Decolonize This Place

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Decolonize This Place
Decolonize this place 040519 whitney museum full image.jpg
April 5, 2019 protest by Decolonize This Place at the Whitney Museum, New York NY, over board vice chair Warren Kanders' ownership of Safariland, a manufacturer of tear gas and other weapons.
Date2016 to present (2016 to present)
New York, NY
Caused byIndigenous Rights, Black Power, Free Palestine Movement, Economic inequality, anti-gentrification, black liberation
Official website

Decolonize This Place is a movement based in New York City that organizes around Indigenous rights, black liberation, Palestinian nationalism, de-gentrification, and economic inequality.[1][2] Their actions often take place at museums and cultural institutions and focus on colonialist tendencies within the art world.[3]


Decolonize This Place emerged from an action at the Brooklyn Museum in May 2016, under the auspices of Decolonial Cultural Front which targeted two museum exhibitions that normalized the displacement of Palestinians and Brooklynites alike.[4][5] An Autumn 2016 residency at Artists Space allowed for the organization to articulate its framework linking various global issues, for example, activism connecting Indigenous rights and people of color generally with the Palestinian Israeli conflict.[6] The closing event of this residency, on December 17, 2016, was marred by an assault on four activists leaving the event by self-proclaimed supporters of Donald Trump.[7][8][9][10][11][12]


Decolonize This Place is facilitated by the MTL+ Collective.[13] "Facilitation" has been repeatedly used by the MTL+ Collective to describe their role in this work.[14][15][16][17]

MTL, the group at the core of MTL+, consists of Amin Husain and Nitasha Dhillon, who have collaborated as a collective on research, organizing, and action in art practice. Dhillon is a mathematician and artist who attended the Whitney Independent Study Program and the School of the International Center of Photography.[18] Husain is a lawyer who studied photography at the International Center of Photography and works as an artist, community activist, and adjunct instructor at New York University.[19][20][21]


American Museum of Natural History[edit]

Since 2016, Decolonize This Place has organized an Indigenous Peoples Day/Anti-Columbus Day tour of the American Museum of Natural History in New York City.[22][23] Initial demonstrations on October 10, 2016 brought forward a series of demands under the slogan of "Rename, Remove, Respect," calling for a renaming of Columbus Day as Indigenous Peoples' Day, removal of the Theodore Roosevelt statue at the museum's entrance, and renovation of several museum exhibitions with the consultation of curators who are representatives of the communities depicted in the exhibitions.[24][25] Demands at the 2018 event repeated earlier requests, including removal of the statue of Theodore Roosevelt and the creation of a Decolonization Commission to assess the impact of stereotypes depicted in artistic works.[26]

In 2019, following the news that the Brazilian-American Chamber of Commerce had rented out space in the museum for a gala to honor Brazil's president Jair Bolsonaro, Decolonize This Place issued a statement on Instagram denouncing this use of museum space and promising protests if the event was not canceled.[27]

Brooklyn Museum[edit]

Decolonize This Place has organized events on Columbus Day at the Brooklyn Museum.[2] Actions in 2018 around the Brooklyn Museum, both in April and October, have been organized around decolonization in response to the recent hiring of Kristen Windmuller-Luna as consulting curator for African art.[2][28] An open letter was sent to the Brooklyn Museum from Decolonize This Place[29] criticizing this hiring decision and highlighting it as proof of the disconnect between the museum and its surrounding community.[19]

Whitney Museum[edit]

In December 2018, Decolonize This Place organized an action at the Whitney Museum to protest Board vice-chairman Warren Kanders' ownership of Safariland,[30][31][32] the manufacturer of tear gas used against members of one of the late 2018 migrant caravans along the US-Mexico border.[33]

In response to plans for the 2019 Biennial, Decolonize This Place launched nine weeks of protests beginning March 22, 2019, calling for the removal of Kanders from the museum's Board.[34] After eight artists left the program in solidarity with the protests, Kanders resigned his position on July 25.[35]

Subway protests[edit]

In the fall of 2019, the New York Metropolitan Transportation Authority announced a crackdown on fare evasion in the subway, adding 500 NYPD officers to enforce the measure.[36] Decolonize This Place organized a protest in response, focused on the presence of police in the subway and calling for free transit in the face of declining service.[37] Around one thousand protesters marched through the streets and later staged a mass fare evasion, jumping turnstiles and holding open emergency gates in several stations in Downtown Brooklyn.[38][39]

