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Jenseits der Heimat. Sozialismus, Leben und Erinnerung 

Topic: Travels
  • 2022
Video made by Katrin Bahr as part of the Art in Networks-Fellowship-Programme. It looks at photographs of East Germans in Mozambique during the 1980s, a personal approach on how to work with memory and private photographs from the past. The title "Jenseits der Heimat Sozialismus, Leben und Erinnerung" can be translated as "Far from Home. Socialism, Life and Memory"
Video by Katrin Bahr, 2022

During the Cold War, both East and West Germany sought to establish influence on the African continent. Between 1979 and 1990, thousands of East German teachers, engineers, doctors, consultants, and others moved to Mozambique with their families as part of the Friendship Treaty with the German Democratic Republic (GDR) to support the Mozambican cause — efforts that agreed perfectly with the socialist ideal of international solidarity with the working class and other oppressed peoples. The East Germans stayed in Mozambique between two to three years, and many of them also traveled through the country on work assignments. They brought not only their technical expertise to the country, but also their cameras.

During my research stay in Germany in 2016, I received over 2000 slides, most of them unnamed, from interview partners who had been aid workers in Mozambique. The photographs featured here are part of my dissertation on the everyday life experiences of East German citizens in Mozambique during the 1980s. The collection portrays work and family life, excursions and leisure activities, and interactions with Mozambicans.

The photos have also been features in an exhibition in the United States, Mozambique and Germany. The exhibition included 700 selected images—scanned, enlarged and printed on 18”x24” sheets. These images reflect individual understandings of solidarity and give insight into the culture of collaboration. At the same time, however, some of the images also invite a critique of the ongoing “othering” of Mozambicans that was embedded within the European gaze, despite socialist aspirations.

In my work, I function as an ethnographer, historian and storyteller, exploring the culturally complex experiences of some East Germans allowed to leave their country and the legacy of their work post-unification. This approach contrasts with extensive scholarship that has been done on the everyday life experience in the GDR, seeking out individual perspectives while also exploring international variations in development and post-colonial discourses.

Text by Katrin Bahr.

Read more about Katrin Bahr's journey n the Blog Third Generation Ost – USA:

Bahr, Katrin. “Between State Mission and Everyday Life: Private Photographs of East Germans in Mozambique in the 1980s.” Navigating Socialist Encounters:  Moorings, Exchanges and (Dis)entanglements between Africa and East Germany. Eds., Harisch, Immanuel R., Anne Dietrich, Marcia C. Schenk, and Eric Burton. Berlin: De Gruyter, 2021, 319-349. (open access)

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