Nomadic Settlers Settled Nomads

2. Juli bis 28. August 2011

Ein Projekt von SAVVY Contemporary Berlin in Zusammenarbeit mit dem Kunstraum Kreuzberg / Bethanien Berlin. Kurator: Bonaventure Soh Bejeng Ndikung, Co-Kuratorinnen: Simone Kraft, Pauline Doutreluingne

Antje Engelmann (GER), Bruno Jamaica (POR), Christina Kyriazidi (GRE), Christophe Ndabananiye (Rwanda/Germany), Cyrill Lachauer (GER), Dalila Dalléas (FRA/Algeria), Essi Kausalainen (FIN), Inês d’Orey (POR), Joris Vanpoucke (BEL), Juan Duque (COL/BEL), Lan Hungh (Taiwan), Lars Bjerre (DEN), Leena Kela (FIN),Magda Korsinsky (GER), Marcio Carvalho (POR), Michael á Grømma (DEN), Michael Zheng (USA/China), Microclimax (FRA), Paul Huf (GER/MEX), Roberto Duarte (Chile), Rudy Cremonini (ITA), Satch Hoyt (UK), Soavina Ramaroson (Madagaskar), Surya Gied (GER/S-Korea), Yasmin Alt (GER), Yingmei Duan (China)

Curated by Bonaventure S. B. Ndikung, Simone Kraft and Pauline Doutreluingne

for a German version of the concept, please click here


Ever since, man has had the urge to wander, to travel, to glance beyond his familiar horizon. Literature and art are full of works thematizing this human desire for foreign places. Yet, at least as manifold are the works dealing with the opposite subject: the human need for a home, a fixed, intimate centre of life, where one can settle down and find shelter and security. Being settled and nomadic wandering, the desire for foreign places and the desire for a home are two sides of man that seem to contradict each other, but still cannot be separated from each other.

Romanticism almost paradigmatically thematizes this paradox, whereby, both human desires became central motives. Many paintings and texts focused on wandering and going out into the world; an example is Caspar David Friedrichs’ “Kreidefelsen auf Rügen / Chalk Cliffs on Rügen Island” (1818): three figures, standing with their backs to the viewer, looking out over the far sea. Over this same politically disturbed period of the late 18th and early 19th centuries, there is the need for a real home, the search for the core of the world as the home for all people is a central motif of Romanticism (example: a poem by J. v. Eichendorff, Mondnacht / Moon Night, 1837).

Es war, als hätt der Himmel / Die Erde still geküßt, / Daß sie im Blütenschimmer / Von ihm nun träumen müsst. /  [… ]  / Und meine Seele spannte / Weit ihre Flügel aus, / Flog durch die stillen Lande, / Als flöge sie nach Haus.

It was, as if the sky had / quietly kissed earth, / thus she in flowers’ shimmer / of him now must dream./ […] and my soul spanned / her wings wide, / flew through the calm lands, / as if it flew home.

Nomadic Settlers vs. Settled Nomads: HOME

What is home? Where is home?

Is home the place of birth or the place of residence? Is it the village, the city, the country or the continent where you live? Or is the spatial home not just one facet of a very complex phenomenon that is familiar to everybody, which one, however, only seldom thinks about consciously? Does not the social home, friends, family, traditions play at least a similar role?

Having developed a settled way of life in the course of time, most people certainly would localise home as a spatial retreat in some way. A nomadic people, however, would find different answers: the whole world is home wherein you live with your group of people. Home gets a temporal connotation.

The connection to a geographical home arouses strong emotions, such as love, pride, patriotism, which for example have been propagated in the big campaign “Du bist Deutschland / You are Germany”, prior to and during the Football World Cup 2006. These emotions are denied to nomads, not having a special localizable home.

Yet the sense of home can change and degenerate: The (too) strong fixation on home gives rise to an excessive need of protection one’s home. Then, foreigners are intruders which have to be held off and one has to defend against “enemies and threats”. Home can cause discrimination, xenophobia and racism.