Criticism and support for violence[edit]

In 2016, Husain gave a speech on Palestinian liberation at an Al-Quds Day celebration in Times Square in which he advocated fighting for "justice in all the ways possible – and yes, Jihadis – Jihadis in all the ways possible[40]... don’t let anyone tell you to renounce your brother or sister because they are fighting in an unacceptable way."[41] Several alt-right news sources published articles calling the group violent and attempting to get one of the members fired from his position at NYU.[42][43]

Nigerian-American art historian and curator Okwui Enwezor criticized the movement's objection to the hiring of curator Kristen Windmuller-Luna, a former student of Enwezor's, as "arbitrary at best, and chilling at worst."[44]

In May 2021, while preparing an anti-Israel demonstration in Manhattan, representatives of Decolonize This Place Tweeted "And wondering what to do in solidarity in the meantime? Find targets nearby, Find where these zionist fools live, and where there offices are, and act!" Although deleted, the Tweet was interpreted by several observers as an attempt to incite violence against Jews.[45][46]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Decolonize This Place". Retrieved October 14, 2018.
  2. ^ a b c Greenberger, Alex (April 30, 2018). "'Brooklyn Is Not for Sale': Decolonize This Place Leads Protest at Brooklyn Museum". ARTnews. Retrieved October 14, 2018.
  3. ^ Sholette, Gregory. “What do Artists Want?, Re-reading Carol Duncan’s 1983 essay Who Rules the Art World” in 2017” in Who Runs the Artworld: Money, Power & Ethics, Brad Buckley & John Conomos eds., Libri Publishing, 2018. pp 57-73.
  4. ^ Decolonize This Place. [program brochure] Accessed April 25, 2019 from
  5. ^ Chen, Michelle (May 11, 2016). "Gentrification and Occupation at the Brooklyn Museum". The Nation. ISSN 0027-8378. Retrieved April 25, 2019.
  6. ^ Homersham, Lizzie. "Letter from New York: Art Manoeuvres." Art Monthly; London. Iss. 401, (Nov 2016): 36.
  7. ^ Holmes, Caren, "Laughing Against White Supremacy: Marginalized Performance of Resistance Comedy" (2017). Senior Independent Study Theses. Paper 7770. Page 70.
  8. ^ "Learning from Decolonize This Place". Hyperallergic. January 9, 2017. Retrieved April 24, 2019.
  9. ^ "LGBTQ Activists Attacked by Trump Supporters While Leaving NYC Art Space". Hyperallergic. December 19, 2016. Retrieved April 24, 2019.
  10. ^ "Trump supporters 'attack LGBT activists at art space'". Dazed. December 22, 2016. Retrieved April 24, 2019.
  11. ^ Avery December 20, 2016, Dan. "Group Of LGBT Activists Attacked By Trump Supporters In Downtown New York | NewNowNext". Retrieved April 24, 2019.
  12. ^ "Tribeca Citizen | It Happened Here Again". Tribeca Citizen. Retrieved April 24, 2019.
  13. ^ "Decolonize This Place". Retrieved April 25, 2019.
  14. ^ "Decolonizing Institutions". Squeaky Wheel Film & Media Art Center. November 25, 2018. Retrieved April 25, 2019.
  15. ^ Cills, Hazel (March 2019). "'Museums Are Not Inherently Any Way': MTL Collective On Decolonize This Place and Reimagining Museums". Jezebel. Retrieved April 25, 2019.
  16. ^ "Practicing Decolonization - Programs – Slought". Retrieved April 25, 2019.
  17. ^ Brown, Angela (November 15, 2016). "'Decolonization Is Not a Metaphor': Artists Space Steps Out of Analysis and Into Action". ARTnews. Retrieved April 25, 2019.
  18. ^ "Nitasha Dhillon | ZKM". Retrieved April 25, 2019.
  19. ^ a b "Interview: Nitasha Dhillon and Amin Husain - MTL Collective". Arts Cabinet. Retrieved April 25, 2019.
  20. ^ "Amin Husain". Retrieved April 25, 2019.
  21. ^ Penny, Daniel (March 22, 2019). "The Artist-Activists Decolonizing the Whitney Museum". Paris Review. Retrieved April 23, 2019.
  22. ^ "Decolonize This Place...Now: Museums are Increasingly Monitored for their Curatorial Representation - Non-Profit News | Nonprofit Quarterly". October 5, 2018. Retrieved October 14, 2018.
