Friday, October 13, 2023

2, 5, 33 and 100 years…


Every once in a while I like taking a look at my photos from the cloud, with a curiosity for those they will show me as ‘on this day x years ago’. A few days ago I was shown this one:


Two years ago I was visiting Berlin for a couple of days, meeting with patchwork friends mostly, but doing a little bit of sightseeing, too, of course. My birthplace, and sometimes I wonder what would have happened with my life if my parents hadn’t left the city when I was 4 years old? The Brandenburg Gate figures prominently in the images that are in the public mind when it comes to Berlin, most likely so because it was behind the wall for so many years.


Picture taken via this link, where you can find many
more photos of the Wall:

And because it was the place where people partied on November 9, 1989, when the Wall was opened for the first time in 28 years. Find a picture here.

A few days earlier, the picture I was shown was this one.

It showed me that at that time I was working on the quilt "Everyone has the right", inspired by this newspaper picture.


It has since traveled with SAQA’s exhibition “Forced to Flee” through several countries.


A detail from my quilt appeared on the front cover of the catalogue.

And it gave me a hard time getting it back from the States: the carrier would not deliver it to me because they claimed I could not prove it was mine, and I would have to pay customs to retrieve it, contrary to SAQA’s agreement with the US side of this particular carrier. Clandestine ways have since brought it back home. When I saw this picture from five years ago, I thought how very unfortunate it is that pictures like the one that originally inspired me to work on this quilt are still everyday matter – except that they are not really being shown in the media anymore. Because so many Europeans are sick and tired of seeing pictures like this, hearing stories of hundreds of people a day arriving on Lampedusa Island and other islands further east in Greece, having crossed the Mediterranean on skimpy boats, and who are now being put into camps already full to the brim. Right now there is no such thing as the 2015 “Welcome Culture” to be seen, Germany has turned xenophobic and anti-refugees to a degree that is frightening. Instead, elections are being won by talking about the 'refugee crisis'.

Also this past week, but not through a photo from my cloud, we celebrated the 33th anniversary of the reunification of Germany, just a little over a year after the party at Brandenburg gate mentioned above. On that day, October 3, I was in Canada, traveling with the Student Orchestra of Freiburg University. I remember that clearly because there was a lively discussion whether on this particular day the concert program should be preceded by a select four members of the orchestra playing Haydn’s slow movement from String Quartet op 76 no. 3, the variations on the tune that nowadays constitutes the German national anthem. Opinions were very divided – I, too, thought political reunification at that time was not the right thing to do. And I still think many things should have been done differently. Perhaps the high rates of agreement with the extremist right wing party in large areas of former East Germany could have been prevented if reunification had been less traumatic for citizens in that part of the country? It is the year 2023 now – and one hundred years ago, 1923, is often called the beginning of the rise of Nazi Germany, with political developments and inflation that caused the complete psychological destabilization of the population. Recent German federal states elections have brought terrifying results – from a viewpoint of a deeply felt democrat – for extreme right wing parties, and not only in what used to be the Eastern Part. What have we learned? Are we really repeating it all, have one hundred years been enough to let us forget?

And Israel and Palestine... I lack words for that. My heart breaks, because violence and shelling is only going to cause retaliation. And more victims on both sides.

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