founder of Berlin Postkolonial e.V., and for decades has been active in advocating for a critical confrontation of German colonialism. One of his main concerns is the restitution of human remains, which were stolen during the German colonial era and which to the present day are found in the collections of the “Stiftung Preußischer Kulturbesitz” (SPK), the “Berliner Gesellschaft für Anthropologie, Ethnologie und Urgeschichte” (BGAEU), as well as several other institutions all over Germany.

"It is not about exterminating history, it is in fact about making history more alive, because we try to remember history in a critical way!"

- Mnyaka Sururu Mboro

"It is not about exterminating history, it is in fact about making history more alive, because we try to remember history in a critical way!"

- Mnyaka Sururu Mboro

What word comes to your mind when you think of the Humboldtforum / Berliner Schloss? Please explain.

I always ask myself why the castle will be rebuilt. Is it to honour the colonialists? Or else what should it tell us? I see not only racism, but also a lot of colonialism. I don’t see that as a new colonialism, I see it coming from an old colonialism and I see a lot of people who still have these thoughts in their head: take back “a place in the sun”.

Do you think that Germany should pay reparations to the Herero and Nama communities that were affected by and dispossessed during the genocide from 1904-08? Please elaborate.

Reparations – yes, they need to pay. But I think they still don’t understand what we’re saying. We as Africans, when we say reparations, we mean a lot more: apology. Where I come from, if someone does something bad to somebody else you have to come together and he has to do something: either he prepares a certain beverage so that the people can come together and become friends again, and it’s not only about empty words. However it is not about reparations, it is about apologizing! Maybe if they would have apologized, we wouldn’t be so hard about reparations.

Actually what kind of reparations do we as Africans want? We want the land, the soil! For us it is like a mother to her child, because the land is what feeds us. And it was taken away from us. How are we supposed to feed ourselves? How should we do that? And when we talk about reparations, about what it means, you should really consider: the ones who are holding the land right now, and actually over 80% of the land, should leave and give it back to us. And then we are talking about reparations! Even now they don’t understand us, what kind of reparations we are talking about when we say reparations: we are not talking about money! Not at all! Money is not acceptable so long as we could get back the land from the people who occupied it. If you call them colonialists or not, for us Africans they are colonialists. The land they own now was endowed to them by their ancestors who were the real colonialists there. Or if somebody bought the land later on, how dare somebody do that?! How can you do that if you know exactly who this land really belongs to? And you don’t think about us: we are sitting aside and we have no land, even though we know that this is our land! We don’t even have enough to feed our children and this is our own country! And are we just supposed to sit and accept that?

And it is more diplomatic when we talk about reparations, so that you know what we’re demanding. Otherwise it could also go the other way round and we don’t want to start a war again and go on and on in that way. We need to find a solution! And to find the solution you can use such methods right away from the beginning: reparations are very, very, very important. Apologize – and then we can see how we can continue to converge and work together.

Do you think that a memorial and information center concerning the topic slavery, colonialism and racism should be built in Berlin? Please elaborate.

I think building it is a must. Because this is about history. It is about all these historical events. We want the future generations to be able to learn what really happened. And when I see, for example here in Germany, when I try to ask the people here if Germans were colonialists too, almost 90% of the people say no, we didn’t have colonies. And if such a monument would exist, this awareness would come to people much more easily. Also, another reason: If I take a look here [in Germany], there are monuments for all these other historical happenings, There is a monument, and over there one, and there. Then why? So when I see all this, I wonder: why isn’t there a monument to commemorate enslavement, colonialism and racism? And because of that it becomes dangerous, this is why you find something like Pegida, which is now so strong. Because they think “yes, what we did was right and we can still do that.” Because no one condemns it. No one is talking about it!

What’s your take on the many human remains from the Global South that are kept in German museums until today?

Yes, I ask myself, if you store the deceased somewhere in warehouses, in the cellar, or in a shelf – I ask myself: is that European? Or is it a Christian? And if it is, still we Africans, we are not like that. It doesn’t matter how they perished. Although we know that most of them were hanged and brought here for racist research. But it is time to bring them back, and to chip in with something so that we can bury our deceased with our rituals and our traditions. Because for us this is very, very, very meaningful. And now I’ll talk about the village I come from. Here is a leader of our Mangi, Meli, he was hanged by the Germans and then beheaded and still today he is somewhere here in Germany. And where I come from, when the rainy season comes and there is no rain or some natural disaster happens, we say the reason for that is that we still couldn‘t bury our Mangi.

Furthermore, there are so many memories and it makes us so sad. There are a lot of people where I come from who don’t believe that the deceased are here lying on shelves. When I am at home I try to tell them, but they think I’m just telling fairytales, because the Europeans are very, very good Christians and so there’s no way they’d handle death like that. They even call me a liar, because they have never been to Europe. And when I came here for the first time, most of the people in my village and also my grandmother charged me with searching for the head of Mangi Meli and bringing him back. They expected me to do so, but I couldn’t, and now of course they think I’m just telling them lies, that I just don’t want to bother with it anymore. And this is sad, but that’s the way it is. And sometimes when I tell something to the people there, I tell them different things, so that it fits what they want to hear. Because in faith, how one deals here in Germany/Europe with people and and and and… It’s not like it is shown here in the village.

According to you, how important is the equal and conceptional contribution of descendants of colonized people to handle the colonial past (i.e. negotiations regarding reparations, museums, exhibitions, representation in schoolbooks, street renaming etc.)?

We talked before about a monument which does not even exist. But conversely,, I see all these discriminating, racist, colonials street names which do exist. And they honour colonial crimes and even the ones who colonized my ancestors, this is what is honoured here. And like I said before, no one at home believes that it is like that. Based on that it is very, very, very important. And the second reason is because of what we as the descendants of colonized people think.

How I see it: they try to tell me, you are still colonized!” And that is the picture I see. And this is why we demand the renaming of those certain streets which honour the colonizers. It is not about exterminating history, it is in fact about making history more alive, because we try to remember history in a critical way! The streets are there, the names are there, but most people don’t know. History involves two sides and not only one. And I can’t imagine how only one side works on it. For me this is not about democracy, not at all! This is history which involves me and you! So both of us have to work on that together. I mean, you hear how I feel, and I hear how you feel, and we put it on paper. It is our common history, but not from a one-sided perspective! And if it is a one-sided perspective, that leads me back to colonial times.