Hamburg was one of the economic centres of European colonialism. Many of the goods and raw materials from colonies that arrived in the city via the port were processed in the local industries – also on the site of the Museum of Work, a former rubber factory.
Some Hamburg companies were German or even European leaders in the industrial processing of rubber, tropical oils and fats, cocoa and ivory. People in Europe have been consuming the products made from them especially since the late 19th century. But who would think of plantations in Cameroon when using a hard rubber comb, who sees a connection to Nigeria in margarine or a Christmas tree candle, who recognizes a connection to Samoa in soap? Invisible are also the knowledge and the work of the people in the colonies, as well as the colonial violence and the suffering connected to them.
The people in the colonies extracted rubber, oils, cocoa and ivory for Hamburg‘s colonial industry under conditions of racist tyranny. They were enslaved, forced to work on plantations and in caravans, robbed of their livelihoods and driven from their homes. They resisted individually and collectively, be it in protests or by petitions, flight and sabotage or with weapons.
With its special exhibition, the Museum der Arbeit would like to contribute to the current debate on how Hamburg deals with its colonial history and to the discussion on the long-term consequences of colonial power structures.