As a poet and visual artist, words, their meaning and what they perform, are fundamental to Olu Oguibe’s work. For O Quilombismo, he was commissioned to create three flags to fly on HKW’s terrace, visible from the nearby Government District. Carrying the colours black, red, gold, and green, Oguibe’s flags are a poetic reference to the Pan-African flag, the First Nations flag, and the German flag. As Marcus Garvey pointed out: black represents the people, green stands for the land, red for the blood of African peoples spilled through enslavement and colonization, and yellow or gold for the wealth stolen. According to Oguibe, these colours are not only interesting because some feature on the German flag, but because these combinations come up when the ruling political parties have to form coalition governments: ‘traffic light’ coalition, ‘Jamaica’ coalition, ‘Kenya’ coalition. Embroidered on the flags are the letters DDR that stand for Decarbonize, Decolonize, Reparate (Repatriate or Rehabilitate). The latter highlights the necessity to reverse our carbon footprint, to thoroughly decolonize politically, materially, and mentally, and to repatriate what was stolen from colonized societies, repair what was destroyed, and rehabilitate the societies and cultures that have been transgressed upon.

Commissioned by Haus der Kulturen der Welt (HKW), co-produced by Olu Oguibe and HKW, 2023.

Work in the exhibition: DDR: Decarbonize, Decolonize, Rehabilitate (2023), textile work, 3 flags, 4.5 × 7 m each. Courtesy of the artist