  23. ^ "Photos: Hundreds Of Protesters Condemn Colonialism, Patriarchy, And White Supremacy At AMNH". Gothamist. Archived from the original on October 13, 2018. Retrieved October 14, 2018.
  24. ^ Van Broekhoven, Laura N. K. "Calibrating Relevance at the Pitt Rivers Museum." In Dethroning Historical Reputations: Universities, Museums and the Commemoration of Benefactors, edited by Pellew Jill and Goldman Lawrence, 65-80. London: School of Advanced Study, University of London, 2018.
  25. ^ Emily Martin & Susan Harding (2017) Anthropology Now and Then in the American Museum of Natural History: An Alternative Museum, Anthropology Now, 9:2, 1-13, DOI: 10.1080/19428200.2017.1340758
  26. ^ "Around 1,000 People Attend Anti-Columbus Day Tour at American Museum of Natural History". Hyperallergic. October 8, 2018. Retrieved October 14, 2018.
  27. ^ "Climate-Change-Denying Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro Will Be Feted as 'Person of the Year' at a Gala at New York's Natural History Museum". artnet News. April 12, 2019. Retrieved April 15, 2019.
  28. ^ "'Decolonize This Place' Protesters Disrupt Brooklyn Museum, Condemn 'Imperial Plunder'". Gothamist. Archived from the original on August 17, 2018. Retrieved October 14, 2018.
  29. ^ "Decolonize This Place". Retrieved October 14, 2018.
  30. ^ "Decolonize This Place Plans Action at the Whitney Opposing Tear Gas Manufacturer on Museum Board". Hyperallergic. December 7, 2018. Retrieved December 10, 2018.
  31. ^ Greenberger, Alex (December 9, 2018). "'No Space for Profiteer of State Violence': Decolonize This Place Protests Whitney Vice Chair Warren B. Kanders". ARTnews. Retrieved December 10, 2018.
  32. ^ "Activists Protest at Whitney Museum, Demanding Vice Chairman and Owner of Tear Gas Manufacturer "Must Go"". Hyperallergic. December 10, 2018. Retrieved December 10, 2018.
  33. ^ Cam, Deniz. "Meet The Safariland Multimillionaire Getting Rich Off Tear Gas and More In The Defense Industry". Forbes. Retrieved December 10, 2018.
  34. ^ "Decolonize This Place Launches "Nine Weeks of Art and Action" with Protest at Whitney Museum". Hyperallergic. March 23, 2019. Retrieved April 3, 2019.
  35. ^ Pogrebin, Robin; Harris, Elizabeth (July 25, 2019). "Warren Kanders Quits Whitney Board After Tear Gas Protests". The New York Times. New York, NY. Retrieved January 31, 2020.
  36. ^ Lewis, Danny. "Cuomo To Flood The Subways With 500 Cops To Stop Farebeaters". Gothamist. Archived from the original on November 12, 2019. Retrieved November 12, 2019.
  37. ^ Offenhartz, Jake. "Photos, Videos: NYers Jump Turnstiles En Masse To Protest Police Brutality On The Subway". Gothamist. Archived from the original on November 12, 2019. Retrieved November 12, 2019.
  38. ^ Quinn, Anna (November 4, 2019). "Hundreds Take Over BK Streets Protesting NYPD, Subway Crackdown". Patch. Retrieved November 12, 2019.
  39. ^ "Marchers protest alleged police brutality in Brooklyn subway melee". ABC7. November 2, 2019. Retrieved November 12, 2019.
  40. ^ Speech by Amin Husain as part of Al-Quds Day 2016, Times Square, New York City, see 6:17 in video source
  41. ^ Speech by Amin Husain as part of Al-Quds Day 2016, Times Square, New York City, see 5:32 in video source
  42. ^ "Who's Behind the Media Campaign Against a Decolonize This Place Organizer?". Hyperallergic. March 16, 2020. Retrieved May 20, 2020.
  43. ^ Blake, J. Herman (1969). "Black Nationalism". The Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science. 382: 15–25. doi:10.1177/000271626938200103. ISSN 0002-7162. JSTOR 1037110. S2CID 220837953.
  44. ^ Salam, Maya (April 6, 2018). "Brooklyn Museum Defends Its Hiring of a White Curator of African Art". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved April 25, 2019.
  45. ^ "The Bad Optics of Fighting for Your Life". May 13, 2021.
  46. ^ "Israel and the Jewish People are Under Attack".