Rethinking the South

All over the world, people face urgent questions about how to shape their lives in society and organize their coexistence. Brazil has long since become a symbolic stage for global challenges.



Starting in 2023, the Frankfurt-based KfW Stiftung, in cooperation with the Goethe-Institut, will initiate the three-year programme Rethinking the South – Repensando Sul, which will award four scholarships each year with a duration of two months under annually changing themes. In 2023, the Afro-Brazilian past, present and future will be discussed under the question of "Postcolonial Presence". The following years will be dedicated to urban spaces and urban development (2024) and to the climate crisis (2025).

Repensando Sul
Repensando Sul

Recognised Limits - Thematic Focus 2025

The consequences that our lifestyles and the industrial exploitation of nature have on the global climate can no longer be denied. The countries of the Global South, in particular, are most affected by these changes, even though they are the least responsible for them. In Brazil, extreme periods of draught on the one hand and torrential rainfall and flooding on the other have massive impacts on the ecosystems that are essential for the global climate.  Concretely, rising sea levels will also have consequences for a city like Salvador-Bahia in the future: Calculations suggest that parts of the lower city could be flooded in the coming years.  What impact will such scenarios have on the population? What approaches and theories are there to counter further deterioration? How can one prevent the most vulnerable and marginalised population groups from suffering the most from the negative effects of climate change? And what happens, when flora and fauna, which often play an important role in religious and cultural traditions, are extinguished? How can art and culture in connection with science react to this?

Starting from Salvador de Bahia, the questions asked might be exemplary for all cities and require a global understanding and treatment. Thinkers, artists and cultural practitioners from all disciplines are invited to reflect on the theme of “Recognised Limits” in their current projects, both artistically and academically.

The Sustainable City — Thematic Focus 2024

Over 50 percent of the world's population lives in cities. And this trend is increasing. Today we are faced with the question of how we want to further develop our cities. What does a sustainable city look like and what characterises it? Cities have developed due to a variety of factors - industrialisation, colonialism, informal settlements, policies, changing age demographics, access to work and education and more. What does it mean when these factors are at odds with each other? Can a historical development of the city shed light on its potential for the future? Salvador de Bahia as a city forms the built and condensed backdrop for Afro-Brazilian history and postcolonial present in equal measure. The choreography of everyday life is reflected in the urban space alongside legal structures of domination, property and expropriation. Who built the city and for whom? Who inhabits it today? How do indigenous social concepts influence urban coexistence and how can this be shaped in perspective? Starting from Salvador de Bahia, the questions are exemplary for all cities and require a global understanding and treatment. Thinkers, artists and cultural practitioners from all disciplines are invited to continue thinking about the topic of the city in their current projects and to take it up artistically.

Postcolonial Presence – Thematic Focus 2023

The population of the state of Bahia, whose capital is Salvador, is predominantly Afro-Brazilian. As Brazil's first capital, Salvador was for centuries the most important port of entry for slaves abducted from Africa. This gave rise to a unique culture in the northeast, which continues to be strongly influenced by its African roots. Many Afro-Brazilians criticise institutionalised racism that continues to deny them social or academic advancement. The destruction of important archives after the abolition of slavery in 1888 has made it impossible for many descendants to research more about their regions of origin. The question of the postcolonial present also includes the cultural displacement of Brazil's indigenous peoples. What forms of expression do cultural workers and thinkers find to come to terms with history? What space do mourning and concepts of healing occupy in the postcolonial process of identity search? How can postcolonial presence and the future be shaped?

Grant Holders

Internationally renowned experts from various artistic disciplines working in different regions in Africa, Asia, Latin America and the Middle East nominate outstanding cultural practitioners. Direct applications are not possible. A jury of experts decides on the submitted applications.

Jury 2023: Renate Heilmeier (Goethe Institut São Paulo), Dr Helio Menezes (Curator São Paulo Biennale 2022), Yvette Mutumba (Contemporary And, Stedelijk Museum, Curator), Maria Berrios (Curator), Daniela Leykam (KfW Stiftung).

The visual artist Lisa C Soto is based in Puerto Rico and Ghana. In her work, she uses imagery of actual and imagined cartography to address local and global interactions, tropical flora and cosmic connections. Her multimedia large-scale installations consist of earthbound and industrial materials as well as plants, instruments and games. Soto's works question hierarchies and binaries, reflect rhizomatic patterns in nature and challenge Western "rational" approaches to knowledge.

