Collection of facts: WATER – HUMAN – ATLANTIC


Collection of facts

In panels with experts and also as part of the exhibition in Hall 1 – Raum für Kunst im Glaspalast, the Water & Sound Festival looks at important current issues relating to water as a resource. As a source of knowledge and inspiration for the festival, the following are suitable
The “Atlantic” theme of this year’s event brings together both historical and current facts and connections.


Texts by Susanne Lotter (sl), Kashmira Nanayakkara (kn) and Niklas Nathanael Wolf (nnw)

The Gulf Stream is responsible for the global climate in Europe, Africa and America and determines seasonal rainfall patterns in many countries around the Atlantic. It transports the heated seawater from the south to the north of the Atlantic and thus acts as a heat pump. The warm air that rises via the Gulf Stream provides Europe with a mild climate and sufficient precipitation.

In total, it transports around 32 million cubic meters of warm water per second from the equator to the north, which is 30 times the volume of water of all the world’s rivers combined. This makes it part of a large conveyor belt in the Atlantic that stretches from the south coast of Africa across the Gulf of Mexico to the North Atlantic. The water cools and evaporates on its way north. The more water evaporates, the higher the salt content and thus the weight of the water. As a result, the water near the southwest of Greenland is so heavy that it sinks into the depths of the sea. This creates a suction effect that constantly draws in new tropical water from the Gulf of Mexico and causes it to flow to the sea floor on its way to Europe. The cooled water then returns to the seabed and flows back south. So the cycle starts all over again.

However, climate change is threatening the Gulf Stream. This is because the excessive melting of the polar ice caps could lead to a reduction in the salt content of seawater. This could slow down the Gulf Stream circulation in the future. In the worst-case scenario, it would shut down the Gulf Stream completely if the water were no longer heavy enough to sink to the sea floor. In the event of long-term weakening, this affects the weather and climate and causes sea levels to rise, which poses a particular threat to islands and coastal areas. The effects would be felt in many regions of the world. For example, catastrophic changes in Atlantic hurricane activity, rainfall in the Sahel or the Indian summer monsoon are also foreseeable. Extreme weather events threaten Europe.

Life on Earth as we know it is dependent on the continued existence of the Gulf Stream. International researchers investigated the changes in the current system over the past 100 years and found that part of the North Atlantic, in contrast to the
cooling in the vast majority of marine regions. According to the studies, an incipient slowdown in the flow has already been observed in recent decades, with a tendency towards a significant slowdown. The cessation of the Gulf Stream would be a tipping element in the global climate,
which would bring as yet unforeseeable changes. (kn, sl)



Rising ocean temperatures and a lack of nutrients caused by global warming are leading to large-scale coral mortality. Corals live in a symbiotic community with algae and owe their bright colors to them. The algae also provide the cnidarians with a large part of the energy they need to survive. If the water temperature continues to rise, the corals have to fight against heat stress. In order to survive, they repel the microscopic algae. As a result, the corals lose their bright colors and their growth stagnates. This is called coral bleaching. This state is usually reached from a water temperature of 32 degrees. According to researchers from the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and the International Coral Reef Initiative (ICRI), corals are affected by coral bleaching worldwide. In 2023, particularly threatening bleaching was detected off the coast of Central America, North America and the Caribbean. The coral bleaching off Florida probably occurred before the usual “bleaching season”. Typically, the critical temperature for corals is reached from mid-August after the warm summer temperatures, but the cnidarians were already threatened with a critical situation at the end of July if there was no cooling. If coral bleaching continues for too long, the corals die and decay.

The death of corals could have a major impact on the economy and the livelihoods of people living near the coast. Coral reefs serve as a habitat for many fish and are therefore productive fishing grounds, but tourism also benefits from the colorful underwater world. The International Coral Reef Initiative (ICRI), an association of 101 members, is constantly campaigning for the implementation of management plans for reefs in order to strengthen their resilience. Because if the water temperature normalizes early, the corals can fully recover. (kn, sl)



West Africa’s fishing grounds are among the richest in the world. Nevertheless, the local fishermen can no longer make a living from traditional fishing. Environmental organizations were able to track fishing fleets from China, Russia and the EU using GPS and satellites, proving that they were exceeding their already generous fishing licenses and thus overfishing illegally. At the annual meeting of the North East Atlantic Fishery Commission (NEAFC), the fishing quotas for the respective countries are decided. However, the recommendations of the scientists are repeatedly disregarded and excessive quotas are assigned. The economic interest in fishing continues to outweigh the negative impact on the environment. This risks the extinction of some fish species. For example, herring stocks are endangered and cod stocks in European waters have already collapsed. Environmental organizations such as Pro Wildlife and the WWF are trying to prevent worse by drawing attention to systematic overfishing.

