Monthly Archives: September 2014

Graffiti in Berlin: A Feast for the Eyes

While traveling this summer on IUSB’s study abroad trip to Berlin and Prague, one of our assignments was to create collage journals. With these collage journals, we were afforded the opportunity to have free rein to recreate our memories as we saw fit, being able to reflect back on the impressions both cities had left in our memories. One of the most striking and inescapable themes I decided to pick up on and highlight in my journal was while I was in Berlin. This theme was the graffiti found on walls of buildings, stairs following down to Berlin’s many U-Bahn stations, windows of various shops, and anywhere else there seemed to be an uncovered canvas. No matter where you turn in Berlin, there is graffiti waiting to be found just around the corner.

But what I did not realize at first was just how taken aback I would be by all this graffiti. When you think of the term “graffiti,” you tend to think about buildings being defiled and explicit words being strewn across a city for all to see. The graffiti in Berlin, however, is unlike any other I have seen. The artistic quality and the time it must have taken for these pieces to be completed reflect creative expression and impassioned attention to detail.

When I show my personal photos of various pieces of Berlin’s graffiti, I always say, “Berlin itself can be seen as one giant art exhibition.”

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Because the majority of our time in Berlin was spent in the former Communist East part of Berlin, it was a constant reminder of how the former GDR’s economy and livelihood was seen as “stunted” by those in the Western part of the city. Run-down buildings with shattered windows and tattered apartment doors seemed to be the places where the most, and often most vibrant, graffiti could be found. In my opinion, that is a testament to how those Berliners took back the city as a whole in order to revamp and reclaim Berlin, and Germany overall, as a unified place. More than anything, the reminder of the former East Berlin is present by having not only part of the Berlin Wall still standing, but having pieces of the Wall erected around the city with the same artistic graffiti covering the pieces from top to bottom. Unfortunately I was not able to get my own picture, but one of the most famous pieces of art on the Berlin Wall is “The Fraternal Kiss” between Leonid Brezhnev and Erich Honecker.

Berlin, East Side Gallery

Berlin is often described as a gritty, harsh, and rough-around-the-edges city. Even the mayor of Berlin, Klaus Wowereit, described Berlin as “poor, but sexy.” After spending one week in Berlin, I must admit that Mayor Wowereit is definitely correct in his explanation. Although Berlin tends to be a whirlwind type of city, one thing is certain: Berlin is a city that is sure to captivate your senses.

(c) Maddie Kindig (All photo credit of graffiti belongs to me, except for the one “kissing” picture)

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Free Movie at the Natatorium: “Slavery by Another Name”

On Thursday, September 18 from 6.30-8.30pm, there will be a special screening of the documentary “Slavery by Another Name” at the Natatorium.

Few people in this area are aware of the rich legacy of Civil Rights — or the sad tragedy of segregation — in northern Indiana or specifically in South Bend. In 1922, the Natatorium opened in South Bend for whites only. As the Great Migration brought numerous African-Americans north looking for work and freedom, this shocked many of them as they expected northern states to be completely desegregated. By 1931, several prominent blacks in South Bend started to protest the segregation at the Natatorium, but no significant gains in rights occurred until the city of South Bend passed a new tax in 1936 to pay for repairs at the Natatorium. The tax frustrated blacks in the community as they paid for the repairs, but could not swim, and by 1937, thanks to several protests, African-Americans were allowed to swim once a week. In late 1949, citywide protests consisting of both blacks and whites erupted once again over segregation of the Natatorium and on February 3, 1950, the Natatorium was fully desegregated.

In May of 2000, sixteen IU South Bend students and faculty participated in the Freedom Summer 2000, studying the Civil Rights Movement in the South. When arriving back at South Bend the students founded the Civil Rights Heritage Center to “record, preserve, and celebrate the struggles and extraordinary achievements of citizens committed to social justice.” In 2010 the Engman Natatorium became the official IU South Bend Civil Rights Heritage Center. The Natatorium is a significant and culturally relevant landmark both in the history of South Bend and the Civil Rights Movement, serving as a reminder that the both segregation and the Civil Rights Movement were local, as well as national, in the fairly recent past.

The preservation of historical landmarks such as the South Bend Natatorium is essential for humanity and for societal growth. So please visit the Natatorium on Thursday September 18, from 6.30-8.30pm for a special screening of the documentary “Slavery by Another Name.” The event will also have a special guest, Dr. Mitch Kachun from Western Michigan, who researches “how African Americans during the 19th and 20th centuries have used historical knowledge and public commemorations in their efforts to work for equal rights, construct a sense of collective identity, and claim control over their status and destiny in American society.” The Natatorium and other museums that are similar in nature are essential not only to remind us where we once were as a nation, but guide us to where we are going we are going in the future. Please come for this event and learn about local history and the history of our nation.

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For more information visit the Natatorium’s website: www.thenatatorium.org
Or the Civil Rights Heritage Center website: www.iusb.edu/civil-rights/