A collaboration with Yana Wernicke.
Zenkeri is a project about the repercussions of the life of German colonialist Georg August Zenker.
In 1889 the German botanist and gardener Georg August Zenker settled down in Bipindi, a small patch of land in the then German colony of "Kamerun". Here Zenker – who was raising a family with a woman from Togo – built a colonial style villa, established a plantation and worked as a botanist, collector and zoologist for museums in Berlin. His villa is still home to his descendants, who today live with the difficulty of reconciling their German and Cameroonian identities.
Through our project we have come to see the villa in Bipindi as somewhat of a spaceship from a different planet, that Zenker landed in an exotic place to make it his home. To the native inhabitants it must have been a object that brought with it a sense of strangeness. But what did it represent for Zenker’s descendants? Certainly home, but since they did not know the world it came from, must it for them not have been both familiar and strange at the same time? And did it not also cast a shadow of foreignness on them? Was Zenker aware of the burden he would leave behind for his family?
Through interviews that we conducted with family members in Cameroon, France, Belgium and Germany we came to understand that these questions are still far from resolved. The family is still looking for answers regarding their own identity and the memory of their forefather. With our portrait of the family Zenker we hope to raise larger questions surrounding the still palpable repercussions of German Colonialism in Africa and specifically Cameroon.