Echos der Bruderländer

What is the price of memory and what is the cost of amnesia? Or: Visions and illusions of anti-imperialist solidarities

Workshops, Performances, Film screenings, Podcasts, Narratives, Publications, Exhibition

Summer 2023–Summer 2024

Birthday in the dormitory—contract workers from Vietnam in their accommodation in Dresden, GDR, February 1987

Birthday in the dormitory—contract workers from Vietnam in their accommodation in Dresden, GDR, February 1987. Photo: IMAGO/Matthias Rietschel

Echos der Bruderländer is a three-year multidisciplinary project aimed at mapping the complex relations between the German Democratic Republic (GDR) and its so-called ‘brother countries’ through tools of artistic research manifesting in exhibitions, performances, workshops, film screenings, narratives, podcasts, and publications. In focus are Cuba, Ghana, Mozambique, and Vietnam, which had the highest amounts of exported labour of all the Bruderländer, a troubled history of expulsion after reunification, and a lack of financial compensation for the work of their citizens. These are also the countries whose ‘shared citizens’ were prominent and visible victims of racism and rejection in reunified Germany. And yet, how much of this history was known to the average citizen of the GDR at that time? How much is known of this history in post-1989 Germany? 

This project researches and makes visible pre- and post-1989 sociopolitical relations and psychological traumas and examines how the repercussions of the Bruderländer policies still act as one of the driving forces of racism and Fremdenhass (xenophobia) in Germany up to this day. It is important to shed light on these sociopolitical relationships and how they continue to shape Germany’s demography, culture, economy, and politics. The project asserts that this can only be done if we recognize that history is not stuck in the past but is continuous, and that pedagogy and political education play a very important role in shaping the present and the future of any society.

Echos der Bruderländer is thus an effort to understand the price society pays for the erasure of memory and identities, exploring the depth of relationships and delving into the crevices of lost hierarchies. Contemporary witnesses from the GDR and from the ‘brother countries’ of Cuba, Ghana, Mozambique, and Vietnam as well as visual artists, architects, musicians, historians, social scientists, economists, and politicians are invited to share oral histories and unscripted accounts, creating the possibility for substantive exchange, understanding, and mutual learning. With these accounts, the intention is to foster and strengthen anti-racist political education without pedagogically imposing a preconceived political opinion.  

The approach to this project emphasizes process and accessibility, making public both significant historical research from academic frameworks and archival documentation, as well as recorded oral histories, artistic works, cartographic interpretations, new translations, films, music, and broadcast recordings in multiple languages. Multidisciplinarity, accessibility, and participation are at the heart of the project’s methodology, which aims to make the ‘echo’ in the title of the project heard loud and clear and multiplied by those involved in the project and by the public. The project is accompanied by a series of publications related to the genre of comics that help to visualize and contextualize these histories and serve the pedagogic goals of the project.

Funded by the Federal Agency for Civic Education (Germany).
Funded by the TURN2 Fund of the Kulturstiftung des Bundes (German Federal Cultural Foundation)

Collaboration Partners:
Heritage Space, Vietnam
Hanoi Ad Hoc, Vietnam
Foundation for Contemporary Art – Ghana
Savannah Centre for Contemporary Art Tamale, Ghana
Mbenga – Artes & Reflexões, Mozambique
Ríos Intermitentes, Cuba

Bundeszentrale für politische Bildung
Kulturstiftung des Bundes turn2