AFRASO Lecture by Godwin Kornes: "North Korean Aesthetics as Travelling Model: Mansudae Memorial Projects in Namibia"

18. December 2014
Campus Westend, PEG, 1.G 192

6 pm - 8 pm

When talking about Africa’s Asian Options’, mentioning North Korea is likely to provoke raised eyebrows – too dominant is the country’s othering as isolationistrogue state’ or ‘hermit kingdom’ in our western mediascapes. However, for more than forty years now, North Korea has been actively engaged in Africa, by supporting anti-colonial liberation movements and by maintaining diplomatic relationships with a number of postcolonial governments. Remarkably, it is foremost in the field of memorial site construction that North Korea has left a visible mark on the continent, a phenomenon that so far has received little attention in academia. In more than a dozen African countries, North Korea’s state-owned enterprise, Mansudae Overseas Project, has built memorial sites, statues, museums, and prestigious government infrastructure, significantly shaping the aesthetics of postcolonial memory. By focussing on the case of Namibia, Mansudae’s most ardent African customer, I will outline the travel of ideas, aesthetics, and models of memorialisation from Pyongyang to Windhoek, in light of both countries entangled histories that reach back into the days of armed liberation struggle for the independence of Namibia. In how far this can be conceptualised in terms of cultural translation, will be considered, and discussed, by situating Mansudae’s projects within the wider dynamics of memory and commemoration in postcolonial Namibia.


Godwin Kornes is a doctoral candidate, research associate and lecturer at the Department of Anthropology and African Studies at Johannes Gutenberg-University, Mainz. His doctoral thesis is focussing on the aesthetics and politics of national commemoration in Namibia, based on 18 months of field research (2010-2013). During 2012-2013 he spent twelve months as guest researcher at the National Museum of Namibia, researching the curation of the new Independence Memorial Museum, Mansudaes most ambitious project in Namibia so far.

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