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Degrading People and Land by Forensic Architecture Back

Degrading People and Land by Forensic Architecture

1 Nov 2023

‘Just transition’ into a nature-positive global economy and society must begin from a full understanding of the causes of our present environmental, economic, and social conditions; the impact of colonialism on those conditions is not always fully understood, or articulated.

The project ‘Degrading People and Land: German Colonialism and Namibia’s Environment’ by Forensic Architecture will tell a new story of the impact of German colonialism on the Namibian environment, measuring land degradation over time by studying bush encroachment in grassland savannas, where thorny trees take over grasslands, depleting those regions’ water. It builds on Restituting evidence: Genocide and reparations in German colonial Namibia.

This case study will point toward a vital new component of reparation and restitution discussions, without which any attempt at ‘just transition’ is incomplete, and cannot expect to succeed. The German Empire colonised Namibia in the late 1800s, and in 1904 launched a campaign of genocide and land theft which, according to indigenous accounts, greatly changed the local landscape. Within this research, indigenous knowledge orients and leads new digital techniques to reconstruct – within navigable 3D environments – the region’s landscape and ecological conditions before it was indelibly degraded following the colonists’ arrival. This research is a multidisciplinary collaboration between Forensic Architecture with five partners, and experts in ecology, environmental science, law, and remote sensing, drawing upon weather data, historical photography, and indigenous oral histories.


Granted 25,000 euros

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