Cultures from around the Bloc

Rejs e.V. presents:

Fremdbilder? – an intercultural photo workshop with young people from Turkey, Morocco, Palestine, Jordan, Afghanistan and Germany.

Background
The intercultural dialogue is and definitely will be a very important and continuous challenge for a peacefully living together in all European societies. Citizens of the European Union have to realize, that migration was, is, and will be there as long as the worldwide economical and political conditions differ in such extreme ways.
Despite of the political, economical and historical differences in dealing with migration within the European Union there is one aspect, which is the first and most important step in all peaceful societies – it is the will to communicate, to speak out loud and to create a public discourse. In the case of migration the equal intercultural dialogue is needed.
In Germany, a country with a long tradition of defining non-ethnic Germans as ‘Gastarbeiter’ (Guestworker), ‘Ausländer’ (Foreigner) or, nowadays, as persons with ‘Migrationshintergrund’ (migration background) which is even used up to two generations into the past, the equal intercultural dialogue is still at its very beginning.
Before 2000 and the first ‘Zuwanderungsgesetz’ (migration law) Germany was officially a land without long term migration, even though the 3rd Generation of ‘foreigners’ was already born, went to school and made their living, according to this political status quo there was no need for an intercultural dialogue.
Now, three years after the political change, several intercultural meetings between German politicians and migrant representatives (especially from Turkey) took place and a lot of projects for migrants have been lanced.

Unfortunately those projects are often designed to enhance the Migrants chances for integration, f. e. by job trainings or German lessons, but the direct exchange and intercultural dialogue is frequently neglected. So, somehow odd, the Migrants in Germany shall integrate without knowing hardly any Germans in daily life. And these exchange deficits are not only on the side of the migrants, but it is equally important to antagonise reservation and prejudices of young Germans towards migrants.
In general both groups, Germans and Migrants have almost no contact to each other, especially if ‘contact’ is defined as working, living or doing sports together, and not only the weekly visit at the Turkish Kebab House.

Fremdbilder? – the Workshop

Fremdbilder? Was a project aimed at stimulating the direct dialogue among young people with complete different cultural and educational backgrounds – young migrants and middle class high-school students. So one of the project aims was to enforce the communication between different ethnic and social classes and to strengthen the horizontal and vertical dialogue between different social groups.
The main goal of the project was to create a meeting and exchange platform where understanding and acceptance were encouraged and fears and prejudices actively addressed. Further goals were the intercultural photo-stories and the planning and realization of photo exhibitions by the participants.

The first group consisted of young people from Jordan, Afghanistan, Palestine, Morocco and Turkey at the age of 17-25, who had received only little education in their countries of origin. They only recently moved to Germany and prior to the project they had hardly any contacts with their German peers.
In the second group were young high-school students from a German middle-class background with only little direct experience with migrants.
If members of these two groups would meet accidental they would hardly get into touch. Worlds seem to lie between them and the lack of a common language would make the dialogue even more complicated.
Within a workshop lasting one week their barriers and reservations could be reduced. The medium of photography and the introduction to the possibilities of the visual language – a new subject to both groups – democratized the dialogue among the participants and initiated the bridging between the cultures.
After group-building processes and some hands-on technical training in the first days, the participants formed mixed intercultural teams and investigated with their cameras the particular social and cultural realities of their families, their neighbourhoods and daily lives. They were guides for their own neighbourhoods and at the same time discovered the social surroundings of the others. Some of the German participants were for the first time in a Mosque and were surprised how friendly they were welcomed there, for others it was their first time to enter a “Bioladen” (store with organic food – typical for the germen middle class) and to be introduced to the concept of biological food.
The photos done by the participants have been shown in two public libraries (in Kronberg and Offenbach) and one city hall (Dietzenbach) – places of origin of the participants.

Conclusion

The young people, especially the migrants, had during the workshop for the very first time the possibility to express their opinions in direct contact with their German peers. And through the medium of photography they were also able to present it to a broader public within the exhibitions.
Further more for the young people from Jordan, Afghanistan, Palestine, Morocco and Turkey it was the first intensive meeting with young Germans and for some also the first conscious contact with art in general and in particular the medium of photography. The intensive contact with the German pupils was also especially important for some of the participants since they realised how important education is in Germany to be able to fully participate in the society.
This realization within this social interaction, that paths of education and life can be planned and that they are highly important, was one of the most important outcomes of this project.
The high-school students on the other hand had the possibility to get into contact with the social reality beyond their mostly homogeneous circle of friends.
Independent of prejudiced media coverage and shortened debates about so called “parallel worlds” they had the possibility to get an insight into realities which they would otherwise hardly notice and which were to some extent also negatively connoted.
Probably most important was for all participants the daily contact and the discovery that understanding is possible despite of their different ways of communication and also that the individual problems and concerns of everyone are not so far apart.

Even if the Workshop was a full success there are some points to consider for further activities. The fist and most important point is the sustainability of an intercultural dialogue.
Fremdbilder? was planned as a short term Workshop so it showed just a glimpse of ‘the others’. For a sustainable intercultural dialogue apart from an interesting theme (as Photography was for both groups) long-term activities are probably better. More time would give the participants more possibilities to interact beside of the scheduled group activities. The second point is the huge educational difference between both groups – even though the less educated Migrants did perfectly well and were the most active group – well educated and fluently German speaking Migrants could be the missing link between these groups and make the intercultural dialogue easier.

By Kajetan Tadrowski and Stephanie Endter

Project partners:

Rejs e.V. Import- Export: Kultur! (Berlin)

StartHAUS GmbH – Innovative Pädagogik (Offenbach/ Main)

Altkönigschule (Kronberg/ Taunus)

Contact:

Rejs e.V. Import – Export: Kultur!

Brunnenstrasse 162

D-10119 Berlin

Stephanie Endter:
steph(at)plotki.net

Kajetan Tadrowski:
Tadrowski(at)web.de

Financial support:

“Femdbilder?” is supported by the European Commission during the “European Year of Intercultural Dialogue”, the foundation “Demokratie im Alltag”, the StartHAUS GmbH, the Stadtwerke Offenbach Holding and the City Council of Kronberg.

“Fremdbilder?” formed part of the “Year of intercultural Dialogue” and was the German contribution to the international project “Cultures from around the block”.

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