See how people who had to flee to Germany and Europa tell their own story through art.

On 4/3/2016 people took over exhibition rooms of the Museum which they designed in a workshoplike process up to the presentation on 21/7/2016. They came from Albania, Afghanistan, Bosnia, Iraq, Kosovo, Pakistan and Syria. What they have, respectively had in common is that they had to flee from their countries – for whatever reasons. Most of them lived in a home in Berlin-Spandau; others have left this accommodation, lived in their own apartments or were deported back into their "secure countries of origin". They are all KUNSTASYL, constitute together the initiative of artists, creative persons and asylum seekers.

On the walls they have drawn their memories of the lost homeland, the strenuous flight, the dangerous sea, drowning people. Parts of bed frames, no longer needed in emergency accommodation, have been composed by them in such a way that the works remind you of tents, boats or the lost daHEIM. Their personal histories make them representatives for a vast number of people and formulate in this way the collective sentiments of generations of those who have become homeless: these are Glances into Fugitive Lives.

A similar fate was suffered by people who had to flee within, to and from Europe in the 19th and 20th centuries. Biographies from those times show that there has always been immigration due to flight – that people leave, flee, arrive, stay, master their lives. And have dreams.

Bereket Kibrom
On 25/5/2016 Bereket Kibrom stood in the Museum's garden to build his first roof out of wicker and straw in Germany – in almost the same manner as he had done so in Ghergef, a town in Eritrea, for ten years. By building the roofs of four to five “agedos” per month he supported his mother, father and five siblings. On this particular day an official of the Ausländerbehörde (Foreigners' Registration Office) in Berlin had, with a friendly smile and a firm handshake, handed out to him the “Blauer Pass Deutschland” (travel document for refugees). The 28 year-old had fled from the dictatorship in Eritrea which wanted to commit him to life-long military service.

The happiest day of his life was when he set his foot on Italian soil. He experienced the darkest days after a failed escape attempt in an Egyptian prison on the border with Israel in 2012. Between these there were twelve years, in which he lived in a tent camp. “We were well received in Eritrea,” Bereket says, remembering the war which broke out in 1998 in Ethiopia. His family, who had supported themselves by cultivating cereals, was driven away that time from their life in the village of Bademe.

A few days after he had decided for himself that his school days were over, a man who built roofs attracted his attention. He was fascinated by the craftsmanship needed for this. The craftsman took him on as an apprentice and two months later Bereket completed his test piece at the end of the apprenticeship. In Ghergef, located in a fertile area and a day's journey from the camp by car, Bereket built a first roof over their heads for his family – a straw-thatched “agedo”, in which his parents live up to today.
His father still weeps when he phones his eldest son. It is uncertain when the family will see each other again.

(Text: barbara caveng)

Ina Sado
"I always wanted to go to the University, study and be successful in my life, although I had a lot of difficulties. I went to college and did not care about the danger I was in, the bomb noise, the long scary nights on campus. I always concentrated on my studies and was happy. But one day all this was suddenly destroyed and I had lost everything I had. I fled away from home. "Home", when I hear or say this word, I feel pain in my heart. I'll never be the same person again, which I was."

Ina, 23, had to leave everything behind in Iraq, family and friends, all her belongings. Only a ring she could bring to Germany. In the exhibition she shows a series of drawings.

Ina Sado was born at 10/6/1993 in the town of Shingal, Irak. She lived there until 8/3/2014 sharing her life with seven brothers and sisters, father and mother. After eleven months and eight days living in Berlin she got the “Blue Passport Germany”. This travel document certifies that Germany grants her asylum to protect her from persecution in her country of origin. In June 2016 Ina moved to Cologne, where she wanted to lived with her fiancé and continued her studies in biology.

Anna Seghers
was born in Mainz/Southwest Germany on 19/11/1900. During her studies she became acquainted with the Hungarian sociologist and economist Laszlo Radvanyi whom she married in 1925. Their two children were born in 1926 and 1928. In 1928 Anna Seghers was awarded the Kleist Prize for her literary works. She became a member of the Kommunistische Partei Deutschlands (Communist Party of Germany) and of the Bund proletarisch-revolutionärer Schriftsteller (Association of Proletarian-Revolutionary Authors). Immediately after the Reichstag fire she had to flee to France via Switzerland. Up till 1940 she and her family lived in Paris. After the military occupation of Northern France by the Germans, she fled with her children into the unoccupied South of France; her husband was already interned there in the spring of 1940. In 1941 she received the visas for her flight to Mexico.

Anna Seghers' lifeblood was the literary work and commitment among the exiled persons. In 1942 “Das siebte Kreuz” (The Seventh Cross) was published, one of the most important novels about Germany during the period of National Socialism. In 1947 she returned to Berlin and lived in the eastern part of the city. From 1952 to 1978 she was President of the Schriftstellerverband der DDR (Association of Writers in East Germany). She died in 1983.

Serdar Yousif
"I was born in the village of Korki Mkhayett in Syria. It's a fact that the exact date of my birth is not known. My parents told me that it was in summer – contrary to my official date of birth, 5/1/1966.  During my time in the village I played in the steppe with my cousins and friends. We took part in communal life, helped the family with the housework and with the harvest of the wheat, barley and lentil crops. We used simple machines drawn by horses to grind the corn. We brought in the hay, watered the animals, fetched water from the ponds, kept watch over the fields and had to take on all the hard and difficult jobs there are to do in the countryside."