The government of Senegal is also trying to combat illegal overfishing through controls, but the foreign ships usually find ways out. While the locals retain their traditional fishing techniques, which have been passed down through generations, the foreign fleets are equipped with modern technology and thus achieve far higher yields. Overfishing, in turn, means that local fishermen are catching less and less prey using their traditional methods. As a result, the people of Senegal are not only losing one of their most important sources of income, but also an indispensable source of food. Many fishermen in Senegal therefore suffer from a lack of prospects and dream of a life in Europe. (kn, sl)



Water is the basis for all life on earth, but this vital resource is becoming increasingly scarce. There are already 2.3 billion people (around 30% of the earth’s total population) living in areas suffering from water scarcity and this figure threatens to rise to 5 billion in the near future. The availability of freshwater is decreasing due to the climate crisis, population growth and economic progress. Africa in particular is struggling with very severe droughts as a result of the climate crisis. For example, 10-15% less precipitation is expected in the southern part of Africa in the future. Agriculture is the main source of income for many people and the increasing droughts are leading to severe poverty and existential fears in many areas of the continent.

This makes water scarcity a major conflict factor. In many African countries, there was increased violence over the limited resource. In Nigeria, 75% of the water and sanitation supply in the conflict areas has been destroyed, meaning that access to clean drinking water has been interrupted for more than 3.5 million people. Energy shortages are also a major issue, which governments often overcome by building new dams. This often leads to conflicts if it reduces the water sources for downstream countries. The resulting ecological damage is usually ignored.

The demarcation of borders in southern Africa is often based on the course of the rivers. This harbors both potential for conflict and opportunities for cooperation between the countries. One example of such cooperation is the agreement between Angola and Namibia on the joint use of water from the border river Kunene, known as the “Kunene Transboundary Water Supply Project”. The agreement ensures the water supply for the inhabitants of the border regions, with the population in southern Angola benefiting in particular. One of the most valuable ecological areas in southern Africa is the Okavango Delta. As the border between Angola and Namibia, the Okavango flows into Botswana in the largest freshwater wetland in southern Africa in the middle of a desert. Botswana is dependent on the riparian states upstream so that the sensitive hydrological balance of inflow and evaporation is not disturbed. This is why the “Permanent Okavango River Basin Commission” was set up to monitor the appropriate use of the river water.

Cooperation to avoid conflicts can take various forms. These can range from simple contracts to multinational initiatives to special authorities responsible for managing shared catchment areas.

“It is said that the next wars will be fought over water. But with these agreements, we are ensuring that water becomes an instrument of peace instead.” – Kenneth Msibi, SADC water policy and strategy expert. (kn, sl)



The Amazon region stretches across nine South American countries (Brazil, Peru, Colombia, Venezuela, Ecuador, Bolivia, Guyana, Suriname and French Guiana) and covers an area of over seven million square kilometers, or 20 times the size of Germany. Amazonia comprises the Amazon River, the Amazon rainforest and the entire associated ecosystem, which is considered to be one of the most biodiverse areas on earth. The longest river on earth is also the main stream of the largest flowing water system on our planet. It is connected to more than 10,000 tributaries, a tenth of which are important tributaries. The deep riverbed allows overseas ships to travel as far as Iquitos in Peru. Even in dry periods, a width of 20 kilometers can be measured. At its mouth, it is as much as 250 kilometers wide – once the distance from Augsburg to Mannheim – and 160,000 cubic meters of fresh water flow into the Atlantic every second, the equivalent of 1,230 Berlin aquariums.

In the Amazon region, a century-long drought is causing great difficulties for people and animals. Although the dry season between June and October is a recurring process, this situation has worsened alarmingly in recent years. The weather records from fall 2023 went down in history. River water temperatures of over 40 degrees Celsius were measured. As a result, many rivers in the Amazon rose to their lowest levels ever recorded. As a result of the drought, many fish died and numerous wells dried up. The population living along the rivers is struggling with livelihood problems as a result. Due to the shallow water levels, the rivers could no longer be used as transportation routes, but many communities in the region can only be reached by boat. They were cut off from the world and children could no longer get to school, for example. In places where shipping is still available, food prices are rising and threatening people in the wider areas.