The nomadic way of living usually is approached with sceptisim, but is wandering around really that foreign to today’s sedentary settlers? Travelling, relocation, commuting between abode and work – Is this not also a form of nomadism?

Nomadic Settlers? Settled Nomads?

Nomadic Settlers vs. Settled Nomads: WANDERING / MIGRATION

By travelling to and meeting with different places, countries and cultures, one’s understanding of the other increases. Moving geographically out of the habitual limits of home is accompanied by spiritual delimitation. Mutual acceptance and understanding grow. Thus, the figure of speech “Reisen bildet / Travelling educates”. At once travelling also offers the chance to recognize and value one’s own home. “Only when being abroad, we learn what home means to us” (Theodor Fontane).


Migration of both people and individuals is as old as mankind. The period of Migration (German terminus “Völkerwanderung” / literally: peoples’ wandering/migration) as a transition period from Late Antiquity to Early Middle Ages has become an established term. But as these movements of resettlement have often been accompanied by wars, destruction and material loss, the term “Migration Period” is usually associated with negative connotations.

By doing so, one ignores the fact that the migration of peoples, individuals and groups has contributed considerably to the distribution of technical knowledge and culture. How else would knowledge have spread? Exemplary are the medieval stone masons’ lodges whose masters and craftsmen moved from one construction site to another. Otherwise gothic style would not have expanded so successfully all over Europe within that short a time.

Artists especially have also lived nomadically, by residing in a particular space just for a finite period – which they left to follow the call of a new client, like Leonardo da Vinci went to the French court, or Peter Paul Rubens, who worked as a diplomat and artist in Spain, France and England. Often, artists also moved on their own accord, like the major part of artists of early Modernism, Pablo Picasso, Henry Miller, Man Ray, Salvador Dalí, Max Ernst or Joan Miró, who were drawn to the metropolis of arts of their days, to Paris.


Today, nomadism still determines global everyday life. Chinese migrant workers are travelling from one megalomaniac construction project to the next one, just to work for a starvation wage and under perilous terms on often unsecured construction sites. In Dubai, Near Eastern low-wagers work on menial jobs, they live in barracks with miserable sanitary facilities outside the city and are transported to their workplaces every day. Once somebody loses his job, he has to leave the country within 30 days.

But even in Germany, migrant labor is a burning issue (again) – there even exists a German neologism: Jobnomadismus / job nomadism. Job nomads are forced to travel after work and money and they thereby leave their families, their social life and their intimate surroundings behind.

Nomadic Settlers? Settled Nomads?

Exhibition: Nomadic Settlers – Settled Nomads


The group exhibition Nomadic Settlers – Settled Nomads is part of a research on contemporary nomadism, dealing with the complex theme of the human sense of settlement and its manifold facets. The concept of nomadism, migration, settlement will be perceived in a meta-level ranging from the physical to the imaginary, existence and non-existence, still with both feet on the ground.

This project is intended to take place in various countries and continents, in the course of time; whereby the temporal and local differences offer the opportunity of a scene change which enables new perspectives on the subject. Thus, raised questions can be picked up again, and be thought about anew. Invited are young international artists to contribute fulminant impulses and perspectives. A process of communication between artists and art works, between own and foreign, between old and new is instigated, in which the visitors of the exhibition actively take part and become part of a circumstance.

Concept by Bonaventure S. B. Ndikung and Simone Kraft

5 Responses “Exhibition” →

  1. Ngalula Beatrice Kabutakapua

    March 8, 2011

    Once you start travelling the idea of “home” change completely. Sometimes home is many places, some other times is just nowhere. Sounds like an interesting discussion by the way ..

  2. home is where you are………..

  3. My goal is to become as the turtle.
    Home within yourself.

    If you are home with yourself it does not matter where you are, you will always be home.

    It’s not about your placement, it’s about you.

  4. Once You start to interact with other cultures your home changes, your soul will be the same.
    The tradition You carry along with You isn’t disappearing, it becomes more concrete and clear in Your mind and living structure. The opening to other cultural experiences carries a new living experience with You and the society You bear Your own roots within.

  5. the second you are born you become a nomad, serf SOUTH African in Berlin


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