UNEXPECTED LESSONS #2 – Decolonizing Nature 

Free entry

What makes nature the other? What role does the decoupling of nature and culture play? And how can we decolonize our view of the world? The performative conference UNEXPECTED LESSONS #2 – Decolonizing Nature will focus on anti-colonial approaches to nature – both in Kenya and Iceland – against the backdrop of the relations between the Global North and the Global South.

In July 2022 the Think Tank Anti-Colonial Approaches to Nature took place in Nairobi. The event addressed seed archives and their colonial entanglements, colonization of land, lost indigenous knowledge on plants and medical botanicals, nature as an archive of memory and the philosophy of nature. The think tank brought together experts from different fields to reflect on the decolonization of nature.

The performative conference UNEXPECTED LESSONS #2 will take place from 13-15 September 2022 in Reykjavík. In dialogue with the Think Tank in Nairobi, it further expands the theme. What makes nature the other? Is the culture/nature dichotomy tenable at all? And how can we decolonize our view of the world? What does the colonization of “uninhabited nature” in the context of the vastness of the Icelandic landscapes mean? In light of todays’ climate catastrophe and the ongoing exploitation of natural resources, the role of nature not as an “object” but as an acting subject is central to both locations. Do we need a different way of thinking about nature?

The UNEXPECTED LESSONS are part of the long-term think tank and exhibition series Talking Objects Lab in Senegal, Kenya, Germany and beyond, which deals with the decolonization of knowledge and memory and explores plural forms and practices of knowledge of the African continent. The UNEXPECTED LESSONS are organic, they provide starting points and intermediate points, interweaving thematically with think tanks in Dakar, Nairobi and Frankfurt. With lecture performances, artistic interventions, poetry and a decolonized dinner, the program will engage with questions of decolonization on a historical as well as spiritual level.

Curated by Mahret Ifeoma Kupka (Frankfurt, Germany), Njoki Ngumi, The Nest Collective (Nairobi, Kenya), Chao Tayiana Maina, African Digital Heritage (Nairobi, Kenya), Isabel Raabe (Berlin, Germany) More on Talking Objects Lab here.


13th September
7:00pm – SÓNÓ Restaurant
Afrofuturistic Conscious Cuisine – A Decolonized Plate

Lecture and dinner with Chef Kabui (organic farmer, chef, anthropologist, activist, Nairobi)

LIMITED SPACES – Book your ticket here. 


14th September 
11:30 am – 6:00 pm – Auditorium 
Performative Conference

The conference will be LIVESTREAMED HERE

During the performative conference UNEXPECTED LESSONS – Decolonizing Nature the team from Talking Objects Lab and their artistic collaborators will explore the question of decolonizing nature within the Icelandic context. From 11 am until 9 pm the day will be filled with artistic interventions, inputs, and lecture performances on topics such as landscape, memory, nature, indigenous knowledge – and colonial entanglements.

Welcome Remarks by the curators Isabel Raabe, Chao Tayiana Maina, Mahret Ifeoma Kupka, Njoki Ngumi

12.00am – 12. 30am
The Indigenous Forest
Input by Harriet Chebet Ng’ok (Harriet’s Botanicals, Nairobi)

12.30am – 12.45am
Muthi (UK. 2017. 17min. Dir. Uriel Orlow)

12.45pm – 1.15pm
Njoki Ngumi in conversation with Harriet Chebet Ng’ok

1.15pm – 1.45pm
Digital Lesson from Nairobi #
1 with Patrick Maundu (ethnobiologist, Nairobi)

1.45pm – 2.45pm                                Lunch Break

2.45pm – 3.00 pm
The Intersection of Landscape and Memory
Input by Chao Tayiana Maina (African Digital Heritage, Nairobi)

3.00pm – 3.15 pm
Memories of trees – tree routes and other Universes
Poetic Intervention by hn. lyonga (writer, Berlin)

3.15pm – 3.30pm
“Dogs Hunting in the Park”
Artistic Lecture with Neo Musangi (artist, Nairobi)

3.30am – 4.30am
Telling Nature – About the importance of Storytelling
Talk with Chao Tayiana, hn. lyonga, Neo Musangi (Moderation Isabel Raabe, TALKING OBJECTS LAB)

Digital Lesson from Nairobi #2
with Anna Moraa (artist, LAM Sisterhood, Nairobi)

4.35pm – 5.00pm                                     Short Break

5.00pm – 5.30pm
The Museum as Plantation
Lecture Performance with Ayesha Keshani (artist, museum worker, London)

5.30pm – 6.00pm
Do we need a different way of thinking?
Input by Sigridur Thorgeirsdottir (philosopher, University of Iceland, tbc)

6.00pm – 6.45pm
Talk with
Ayesha Keshani, Sigridur Thorgeirsdottir (Moderation Mahret Ifeoma Kupka, TALKING OBJECTS LAB)

6.45pm – 7.15pm
Pumzi (KEN, ZAF. 2009. 33min. Dir. Wanuri Kahiu)

7.15pm – 7.30pm                   Short Break (change of location)

Lucky 3 presents: Kamayan – At the Greenhouse (outside the Nordic House)
Communal Eating Experience with the artists collective Lucky3 (Reykjavik)


15th September
6:30 pm – Auditorium 
Film Programme

THIS EVENT WILL BE LIVE STREAMED – click here to watch


The film programme expands on the topics of the conference and looks the journey of seeds between the Svalbard Global Seed Vault and Lebanon, patent battles over traditional plant medicine in South Africa and the traces of colonial ambitions of explorers in the Natural History Museum Berlin.

6:30 pm
“Wild Relatives” (NO, DE, Palästina . 2018. 66min. Dir. Jumana Manna)

Short Break

8 pm – Short Film Program

Theatrum Botanicum Trilogy by Uriel Orlow
Imbizo Ka Mafavuke (Mafavuke’s Tribunal) (2017. 28min. Dir. Uriel Orlow)
Muthi (2016-2017. 17min. Dir. Uriel Orlow)
The crown against Mafavuke (2016. 18min. Dir. Uriel Orlow)

Conspicuous Part (DE, PL. 2018. 35min. Dir. Assaf Gruber)

UNEXPECTED LESSONS #2 – Decolonizing Nature is supported by Goethe Institut London. The preparatory workshop “Anticolonial Approaches to Nature” in Nairobi was made possible by the Heinrich Böll Foundation and supported by the Rosa Luxemburg Foundation.