The drought could be due to the El Niño weather phenomenon, which occurs approximately every four years. This phenomenon ensures that more precipitation falls at the southern tip of South America and less in the north as temperatures rise. However, man-made climate change is also a decisive factor. Increased periods of drought are causing the second largest tributary of the Amazon to reach its lowest level since measurements were taken 121 years ago. A water level of 13.5 meters was recorded in the port of the megacity of Manaus, which represents a historic low. Parts of the harbor are completely dry. Such situations are unfortunately no exception in the Amazon, as 90% of the communities are affected by this extreme drought. More than 100 dead freshwater dolphins were also discovered in Lago Tefé – a lake in the Brazilian Amazon region. Researchers believe that the cause of their deaths was due to the lake water, which was over 39 degrees Celsius. (kn, sl)



Slavery has existed all over the world for over 3,000 years. From the 16th to the 20th century, European traders brought people from West and West Central Africa across the Atlantic to America. This slave trade was based on a transatlantic trade triangle. The journey started in Europe. From there, the traders brought European weapons, alcohol and fabrics to West Africa to buy people. They used the ships to take the slaves on a six to eight-week journey across the Atlantic, mainly to Latin America. The crossing via the Middle Passage, the sea route from Africa to America, was characterized by cruelty and degradation for the slaves. Millions of African people died as a result. The Africans who survived the crossing were sold again and enslaved as laborers. The European traders brought the acquired goods, such as sugar, coffee, tobacco, rice, rum, gold and silver, and later also cotton, to Europe. These goods were in turn generated by the enslaved people.

Millions of Africans were robbed of their identity by being forcibly uprooted from their homeland. Farmers, priests, soldiers, musicians, married couples and parents became slaves. Their tribal identity was also lost through enslavement. The survivors of the shipment were scattered across the American continents and in Western Europe. This worldwide dispersion is known as the African diaspora.

Especially in the 19th century, the slave trade from Brazil to Africa, which did not follow the transatlantic trade triangle, became stronger. However, this slave trade was also promoted by the colonists in America.

The transatlantic trade triangle thus consisted of Europe with the wealth, Africa with the labor and America with the available land and resources. However, it was primarily the European market that benefited. Nevertheless, the transatlantic slave trade is the story of all three continents. (sl)



In terms of content and terminology, coined by the sociologist Paul Gilroy (The Black Atlantic: Modernity and Double Consciousness, 1993), the seemingly spatial term “Black Atlantic” not only describes a geographically delimited area. Rather, it encompasses fluid manifestations of Black culture between the African continent and its diasporas – and, in Gilroy’s sense, also their significance for Western modernity, which is inconceivable without colonial horrors. In his text, Gilroy focuses on the multiple manifestations of what he understands as part of a decidedly black, but geographically and regionally fragmentary, fluid culture with formative influences on equally uncertain constructs of identity, origin and nationality. The author clarifies the connection between ideas of Western nationalisms and their basic condition of whiteness and thus the discursive exclusion of Black people. The Black Atlantic is the space of colonization and deportation of Black people and the cultural expressions that are forcibly manifested in these areas. In further updates, the “Black Atlantic” can be read as a hidden archive of the Middle Passage (Sharpe 2020). The term Middle Passage literally refers to the middle path of the triangular transatlantic human trafficking. After ships loaded with European goods had unloaded goods on the west coast of Africa, they picked up millions of African people, deported them mainly to the Americas, returned to Europe and started their route all over again.

Cultural practices that emerged from this Atlantic (thought) space, a quasi diagonal bridging of temporal and geographical structures, could therefore be understood as an almost immaterial archive of these paths of displacement and the associated flow of knowledge. For geographical spaces that are characterized by the reverberations of colonial crimes and structures and their conditions for the present, this means marking African diasporas as the product of violent displacement. Furthermore, in the sense of Gilroy’s Black Atlantic, this movement is not understood as “straight as an arrow”, but rather the fractures and traumatic waves and eddies inherent to the Middle Passage are recognized as a “chronotopia of multiple starts and stops (…) with unexpected patterns of repetition, detour and return” (Mercer 2010). Geographical spaces and national-political constructions are thus literally liquefied; the Caribbean region, for example, is described as a “liquid continent”. Paul Gilroy argues his concepts of the Black Atlantic close to music, one of the intangible materializations of colonial-Atlantic paths that connects time and rhythm. But performances and dance can also be analyzed as coded forms of specific (body) knowledge – a “body of knowledge” in several respects. The close connection between bodies, their performance and the knowledge inscribed in them, stored in them and acted out by them becomes clear. This knowledge is often transported, activated and transmitted through spiritual practices such as vodun (a practice of regulating and directing everyday life that is closely linked to natural knowledge and has its origins in West Africa) and its diasporic adaptations. In the past, such phenomena of aesthetic, narrative and even spiritual inscription, a reverberation of content and performance, have been described as a “flash” of the spirits (of West Africa) (Thompson 1983). The sea is then expanded to include spiritual dimensions of specific, transnational epistemologies (theories of knowledge). The Atlantic space of the 15th century and its consequences are not only a trading space, but also geographically and materially coded representations of the self (Roach 1996) and the imaginations of the other.