Selected exhibitions include Negro/A/X group exhibition at Corredor Afro gallery, 2020, Loiza, Puerto Rico; the Getty Foundation initiative PST LA/LA, Relational Undercurrents: Contemporary Art of the Caribbean Archipelago, traveling group exhibition from 2017 – 2019; “Convergence”, a 2018 collaboration with Adjaye Associates creating her first permanent installation in the public realm in Newark, NJ. Artist lectures include MIT, Ford Foundation, KNUST, Claremont Graduate University and Rutgers University. Soto is currently an MFA candidate at the Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology (KNUST).

"I am looking forward to experimenting with movement and flora within the space of natural environments such as the forests, and river beds in Bahia, during my stay at the Vila Sul residency. I intend to make use of the opportunity to explore a new medium in order to discuss the symbiotic and energetic exchange between bodies and plants in the context of Bahia’s histories. These histories will be triangulated between Bahia, my Caribbean cultures and my present home of Ghana."

Caroline Gueye was born and raised in Senegal where she grew up immersed in an artistic environment under the influence of her grandfather Paul Ahyi who designed the Togolese flag.
She pursued her higher education in France, the United States and China and she holds degrees in astrophysics, atmospheric physics and Chinese. Currently she ist working on a PhD in art and science at the university of Lyon in France.

Her work in the studio of the Chinese artist Qin Chong (亲冲) in 2016 inspired her in her preference for volume. Since then she has participated, all combined, in more than thirty group exhibitions, solos and residencies on four continents. At the Dakar Biennale 2022 she received the prize for the best artist in West Africa (ECOWAS prize).

Odun Orimolade engages her practice in an experimental and multifaceted perspective of trans-disciplinary approaches, research and collaborations. She keeps an open contexture to her pedagogic, artistic and curatorial practice attending to a mix of ideologies and worldviews cultivated from different resource areas. This leads her into explorations of human behavioural tendencies, orientation and interaction as mechanisms for navigation. Orimolade’s research interests revolve around approaches to practice, creative engagement, navigation and influences that challenge and inform creative production for positive external impact. She explores possibilities for professional practice development, learning mediums and pedagogies that provide fresh avenues for flexible creative exploration. Her research also interrogates issues and initiatives that promote or confine practice. She pursues an interest in participatory research practices, as artistic intervention into a range of different spaces. Orimolade is passionate about creating mentorship avenues and contributes to different fields of creative activity alongside community projects.

Quasi-artist born and raised in the outskirts of São Paulo, in the neighborhood of Parada de Taipas. Grandson of Rosa (Rose) and Esmeraldo (Emerald), Diego Crux is of the color that recalls memory. He researches intimate and personal callings, collective experiences, representation, design, visual samples, words. Crux has participated in exhibitions in São Paulo, Curitiba, Accra (GH), Arles (FR) and Copenhagen (DK) and in residencies, such as Pivô (2020) curated by Thiago de Paula Souza and MAM Rio (2021) coordinated by Camilla Rocha Campos.

Huda Tayob is a South African architect, theorist and architectural historian. Her research focuses on minor, migrant and subaltern architectures. She is co-curator of the open access curriculum, and lead curator of the digital platform the Archive of Forgetfulness. She exhibited at the 18th International architecture exhibition in Venice (2023), with a project titled Index of Edges, which traces watery archives, methods and stories of migrant architectures along east African coastal edges, from Cape Town, South Africa to Port Said, Egypt. She is currently working on a manuscript project titled 'Opaque Architectures:Black Markets as Infrastructures of Care' - a project which draws out trans-national sites established by African migrants, as sites of possibility.

Cruz Garcia is an afro-Puerto Rican architect, artist, curator, educator, and author. Together with Nathalie Frankowski, he is co-founding director of WAI Architecture Think Tank, the antidsciplinary collective Post-Novis, and the alternative platform of education and trade school LOUDREADERS.

They are authors of A Manual of Anti-Racist Architecture Education, Narrative Architecture: A Kynical Manifesto, Pure Hardcore Icons: A Manifesto on Pure Form in Architecture, the upcoming book Universal Principles of Architecture: 100 Archetypes, Methods, Conditions, Relationships, and Imaginaries, and co-editors of the Journal of Architectural Education issue on Reparations! and InForma Journal issue on Networks of Solidarity.

Their work has been included in exhibitions at the Centre Pompidou Metz, Neues Museum Nuremberg, Museum of Art, Architecture, and Technology Lisbon, Museum of Modern Art New York, the inaugural Chicago Architecture Biennial, and the Venice Architecture Biennale. Garcia is faculty of the AAD program at Columbia GSAPP and Associate Professor at Iowa State University he is Design for Critical Futures Fellow in Activism.

