photo: José Tiago Pox
As first Neighbour in Residence at the Gropius Bau, hn. lyonga will engage with the question of how neighbourly relations can exist in institutional spaces in the realm of his programme becoming neighbours.
The location of the Gropius Bau, its architecture and surroundings are an important point of reference for the programme. Opening up the institution for its various neighbours is at the heart of this endeavour. How can we think of an exhibition hall as a place of community? And which practices does this bring with it? The Neighbour in Residence programme is part of the ongoing exchange with intercultural, intergenerational and queer neighbourhood initiatives that was started in 2020. An important collaborator during this time was the interdisciplinary writer hn. lyonga. As first Neighbour in Residence at the Gropius Bau in the second half of 2023, he will engage with the question of how neighbourly relations can exist in institutional spaces in the realm of his programme becoming neighbours.
What is a community, and who is in it? How is the community different from the neighbourhood? Where does the neighbourhood begin and end? How do bodies become subjects and objects in the neighbourhood space? What drives an exhibition hall’s desire to become a neighbour? What is the relevance of institutions for people living on the margins of society in Berlin? Because the needs of the neighbourhood are recurring, life-long and continuous, my work as a Neighbour in Residence will be to find ways to address these questions.
The question of residence determines under what terms I can begin to imagine a life. It impacts how I show up in the world. A residence is never simply a question of how long a person is allowed in a place; it is rather a very fundamental question of existence in space just as we are. Residence to me is about rooting oneself in a place or a community. It is living with certainty. It is belonging to a place that wants you to live within its vicinities. A place you are not at risk of losing.
As a migrant from Cameroon who has undergone asylum processes, the question of residence governs every aspect of life. The idea of a residence, a stable place to keep my body in always lingered and hovered over me as I moved across multiple German cities. I see this role as an opportunity to enter into a meaningful relationship with community members. To listen, to learn, to think together and to work towards mutually beneficial interests.
The Neighbour in Residence is a position governed by the needs and desires of the communities outside of the Gropius Bau. To me, it means to think through formats that create balance, to bring about conversations around ideas of care, intimacy and collective purposes, to open up space to talk about everyday issues that dictate our bodies and lives. I surround myself with neighbours, friends and networks that ground me in the essence of a work that thrives on encounter, communal participation and exchange, creating opportunities that enable us to think in the we. Togetherness is what will underpin my role as Neighbour in Residence. My interest is to open ourselves to the nuances that can be found in the collective.
The people I have invited to go on this journey with me are: MarkusPosse, Sonia Hohenbild, Makda Isak, Pauline Jeya Subha, Michael Westrich, Fenja Akinde-Hummel, Hanita Firoozmand, Naima Moiasse Maungue, Andrea-VickyAmankwaa-Birago, CharlotteMüller, the FieldNarratives Collective (is SasciaBailer, LeneMarkusen, Andreas Doepke, hn.lyonga), the BlackStudent Union at Humboldt University and the BauhütteKreuzberg e.V.. They are also neighbours, cultural practitioners, collectives, community members, who have dedicated their lives to imagining ways of bringing us all together to think in a decolonial manner.
I community-organise and involve myself in the creation and facilitation of new and alternative spaces because I know that the place in which I’ll fit will not exist until I make it. Born and raised in the Bakweri culture of Southwest Cameroon, I learned that a story is both a location and a practice that continues to grow. It is this very principle that informs how I move in the world. It is this principle that has led me to this new role at the Gropius Bau.
I live and work in Berlin. I have lived in other places – and they are still present in my body, my writings, my life in the diaspora, in the women with whom I grew up. I work at the intersection of postcolonial literature, critical race theory and social transformation. Storytelling as a deliberate act of world-making and investigating ideas of “migrating traditions” in memory fragments are deeply rooted in my practice.
Among other things, I am a neighbour, a (livelong) student, a founding member of the Black Student Union at Humboldt University, a member of the curatorial board of BARAZANI.berlin – Forum Kolonialismus und Widerstand and a member of the Field Narratives Collective, working on ideas of rural biographies, transgenerational and cross-continental storytelling. My work qualifies as Wake Work because it is labour within the space of paradoxes surrounding Black citizenship.
becoming neighbours holds a series of four workshops (neighbouring, resting, planting, wor(l)ding). The first one is an active approach to reclaiming and opening up a space to the unrepresented or absent and to explore the permeability of institutional spaces. The second one addresses the possibilities of convening and resting together as an act of resistance. The third one draws upon the practice of agriculture and planting as a way of thinking about neighbourhoods as spaces we pour into. The last workshop of the series dives into the ceremonious tradition of writing as a ritual, prescribed or customary, and crucial for holding narratives that exist within a neighbourhood.
The programme will take place in the freely accessible areas (Gropius Hain, atrium, Resonance Room) of the Gropius Bau.