The spaces of the Black Atlantic are those of fluid processes of exchange. The poet and co-founder of the Caribbean Artist Movement Kamau Braithwaite coined the idea of “tidalectics” in these contexts. It is a terminological connection of the tides and the dialectical discourse of the Atlantic that encompasses the back and forth, the oscillation and flow of epistemological spaces and refers to the cyclical movements of water (Pressley-Sanon 2013). The Black Atlantic can then be understood as a place of negotiation, the translation of conceptual ideas and their tangible (e.g. aesthetic) manifestations. Bodies acting within them then appear as places of production and re-production of knowledge. The Black Atlantic is thus an epistemological space, full of signs, references, multiformal and fragmented. (nnw)



– Braithwaite, Edward Kamau: The Arrivants: A New World Trilogy – Rights of Passage / Islands / Masks, Oxford 1988
– Danielas, Kyrah Malika: “She Wears the Mask: Black Atlantic Masquerade in the Work of Carrie Mae Weems,” in Carrie Mae Weems: Strategies of Engagement Exhibition Catalogue, eds. Robin Lydenberg and Ash Anderson. Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press and McMullen Museum of Art, Boston College, 2018
– Gutiérrez, Jorge Luis: Edouard Duval-Carrié. An exceptional Epiphany of Haiti, the Caribbean and the Tropics, in: PopArte Gelria (ed.): Mackandal. Edouard Duval-Carrié. Une Homenaje a el reino de este mundo de Alejo Carpentier, Madrid 2017
– Mercer, Kobena: Cosmopolitan Contact Zones, in: Carson, Tanya; Gorschlüter, Peter (eds.): Afro Modern. Journeys through the Black Atlantic, 2010
– Pressley-Sanon, Toni: Exile, Return, Ouidah, and Haiti. Vodun’s Workings on the Art of Edouard Duval-Carrié, in: African Arts AUTUMN 2013
VOL. 46, NO. 3,
– Roach, Joseph: Cities of the Dead. Circum-Atlantic-Performance, New York 1996 Sharpe 2020 Sharpe, Jenny: Immaterial Archives. To
African Diaspora Poetics of Loss, Illinois 2020
– Thompson, Robert Farris:Flash of the Spirit. African & Afro-American Art & Philosophy, New York 1983

What do the Augsburg Fuggers and Welsers have to do with the Atlantic? In Europe, they promoted trade and helped build important trading bases such as Antwerp. Jakob Fugger, known as the father of foundations, used the wealth he earned from trade to set up foundations that still exist today and shape Augsburg’s social and cultural image. Through European trade relations, both families cultivated their influences worldwide, including across the Atlantic to America.

While the Fuggers are mainly known here in Augsburg for the oldest social settlement in the world, there were also 15. and The 16th century also saw the darker side of the trading family. Through the silver and copper trade with Portugal, the Fuggers invested indirectly in expensive expeditions to South America. The Fuggers were also aware that the Portuguese used the manillas (half-open rings made of copper, brass or bronze) they acquired to ship captured people from West Africa to South America as slaves.

The Welser family also earned money from the slave trade in South America. In Venezuela, regions were colonized, areas were developed and exploited. In order to finance their colony and expansion into the interior of the country, the Welsh sold licenses to import enslaved Africans. This was the high point of overseas trade for the Augsburg trading family, as Charles V granted them the Spanish governorship in Venezuela.

From the 15th century onwards, Atlantic history is made up of trade relations between Europe, Africa and America. The ocean and this trade triangle thus became part of the identity of many people. (sl)


– Fugger and Welser Experience Museum, Augsburg