“There is no road to transcultural education – transcultural education is the road.” (Avitha  Sooful, University of Pretoria)

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Approximately 50 participants met over three days at Augsburg University in late October 2022 for the congress "Transcultural Imageries between Global Networks and Local Mediation Practices". Ten years after the first German congress on the topic of transcultural art education, the conference took up this question again. Invited were the most important representatives of the German discourse on transcultural art education, as well as four representatives of the EVC network from Ghana (Ebenezer Acquah, Patrique deGraft-Yankson and Osuanyi Essel) and South Africa (Avitha Sooful).


This conference was also the final event for the multi-year project that led to the manual "Global Perspectives in Art Education - Objects from West Africa. A manual for Art Teachers in Germany" (Link). The project was funded by Engagement Global. At the conference, the results were presented and discussed in different formats, specificly or within a broader framework of reflection. A detailed documentation of this discussion will appear in the congress proceedings, which will be published in autumn 2023.


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In her welcoming address, Constanze Kirchner, the host, introduced the international projects at her university from China to Cameroon, from South Africa to Mexico. She emphasised the importance of evaluation and of systematisation that is now pending in order to make these experiences fruitful for practise in Germany.

In his introductory speech, Ernst Wagner presented the national and international context of the conference. He outlined the importance of transnational projects for a contemporary art education in Germany. In order to be able to shape such projects, he emphasised the necessity of a transdisciplinary approach (from visual cultures studies and educational sciences to cultural anthropology and political science) as well as the development of joint projects with partners, especially from the 'Global South'. In order to avoid a “talking about" he stressed the importance of overcoming Eurocentrism.


The conference had three formats: Lectures on basic questions, inputs for concrete projects and workshops.



In the lectures, reflection on the experience of documenta fifteen was a leitmotif to which almost all the speakers referred. Here, the conflicts that arose were systemic in the collision of concepts and understandings from different cultural contexts.


In her lecture, Avitha Sooful (University of Pretoria and Chair of EVC) reflected on the Summer School in Kassel organised by EVC. She was particularly concerned with the international perspectives on transcultural mediation practice. In this context, she emphasised the necessity of always reflecting on power structures: Who speaks? Who remains excluded? What repressions happened and still happen in the context of colonialism? What falls by the wayside in translations? What can "global citizenship" mean in the Anthropocene? These questions must be answered in art education – at the respective place of practice.


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In the second lecture, Julius Heinicke, holder of the UNESCO Chair for Cultural Policy at the University of Hildesheim, transferred his experiences visiting the Humboldt Forum in Berlin with international students. There, very similar themes automatically emerge, which furthermore pose the question of the relationship between diversity and community: What is shared beyond cultural distances and where are the differences that cannot be shared? In order to be able to overcome the dilemma of static assertions of identity and difference, he developed a pedagogical model of "dissimilarity" that is also exciting for art education.


Ulrich Heinen (University of Wuppertal) clarified in his lecture that a transculturally sensitised view of European art history can also create a heightened awareness of migration, power relations and postcolonial structures. He justified this with the impact of mythological narratives in order to propose a reinterpretation of the figure of Europe, which can set relevant accents in art education.


On the second day, Benjamin Jörissen, holder of the UNESCO Chair for Arts and Cultural Education at the University of Erlangen-Nuremberg, presented his concept of Cultural Resilience. Referring to Katherina Brown, he presented the three dimensions of this concept: Resourcefulness, Rootedness and Resistance. This model could also be used to model the tension between transnational or transcultural and local practices in a meaningful way. He demonstrated this when he analysed three of the lumbung-talks of documenta fifteen with this model by applying a Qualitative Content Analysis (according to Mayring) to the transcribed talks. The patterns discovered in the process would be worth discussing again in terms of their relevance for possible topics in art teaching.


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Christiane Schmidt-Maiwald (Augsburg University) dealt in her lecture with the question of the specific local (here addressed as individual identity) and its encounter with the global (here called hyperculture) from everyday practice. In doing so, she critically reflected on the rehearsed and powerful traditional patterns, which can no longer do justice to the questions of the 21st century: painting in the style of Franz Marc, linear stylistic history, separation of high art and applied arts, etc. In her argument, she introduced an important argument that had not been considered until then, the question of the reference of the everyday life of children and young people. Global hybrid cultures have long since arrived in this world.


On the third day, Martin Schulz, professor of art history at the Hochschule für Künste in Bremen, once again explicitly addressed documenta fifteen - as an exemplary position of the Global South. In the very personal reflection on his own experience of the exhibition as well as the visits with his (international) students, he showed the complexity of hardly disentangling, transcultural visual worlds. He also suggested to develop adequate models for translating and communicating this complexity. The fact that this happens – at least in part – in a mined field was shown by the avoidance of communication by ruangrupa and their context in Kassel, which he analysed and which promptly led to a passionately controversial discussion with the congress participants.