In the intricate terrain of sustainable and inclusive development issues, Deji Akinpelu stands as a dedicated artisan, wielding the arts as his canvas to paint the vibrant stories etched into the lives of people across Africa and the diaspora. With an ardent aim of fostering vital conversations that drive transformative change and safeguard cultural heritage, Akinpelu's unwavering focus centers on meticulous documentation, weaving together the rich tapestry of histories, struggles, indomitable spirits, and profound faith that propels communities forward.

Born with a keen eye for observing the relentless pursuit of development and gender inclusivity that surrounded him, Akinpelu's childhood ignited an intense passion within him—a deep-seated longing to creatively convey challenging African narratives. This passion found expression through the captivating mediums of documentary filmmaking and photography, serving as his tools to craft narratives that resonate, giving voice to stories that herald change, empowerment, and the enduring preservation of cultural legacies.

As a self-taught photographer turned filmmaker, Akinpelu honed his skills at the SAE Institute in Dubai, embarking on a creative journey that led him to establish the Rethinking Cities Initiative (RCI). This dynamic collaborative platform unites professionals in the realms of Arts, Media, and Urban Planning, sharing a mission to champion and communicate innovative social enterprise solutions addressing complex urban challenges across the African landscape.

At the heart of RCI lies the online advocacy and knowledge hub, "researchinlagos", where Akinpelu and his team delve into the intricate fabric of urban life. They dissect its complexities, seeking innovative ways to enhance the well-being of communities. Additionally, the on-demand advocacy television and online podcast, "Yanme", provides a platform for the vibrant voices of young people in marginalized Lagos communities. Through Yanme, they share their daily experiences, passionately advocating for improved governance in their neighborhoods.

Akinpelu's capacity as a filmmaker and photographer extends beyond the lens, as he has had the privilege of producing and directing documentaries for esteemed international development agencies. Organizations such as Heinrich Boll Stiftung (HBS), the French Development Agency (AFD), and Amnesty International have entrusted him to shine a light on critical issues, sparking conversations that transcend borders and cultures.

Notably, Akinpelu's advocacy efforts garnered attention from German international media, DW, which featured his work as part of their coverage. This recognition underscores the power of storytelling and visual communication in bringing important social issues to the forefront, amplifying the impact of Akinpelu's work.

In summary, Deji Akinpelu's journey as a photographer and filmmaker has evolved into a passionate pursuit of social change and urban innovation. Through RCI and various projects, he aspires to contribute meaningfully to the transformation of cities across Africa, amplifying the voices of those often unheard and ensuring that the narratives of resilience and progress take center stage. Akinpelu's commitment to fostering dialogue, driving change, and preserving cultural heritage through the lens of art marks him as a trailblazer in the realm of visual storytelling and social advocacy.

Patti Anahory is an architect working across building, art, education, and curatorial practices. Her work aims to challenge established notions of place and belonging, delving into the intersections of identity, memory, race and gender. Born at sea, aboard a ship en route to São Tomé and Principe, Anahory is committed to decolonial frameworks, centering African worlds from an island perspective, considering it as both a fugitive edge and radical margin while focusing on the complex relationships between narratives and spatialities, emphasizing entanglements of people, power, and the built and natural environment.  Anahory co-founded XU: and Storia na Lugar, storytelling, counter-narrative practices and her(e), otherwise, an experimental platform for African and Diasporan women spatial thinkers. She is on the Board of Academic Advisors at the African Futures Institute, an independent postgraduate center for architectural research in Ghana. She was Visiting Professor at Columbia University (2022-23) and Founding Director of CIDLOT, a multidisciplinary research center at the University of Cabo Verde.


With the VILA SUL, the Goethe-Institut Salvador-Bahia offers a place of residence for cultural workers from various disciplines for exchange and transregional networking on the overarching theme of the 'South'. With a standard period of two months, up to 16 scholarship holders are invited each year to work on their research and ideas on the 'South' on site. Due to its historical and cultural diversity, Salvador de Bahia is an ideal meeting place between the local cultural scene and international residents. The goals of the VILA SUL are a long-term and sustainable networking between the cultural scenes at home and abroad and thus the strengthening of intercultural dialogue, the initiation of changes in perspective, the crossing of borders and living in a different cultural context.

As the globally active cultural institute of the Federal Republic of Germany, the Goethe-Institut is committed to promoting understanding between Germany, Europe and the world.

Programme Management

Daniela Leykam

Photo credits

01. Image: Goethe Institut / Photographer: Maria Fiedler
02. Image: Goethe Institut / Photographer: Lara Carvalho
03. Image: Goethe Institut / Photographer: André Fofano
04. Image: Goethe Institut, Performance "Elewe: Of the leaves" by Odun Orimolade / Photographer: Leonel Henckes
05. Image: Goethe Institut
06. Image: Goethe Institut / Photographer: Paulo Overbeck