"In addition I worked as a shepherd and looked after the donkeys. From 1971 onwards I attended the primary school in the village. Later I went to the 'Oil Fields School of Rmeilan'. It was especially hard in winter to walk the three to four kilometres to school. After I passed my school-leaving examination I enrolled at the University for Agriculture in Damascus. It wasn't until ten years later that I was able to finish my studies because I had to work the whole time to finance my life. Following this I was appointed to the 'Syrian Association for Trade and Sale of Cereals'. There I carried out my job until the civil war in Syria forced me to leave the country in 2011."

Magdalena Schweiger
was born the eleventh child of Ignat and Kenefefa German on 6/4/1915. These were descendants of German settlers living in a village on the Crimea. In January 1938 Magdalena married the lorry driver Nikolaj Schweiger. In her short marriage she had three children, a son in 1938 and two daughters in 1940 and 1943.  In September 1941 in the course of the Second World War the family was dispossessed, being “German nationals”, and deported from their homeland to a labour camp in the north of Kazakhstan. The husband was mobilised for industrial work and taken to Korkin in January 1942, where he died in a traffic accident in 1945.

Magdalena and her children were under the supervision of the commander's office in Kazakhstan without the right of freedom of movement until 1955. It was not until 1990 that she was recognised as a victim of “illegal deportation” and political reprisals and was rehabilitated. On 31/3/1993 Magdalena left Kazakhstan for Germany, together with her youngest daughter, as a so-called laterepatriate, where she died on 11/10/2003 at the age of 88.

Dachil Sado
"I was born in a town named Shingal, Iraq, in March 1992, exactly one year after the First Gulf War stopped. I grew up as a normal child with a dream of being a scientist and an inventor. Albert Einstein and Leonardo da Vinci became my idols when I was ten years old. The 'Islamic State' attacked my city after the Iraqi and Kurdish forces left Shingal in August 2014 causing a genocide. Even if we, as Yazidis, are hopeful and peaceful in our beliefs – this attack didn't leave any more hope for us to stay in a part of the world where we had been through 73 genocides. 'Hope is a waking dream' (Aristotle)."

"I gave up the life of having no simple human rights neither in the Iraqi nor Kurdish parts. Thus I went to Germany to continue my life as a normal human being. I am now in search of my own inside home and understanding of what nationality and borders mean to me.“

Dachil wanted to become an engineer. During his first year in Germany he took a completely different direction. He is one of the curators of the exhibition.

Jasim Gull
Switzerland has never reached such a size as shown on Jasim's map. It almost equally adjoins Germany. Jasim has mapped his dream. He has so much country-specific knowledge on a wide variety of subjects related to Helvetism that he can talk sovereignly about the founding years of the confederation or the complex waste separation system. Although the judge smiled due to the now 31-year-old Afghan man's enthusiasm about Switzerland's public transportation, Jasim now had to leave Switzerland after one and a half years. 

As a seven-year-old child, he had to experience what it means to be excluded from society: born to an unmarried mother, he couldn't be protected by his mother from the laws of an archaic society. He fled across the border to his uncle in Pakistan. He heard of his brothers' lives in Paris and in Switzerland and looked at the photos they sent him. Films illustrated his idea of Europe.

“At around this time, I thought that the better countries for me, my life and my future were in Europe. When I finished school, I was faced with problems, and I started looking for a country where no Muslims live. After one year, I found it. In Liechtenstein, there were no Muslims and I found it a better country for my future.” So he went from Afghanistan to Liechtenstein. And when the Liechtenstein people said to him, “We are too small, we have no place for you, you must go back,” Jasim then went to Switzerland and his hope to find a place to stay there made the small country a large one.

Five years have passed disquietingly, making him tired. His fate now makes him consider moving to the “big” Germany. He says, if Germany cannot provide protection to him, he will no longer know where to go. On the windowsill in his room in the asylum camp lies the biography of Nelson Mandela titled “Long Walk to Freedom”.

(Text: barbara caveng)

An installation made of beds and clothes found in Lampedusa and Idomeni.

barbara caveng is one of the curators and the initiator of KUNSTASYL.

Credits: Story

Exhibition daHEIM: Glances into Fugitive Lives
22.07.2016 to 02.07.2017 at the Museum Europäischer Kulturen

A cooperation project between the Museum Europäischer Kulturen – Staatliche Museen zu Berlin, barbara caveng and KUNSTASYL

Overall responsibility for the project: Elisabeth Tietmeyer
Art direction: barbara caveng/ Aymen Montasser/ Dachil Sado

Texts: Museum Europäischer Kulturen/ KUNSTASYL/ barbara caveng

Editing: Alina Helwig/ Lisa Janke/ barbara caveng/ Elisabeth Tietmeyer

Realisation: Lisa Janke

Photographs: Ute Franz-Scarciglia

Translation: Übersetzungsbüro Nastula

© Staatliche Museen zu Berlin – Stiftung Preußischer Kulturbesitz
Museum Europäischer Kulturen

Further reading:
Publication "Glances into Fugitive Lives"

Credits: All media
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