On his way from Germany to Kenya, Eric Otieno passed by Bagamoyo, in Tanzania, where he found traces of German colonialism. In this »travelogue« he reflects on the difficult, and often bad memory politics, which repeat »national narratives of founders, fathers, flags, and fanfare.« Instead he complicates the relation of memory, time and places by pointing towards the gaps of collective memory, and a distorted »Erinnerungskultur.« »To be black is to remember forgotten, unwritten, erased memories. « he says.
1. Born across the border in Kenya, my mother traversed the East African landscape as a child. Her brother was born in Dodoma.
2. The year is 1884. A dozen »gentlemen,« none of whom are African or have been to Africa, make sketches on a large canvas in Wilhelmstraße, Berlin. Judging by the straight lines that divide the landscape that will one day will be known as Kenya/Tanzania, they must have used a ruler.
3. That border – on either side of which my mother and my uncle were born – was only a line on a map when my mother was born.
4. A source of great pride for her father – my grandfather – was that he steered the locomotives of the East African Railways and Harbours, on the railway that the Germans claim they built.
»The past becomes history through memory. The border, however, is of no consequence to memory. (…) Memory is uncapturable by the border.«
5. My grandfather’s border-crossing put my mother and several of her siblings through school. She says they are »railway children.«
6. The past becomes history through memory. The border, however, is of no consequence to memory. Memory inherently transcends the order that the border promises but fails to deliver on: Memory is uncapturable by the border.
7. If memory is hard work, then transnational memory is mostly bad politics: national narratives of founders, fathers, flags, and fanfare. Independence days. Ceremony. Spectacle.
8. Two years ago, on my way to Kenya from Germany, I decide to pass by Tanzania to visit a friend. The travel guides want me to go to Zanzibar. My social media wouldn’t mind.
9. My disavowal of travel guides is deep-seated. I think about Conrad’s Heart of Darkness the Godfather of travel literature – and how it inspires travelers to that country that has never been a country. How »Hearts« and »Darkness« still feature allegorically as frames and references.
10. Still, we are written about.
11. But Bagamoyo, which I previously did not associate with memory, is where I find myself.
12. I had never been to Bagamoyo, to Tanzania.
13. A litany of Europe’s colonial who-is-who: Livingstone, Burton, Speke, Grant, Stanley, Wissman and Bülow have.
14. Bagamoyo has surreptitiously borne witness to the bounty and misery of the Indian Ocean for centuries. Voluntary and involuntary seafarers have come and gone: Traders, sailors, fisherfolk, slave raiders, and the enslaved wretched-of-the-earth.
15. The traces of German colonialism, the one I am told didn’t last too long, are hypervisible. In Bagamoyo, the ramifications of German colonial rigour on the landscape are palpable.
16. And what a difficult 30 years they were! German colonial thesaurus of 1920: »The work on the natives, which has been carried out more in the interior of the country since 1878, had little success for many years; Even now there are still many difficulties to overcome, especially the propaganda of Islam and various character flaws of the population, such as lying, defamation, in addition superstition and polygamy.«
17. Ideally, perspective changes everything.
18. I make a point of spending some time in the ruins of a fortress – the so called Boma – for the view of the Indian ocean. I am, after all, visiting in my capacity as a tourist.
19. Built in 1886, the building served as a Bezirksamt, and later on as the administrative capital of the German colonial apparatus in East Africa.
20. Taking in the view from the top floor, recently refurbished with German taxpayer money, I struggle to reconcile the beauty of what I can see with the spinnings that occupied the minds of the building’s masterminds. I think about how sites of oppression often have amazing views, and the wicked irony of it all.
21. The Wissman monument, built in honor of the fallen members of the Wissman Troop and once located in front of the Boma, is no longer there to block my view.
»The traces of German colonialism, the one I am told didn’t last too long, are hypervisible. In Bagamoyo, the ramifications of German colonial rigour on the landscape are palpable.«
22. In 22 German cities, an equal number of streets are named for Wissmann: »Deutschlands größter Afrikaner«  and a »researcher«. Explorer if you like.
23. Mwambao school is located a few hundred meters away from the Boma.
24. The first plaque on the school’s wall informs visitors that it was built by the Germans in 1896 on land donated by Sewa Haji, a local businessman, as the first multiracial school in Bagamoyo.
25. Learning was segregated according to skin color, the guide explains. Needless to say, the lighter your skin was, the higher your classroom was. The plaque forgot to mention this.
26. The second plaque on the school’s wall was put up in 2006. That year, a school from Germany and the »Bagamoyo Friendship society« renovated the school. To ensure nobody forgot their generosity, they commissioned a plaque that reads: Renovated 2006 by Marienschule Ahlen/Germany in cooperation with Bagamoyo friendship society/Germany supported by the Federal Republic of Germany.
27. Memory vs. politics: Renovate schools for your friends.
28. Our guide leads us down a path towards the ocean. A few meters down the road, I can see a small cemetery surrounded by a low wall, right on the beach.
29. The moist heat melts a black substance on the low wall, as the palm trees sway to the afternoon breeze. To the trained eye, the messy character of the situation suggests desecration.
»Bagamoyo is as constitutive to German memory as Berlin is to Tanzanian memory. It challenges the symbiosis between place and memory, revealing the dearth of national memory.«
30. The names on the gravestones come into view. The Scheeles, Albrechts, Krenzlers, Hochstetters of the Wissman Truppe and the Ukerewe Expediton, most buried 1880s and 1890s.
31. Remember »Scorched Earth«?
32. Evidence. Receipts. Maji Maji Flava. 
33. Even in death, the Wissman Troop is guaranteed the proverbial Platz an der Sonne – A spot in the Sun, marked graves and elaborate gravestones – Made in Germany. Not far away, at the German hanging site, the histories of the hanged live in the memory of their descendants waiting to be told. Neither names nor graves are available.
34. Local fishermen usually spend the afternoon at the beach in Bagamoyo. Word appears to have gone around that the old cemetery provided the optimal combination of shade, comfort and infrastructure for afternoon relaxation.
35. The wall became a popular spot in the afternoons, to the dismay of visiting relatives from Germany who asked for something to be done. Tar was applied to the walls.
36. The dead must Rest in Peace. By any means necessary.
37. Erinnerungspolitik. Memory Politics.
38. Collective national memory has gaps in all the »right« places.
39. And then there is the colonial symbiosis between time and memory. Qadri Ismail: »The prime Meridian, a geopolitical not geographic delineation, traverses London, frames time globally; we reinforce Eurocentrism every time we do something as banal, quotidian as check the time.« 
40. Bagamoyo is as constitutive to German memory as Berlin is to Tanzanian memory. It challenges the symbiosis between place and memory, revealing the dearth of national memory.
41. But Melanin is memory.  To be Black is to remember pasts forgotten, unwritten, erased. Black-ness is –necessarily– an archive.
42. In Bagamoyo, I am reclaiming my time  from the broken heart of »German East Africa« , and enjoying the breeze.
- Germany’s greatest African
- Maji Maji Flava is a theatrical exploration of the Maji Maji war and German Tanzanian Memory politics https://flinnworks.de/de/projekt/maji-maji-flava
- Qadri Ismael.
- Nirayah Waheed, from Nejma
- Maxine Waters. https://twitter.com/deray/status/890985949689196544