Ahali Conversations with Can Altay podcast

Episode 15: Bonaventure Soh Bejeng Ndikung

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Bonaventure Soh Bejeng Ndikung, is a curator best known as the artistic director of SAVVY—The Laboratory of Form-Ideas, a self-organized art institution located in Berlin. He has recently been appointed as the new director at the Haus der Kulturen der Welt (HKW) in Berlin.

We hear from Bonaventure on the importance of positioning oneself, within collaboration but always in response and with response-ability. He is someone who didn’t wait for legitimization and instead went ahead to create a space, and let things emerge from that space and from the people who end up hanging out there.

Episode Notes & Links

This episode was recorded during the Mediterranean wildfires that have taken place in Greece, Turkey, Italy, Algeria and Tunisia.

SAVVY, the laboratory of form and ideas is a public cultural institution located in Berlin. https://savvy-contemporary.com

To go further deep into Bonaventure’s thinking, check out this talk organized by the After the Archive? Initiative. https://open.spotify.com/episode/6SbXJlNDSJjYQPN5tWjM93?si=F0kjcbEERPOIJTQdSmVPqQ&dl_branch=1

To get a better sense of his story of becoming, check out this conversation for the NKATA podcast. He also touches on the impact of the life, work and untimely deaths of two giants of contemporary art: Bisi Silva and Okwui Enwezor. https://nkatapodcast.com/2019/04/05/nkata-with-bonaventure-soh-bejeng-ndikung/

At documenta 14 in Athens and in Kassel, the slogan “Wir (alle) sind das Volk” [We (all) are the people] was displayed on banners and posters in German and Greek and the languages understood by most foreign Documenta visitors, as well as the languages of the migrants and refugees who are exposed to xenophobic aggression in Europe. Among the languages are Arabic, Kurdish, Turkish, Farsi (as spoken in Afghanistan), and the language of refugees from Eritrea.


Curated by Bonaventure, the 13th edition of the Bamako Encounters - African Biennale of Photography will be on view in Bamako, Mali from November 20, 2021–January 20, 2022.

In his essay titled “The Globalized Museum? Decanonization as Method: A Reflection in Three Acts”, Bonaventure proposes to utilize decanonization as method for “what might be a global museum of self-reflexivity, whereby the idea will not be to create new or parallel canons, or place them side by side, or universalize the Western canon, but to decanonize the entire notion of the canon.” https://www.moussemagazine.it/magazine/the-globalized-museum-bonaventure-soh-bejeng-ndikung-documenta-14-2017/

Thomas Mann was a writer known for his highly symbolic and ironic epic novels and novellas which are noted for their insight into the psychology of the artist and the intellectual. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Thomas_Mann

Henry Louis Gates is a literary critic, teacher, historian and filmmaker that conceptualized Signifyin', a critical approach to context-bound significance of words, which is accessible only to those who share the cultural values of a given speech community. The expression comes from stories about the Signifying Monkey, a trickster figure said to have originated during slavery in the United. States. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Henry_Louis_Gates_Jr.

Theaster Gates is a Chicago based artist whose work sources from social practice. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Theaster_Gates

The Nettelbeckplatz is a square in the Berlin district of Wedding. https://second.wiki/wiki/nettelbeckplatz

An originally well known Armenian/Greek Christian neighborhood called Tatavla, Kurtuluş is a district of Istanbul. Meaning "liberation", "salvation", "independence" or "deliverance" in Turkish, Kurtuluş’s non muslim population of the neighborhood is greatly diminished. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kurtuluş

Sonsbeek is an international exhibition in Arnhem, Netherlands which largely focuses on public works of contemporary art. https://www.sonsbeek20-24.org

“Chercher midi à quatorze heures" is a quirky way of telling someone that it is making an issue more difficult than it needs to be—turning something simple into something complicated in French.

Director Jef Cornelis made an in-situ documentary about the Sonsbeek that had taken place in 1971 titled “Sonsbeek: buiten de perken” for the Belgian TV Channel VRT. His body of work is influential to imagine what television can be and how it can be used to document and represent art. https://vimeo.com/433640306

Known as the founder of the art movement fluxus, Joseph Beuys was an influential teacher and artist who was influential in the latter half of the 20th century. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Joseph_Beuys

A champion of Africa's oral tradition and traditional knowledge, Amadou Hampâté Bâ was a writer, historian and ethnologist. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Amadou_Hampâté_Bâ

Curatorial Statement of Bamako Biennial quotes Amadou Hampâté Bâ’s statement (Aspects de la civilisation africaine, Éditions Présence Africaine, 1972) presiding over the manifestation, Maa ka Maaya ka ca a yere kono, translates to, “the persons of the person are multiple in the person.”


Sun Ra, was a jazz composer, bandleader, piano and synthesizer player, and poet known for his experimental music, "cosmic" philosophy, prolific output, and theatrical performances. For much of his career, Ra led "The Arkestra," an ensemble with an ever-changing name and flexible line-up.


Thelonious Monk was a seminal jazz pianist and composer. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Thelonious_Monk

Stephen Wright is a writer and gardener based in France. He was the first guest of the previous season of Ahali. Listen at https://www.ahali.space/episodes/episode-1-stephen-wright

Assembled by the king of 6/8, the living legend Brice Wassy

Kelin-Kelin Orchestra is a big band that consists of twelve musicians.

Called the "queen of Taarab and Unyago music, Fatima binti Baraka also known as Bi Kidude, was a Zanzibari-born Tanzanian Taarab singer.


Influenced by the musical traditions of the African Great Lakes, North Africa, the Middle East, and the Indian subcontinent. Taarab is a music genre popular in Tanzania and Kenya.


Natasha Ginwala is a curator working in​​ the field of contemporary art.

Ayesha Hameed is a lecturer, writer and practitioner who produces videos, audio essays and performance lectures.

Matana Roberts is a sound experimentalist, visual artist, jazz saxophonist, clarinetist and composer. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Matana_Roberts

Formed in 1979 by Pierre-Edouard Décimus and Jacob Desvarieux, Kassav’ is a Zouk band that makes Guadeloupean carnival music recording it in a more fully orchestrated yet modern and polished style. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kassav%27

Jacob Desvarieux was a singer, arranger, and music producer. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jacob_Desvarieux

Jocelyne Béroard is a singer and songwriter. She is one of the lead singers of the Kassav'. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jocelyne_Béroard

Zouk is a musical movement pioneered by the French Antillean band Kassav' in the early 1980s. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Zouk

Négritude (from French "Nègre" and "-itude" to denote a condition that can be translated as "Blackness") is a framework of critique and literary theory, developed mainly by francophone intellectuals, writers, and politicians of the African diaspora during the 1930s, aimed at raising and cultivating "Black consciousness" across Africa and its diaspora. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Négritude

One of the founders of the Négritude movement, Aimé Césaire was a Martinican poet, author, and politician. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Aimé_Césaire

Served as the first president of Senegal from 1960 to 1980, Léopold Sédar Senghor was a poet, politician and cultural theorist. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Léopold_Sédar_Senghor

Episode recorded on Zoom on August 4th, 2021.

Interview by Can Altay. Produced by Aslı Altay & Sarp Renk Özer. Music by Grup Ses.

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