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The inputs, which were also spread over the three days, were shorter and more practice-oriented. Brigitte Kaiser (BDK Bavaria) coordinated a competition that was organised together with the Art Teachers' Association of Ghana (ATAG). Art teachers submitted concepts for global learning. Her critical evaluation of the winning projects provided an in-depth insight into the practices and ideas of art teaching in Ghana and in Germany.


Ingmar Saal, art teacher at a Bavarian grammar school, analysed the music video "Point and Kill" and what impulses it can provide for art lessons. This will be discussed in more detail – as an exemplary example – below.


Katharina Fink and Philipp Schramm from the University of Bayreuth / Iwalewa House presented the already mentioned manual for secondary art teachers in Germany (Link). It was developed in close cooperation with our EVC colleagues from Ghana and focuses on visual cultures from West Africa, from magical figures from pre-colonial times to women-led resistance movements against colonialism, from nation-building since the 1960s to the superstars of 'global art' such as Yinka Shonibare, El Anatsui, or Ibrahim Mahama.


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The fourth input came from Marc Fritzsche (University of Koblenz-Landau) and Steffen Egle (Museum Pfalzgalerie Kaiserslautern), who reported on their cooperation with regard to the 'reinvention' of this museum. This example in particular showed – as if in a mirror – how all fields of art education are currently setting out to reorientate themselves and to follow new paths.


General observations

During the discussion of Ingmar Saal's project on the music video "Point and Kill", two aspects became particularly clear, which can serve as important criteria for future work: The analysis of the video, which completely convinced the German participants, could not be shared by the Ghanaian colleagues. For example, they had a completely different reading of the images used in the video, which from a German point of view look like stereotypical clichés of African identity. The methodological approach (decoding meanings through a system of references and quotations from other, historically past films or music videos) also did not correspond to their approach, which argued from the perspective of current youth culture in West Africa. Although both perspectives could not be made to coincide, it became clear that neither approach is "wrong". But it is probably wrong (especially in the pedagogical context) if there is only one approach addressed. This multi-perspectivity can also provide an answer to the questions posed by Avitha Sooful at the beginning (Whose voices become audible? Who has the power of interpretation?). The colleagues in Ghana will now provide their interpretation in cooperation with Ingmar Saal.


The second aspect was less controversially discussed, but probably also marks a central point of departure in the topic of "transculture in art education". This is about the question of terms (and thus models) we need to understand the quality of relationships in cultural contact zones? Ingmar Saal had proposed the terms hybridity and creolisation for this. This requires further discussion, which will certainly lead to an expansion of the conceptual repertoire. We hope that the publication on the congress will make an important contribution in the sense of a working glossary.



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A working group chaired by Nicola Pauli and Christiane Schmidt-Maiwald, in which the international guests participated, deepened the aspect of multi-perspectivity with regard to an exciting project, the development of a Ghanaian-German textbook for art teaching (Link).


Another working group under the leadership of Johannes Kirschenmann and Ulrich Heinen discussed the draft of an position paper that was available at the congress.


New paths need accompanying research. Constanze Kirchner and Nicole Berner led a working group on this, which on the one hand discussed questions of methodological approaches and possible fields of research in the context. On the other hand, quality characteristics for teaching professionalism were collected that relate to transcultural art teaching, including language sensitivity, problem awareness (power relations, migration, etc.), in-depth, multidimensional, "glocal" knowledge of imageries, didactic competences with regard to "negotiating" perspectives of meaning, etc.



In his résumé, Ansgar Schnurr pointed out consequences for art education in the light of the congress. In doing so, he marked the place of the development of the subject in the last ten years.  In addition to the ups and downs of such a process of innovation, he noted a significant expansion of questions. Ten years ago it was mainly about formulating answers to the ‘new diversity’ in the German immigration society, today a "postcolonial supplementation of transcultural questions in global contexts" is taking place. Also a necessary addition of an ethical and normative dimension in respect to power relations is needed, as well as the redefinition of interactions in global ‘cultural contact zones’.


The congress showed that in this sense we have to understand art education differently, perhaps even we have to reinvent it. The current statement of the Grassi Museum in Leipzig can also be applied to art education if only a few words are changed. It could then read as follows: "With our future programme REINVENTING ART EDUCATION we will extensively reorganise our subject in the coming years. Step by step, we want to transform ourselves into a network discipline in which different voices have their say and different places connect with each other. Together we will cast critical perspectives on our shared as well as divisive histories and on the possibilities of shaping the future."


This conference in Augsburg, brilliantly organised by Nicola Pauli and her team, was a milestone on this path.


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