What We Forget – Alana Jelinek, Rajkamal Kahlon, Servet Kocyigit, and Randa Maroufi: Opening February 14

Opening: Thursday February 14th, 5-7 pm

Exhibition: February 14 – March 3

Finissage: March 2, 3-5 pm

We cordially invite you for the finissage of the exhibition on the 2nd of March. Artists Alana Jelinek, Servet Kocyigit and Rajkamal Kahlon will be present, as well as curators Lora Sariaslan and Wayne Modest. They will have a round table about the questions and subjects that are being explored by the artists in their work and in the exhibition. In particular, they will talk about colonialism afterlives in the present,  the relationship between colonial histories and histories of migration in the shaping of contemporary Europe and about issues related to imperial/colonial nostalgia.


In its present identity crisis, Europe seems to forget its past. Questions about who is or can be European have become increasingly urgent. Mounting anxieties about culture and identity produce strong narratives of a Europe in peril, whose people are threatened by an imagined influx of racialised and culturalised others. Such narratives hinge on a denial of Europe’s histories of colonisation and decolonisation.

Artists Alana Jelinek, Rajkamal Kahlon, Servet Kocyigit, and Randa Maroufi challenge this dominant representation of (post)colonial Europe. Revealing the ongoing legacies of colonialism in Europe and other parts of the world and the long histories of migration entangled with it, these artists explore how these unfinished histories shape contemporary Europe. They trace the often invisible ways in which Europe’s colonial projects impact contemporary global economic structures, the unequal distribution of resources, border securitisation and controls, and restrictions of movement on some groups of people. Together they explore the intimate and abstract ways in which colonialism continues to impact those people made most precarious by it, while demanding more critical consideration of the central role that colonialism has played and continues to play in the making of Europe.

© Janiek Dam

© Mattie van der Worm

© Janiek Dam

Alana Jelinek (Australia/ United Kingdom)

Born in Australia, but working in Europe for most of her career, Jelinek’s practice interrogates colonialism’s ongoing legacy from the position of being an immigrant herself. As an academic and artist, Jelinek investigates art as a site of knowledge from which to challenge colonial afterlives in the present and to provoke the public to question their complicity as beneficiaries of colonial structures and systems of representation.

Alana Jelink, Europe the Game, 2002-2003, Acrylic on wood, 360 x 360 cm (54 pieces of 60 x 60)

Europe the Game, 2002-2003

In this game, participants collaborate in constructing Europe by selecting no more than 36 painted tiles out of a total of 54. In actively choosing what gets included and what gets excluded, this game touches on contemporary anxieties about who is considered European and what constitutes the borders of Europe.  

Rajkamal Kahlon (United States / Germany)

Working across different media, including painting, photography, film, and sculpture, Rajkamal Kahlon explores the (visual) legacies of colonialism and racism, both on the grand scale of borders and territories and the intimate level of their protracted effects on women’s bodies. Kahlon grounds much of her practice in processes of amendment, refiguring historical and archival sources to reclaim identities and cultures that have been lost. Her work highlights the violent though often invisible toll of colonialism on the body and emphasises the transformative potential that acknowledging such violence may allow.

Rajmakal Kahlon, Do You Know Our Names?, 2017, Gauge and Acrylic Ink on Archival Digital Ink, 170 x 100 cm

People of Afghanistan, 2017

Juxtaposing thermal imagery footage of an American AC-130 Specter Gunship attacking unknown figures near a mosque in Afghanistan with archival photographs of Afghan men from a 1960s Russian anthropometric survey, this film posits both a political and aesthetic link between the occupation and aerial surveillance of the region’s physical territory and the categorisation of its people. Here Kahlon invites us to ask how contemporary wars fought in Afghanistan, as with other regions of the world, might be linked with earlier colonial practices of violence, categorisation, and exploitation.

Do You Know Our Names?, 2017

A critique of the selectivity of institutional memory, this work is an attempt at the recovery of identities lost. It is a practice of archeology to reclaim female subjectivities that have been relegated to exoticised others. By painting over women’s bodies that have been “lost” in the colonial archives, Kahlon rehabilitates their anonymized, even commoditized, bodies, transforming them from passive objects to self-possessed individuals, who wear contemporary garb and confront viewers with direct, unblinking gazes.

Servet Kocyigit (Turkey / The Netherlands)

Kocyigit’s translocational practice shifts between his birth country of Turkey, his current home in the Netherlands, and South Africa, a country that has been subjected to multiple colonisations, including by the Dutch and British. Kocyigit uses the symbolic form of the map to navigate between these localities, alluding to the complex social, historical, and cultural processes that construct geographical borders and imagine nations and national identities. Through a collage of materials that bear strong ties to specific places, Kocyigit unpacks the economic and historical roots of these artificial geographic divisions.

Servet Kocyigit, My heart is not made from stone (Africa), 2016, c-print, 90 x 200 cm

Road Kill, 2019

Stitching together imagined spaces, this newly commissioned work presents images on a richly layered map made from Shweshwe fabric, a traditional South African cloth introduced by French missionaries. This work contrasts the free movement of commercial goods with the controlled movement of bodies. The outline of the malfunctioning vehicle upon this fictitious map highlights this hypocrisy, revealing a broken system of inequity.

My Heart is Not Made of Stone (Asia) (Africa), 2016

The photographs from this series represent South African mining laborers holding antique maps taken from Dutch classrooms and decorated with gemstones by Johannesburg artists.

Linking the ecological aftermath of imperialism with the destructive practices of the mining industry, this series visualises colonisation’s dual exploitation of land and people.

Randa Maroufi (Morocco / France)

Born in Casablanca to a customs inspector, who had worked in different airports in Morocco, Maroufi explores the physical and emotional aspects of borders from the position of someone whose personal history is intimately entangled with them. Through her examination of the surveillance and control of public spaces and the policing of gendered bodies, Maroufi highlights colonialism’s spatial dimensions, which continue to restrict and control the lives and movements of many postcolonial subjects in the present. 

Randa Maroufi, Nabila & Keltoum, 2015, © Randa Maroufi – ADAGP – 2018

Bragdia (work in progress)2019

This video captures the choreography of goods and people at the border in Cueta, a Spanish enclave in Morocco. Contrasting the visual richness of the smugglers’ wares with the barren concrete of the checkpoint, this work depicts the repetitive and arbitrary procedures of border security. Emphasising their restriction of movement, these border rituals are unveiled as absurd and ineffective vestiges of colonial control.  

Diwana, 2018-2019

This diagram explores Cueta as a contemporary territory of transmigration and conflict. Drawn by different smugglers from Cueta, these three maps present a selection from a series of 20 and illustrate the daily commute through the border checkpoint. Transformed into a blueprint, a reproduction technique typically employed by architects, they acquire an aura of legitimacy that the illicit activity of smuggling conventionally lacks. 

Nabila & Keltoum, 2015

Staged with baroque drama, this photograph challenges narratives of the submissive migrant woman. These women assume the appearance of passivity, which enables them to smuggle goods across the border unnoticed. Maroufi’s depiction emphasises their self-determination and dignity through their striking gaze at the viewer.


Curatorial team: Lora Sariaslan, Wayne Modest, and Chiara de Cesari with Kiko Aebi and Anna Sejbæk Torp-Pedersen

What We Forget is made possible through the generous support of the EU-funded Horizon 2020 project CoHERE. This project has received funding from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under grant agreement No 693289. It is a collaboration between Nieuw Dakota, the Research Center for Material Culture (Tropenmuseum, Museum Volkenkunde, Afrika Museum), and the University of Amsterdam.