The House of the Falling Bones

Grimms’ fairy tales, animism and decolonisation in southern Africa – funded by the TURN Fund

Project description

The project “The House of the Falling Bones. Hansel and Gretel with the Hottentots”, organised by HDHK GbH, is a joint project by the bands Khoi Khonnexion (Cape Town) and Kante (Hamburg) about “migrated” fairy tales, animism and the decolonisation of thought. The project examines relatively unknown versions of fairy tales as they were told before the Brothers Grimm transcribed them. These tales were brought to South Africa and present-day Namibia by early Dutch and Huguenot settlers, and missionaries and German colonisers respectively. There, the Dutch and Germans encountered natives who came to be called “Hottentots” – the indigenous people of southern Africa, the Khoi, who still believe they are descendants of the “First People”. The Khoi incorporated the fairy tales into their own oral culture, embedded them in their narratives, retold and reinterpreted them and applied them in subversive ways. For example, the king is a German farmer, Till Eulenspiegel is a clever bushman, Cinderella can turn herself into a bird, and somewhere in the desert there is a house where talking bones fall out of the fireplace.

The members of Khoi Khonnexion are pioneers of an artistic movement of “coloureds”, as they were called during the years of Apartheid, and who have since formed into groups of “Khoi” or “Hottentots”. They are also prominent representatives of an artistic strategy which has recently come to be known as “re-enchantment”: the re-examination of one’s pre-colonial past as a source of inspiration for creating a present, unburdened by colonial legacy. For example, Khoi Khonnexion takes the “musical bow of the Khoisan” and turns it into a modern tool reminiscent of Sun Ra’s “Ark”. To them, music is not only a social practice, but also a means of communicating with spirits and a form of non-linear time. Together with the band Kante, they will search for the remnants of fairy tales, examine aspects of colonial history and become acquainted with a world in which fairy tales have become intertwined – a world of magical, animistic imagination.

The project aims to research and collect these “migrated” fairy tales, find those who still tell them in Namibia and South Africa, and present them on stage in a polyphonic, musical narrative performance. The venues and production partners include the Munich Kammerspiele, the Kampnagel Summer Festival in Hamburg, FFT Düsseldorf, Zurich Theater Spectacle and Greatmore Art Studios in Cape Town. A music album and radio play version are also planned.

Artistic director: Peter Thiessen (DE)
Participants: Khoi Khonnexion (ZA), Kante (D), Nesindano Namises (poetry, performance), Nikola Duric (D) (direction, performance), Claude Jansen (D) (research, transnational presentation), Ruth May (ZA) (costume design), Anta Helena Recke (external advisor) Olaf Nachtwey (DE) (production)

TURN – Fund for Artistic Co­oper­a­tion between Ger­many and African Coun­tries

In 2012, the Federal Cultural Foundation established the TURN – Fund for Artistic Cooperation between Germany and African Countries in order to encourage a wide range of German institutions to shift their focus on the artistic production and cultural debates in African countries.


No upcoming events at present

Previous events

  • 23 August, 2018 to 25 August, 2018: Performances during the International Summer Festival

    Kampnagel, Hamburg

  • 23 August, 2018 to 25 August, 2018: Aufführungen im Rahmen des Internationalen Sommerfestivals

    Kampnagel, Hamburg


HDHK GbR c/o Peter Thiessen

Max-Brauer-Allee 131
22765 Hamburg (external link, opens in a new window)