A collaboration with Jonas Feige
Zenkeri is a collaborative 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. One that Zenker landed in an exotic place to make it his home, unaware of how it might affect his descendants – both in their own search for identity and in how they might be looked upon by the native inhabitants of the land. Being German ourselves, we were fascinated by finding a piece of our own country’s history in the middle of the Cameroonian jungle. We were moved by a family’s struggle with their own identity that stems from a shared past which in Germany is mostly forgotten.
Through interviews that we conducted with family members in Cameroon, France, Belgium and Germany, we came to understand that there are many questions that are still far from resolved. There seems to be a strong disconnect between the family’s personal historical narrative and the historians’ quasi official version. 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.