Discourse & Performance Programme

All that is Musical in Us is Memory: Of Exile, Kinship and (Un)Belonging

Curated by Natasha Ginwala and Magnus Elias Rosengarten

The abstract video still shows a long-exposure photography. A horizontal, fast movement creates coloured lines against a dark background in the shape of a rainbow. It invites associations, such as of a city at night with lights and traffic.

Aziz Hazara, Takbir, 2022 Courtesy of the artist and Experimenter

Over the course of two evening convenings with interdisciplinary guests from literature, theatre, film and music, this programme reflects on states of (un)belonging, creative kinships, and the systemic hierarchies that prevail in placemaking today

“All That is Musical in Us is Memory”, a cipher drawn from the USSR born Ukrainian-American poet Ilya Kaminsky, grapples with contours of exile, (un)belonging, and extended kinships. The two-day convening as part of the “Performing Exiles” festival imagines how literary, cinematic, and sonic knowledge shape insistent memory and its resurgence in the context of Berlin and Germany at large, as a place of momentary and prolonged refuge. Contributions by Ukrainian writer and poet Oksana Stomina, Syrian poet and activist Kholoud Charaf with Tobias Diener and Ina Herkenhoff and others will offer literary reflections on subjectivities of flight and power structures, as well as poetics as a realm of fugitivity, dissent, humour and recognition. In their conversation and screening, the artists and filmmakers Aziz Hazara and James Gregory Atkinson negotiate themes of displacement, surveillance practices and alienation to challenge hegemonic visual languages. In her lecture performance, theatre director and performer Viviana Medina Medina will investigate erased histories of Cuban migration in the context of the former GDR and their reverberations into the present. Throughout its two days’ duration, “All That is Musical in Us is Memory” is enveloped in sonic performances and listening sessions by electronic music producer, artist and DJ Lamin Fofana and the Berlin-based reissue record label and DJ Habibi Funk Records. Through these collective moments, we will reflect on how creative belonging may be perceived at the crossroads of a city like Berlin that is polyphonous – at times brutal – and recursively has been an uncanny meeting place.

23 June 2023

The Open Boat by Lamin Fofana

17:00 – 17:30 Playlist, Foyer
19:20 – 20:00 Performance, Main Stage
21:30 – 22:15 Performance, Main Stage

This performance resonates as part of the artist’s enduring musical output and installation avatars. It captures the complexities of diasporic experiences and displacement arising from imperialist violence, drawing on the life works of seminal Black writers such as Kamau Brathwaite, Amiri Baraka, Édouard Glissant, Christina Sharpe, and Sylvia Wynter. Using sound montage to deliberate turbulent uncertainties of our times as well as creating spaces that resound with collective dreaming, echoes, and common imagining. Fofana’s approach builds acoustic landscapes as textural ensembles, labyrinthine consciousness, and as tonal movements that resist closure.

Ever-Changing Seasons
With Kholoud Charaf with Tobias Diener and Ina Herkenhoff, Stella Nyanzi and Oksana Stomina, moderated by Natasha Ginwala

17:30 - 19:00 Readings and Conversation, Main Stage

Opening with multilingual offerings by poets, lyricists, and activists resonant with the spoken word and sonic renditions attuning to chords of dissent, uprooting, refusals, and a longing for community. From their situated perspectives traversing East Africa, Syria and Ukraine, as wordsmiths in exile, Kholoud Charaf, Stella Nyanzi and Oksana Stomina address the subjectivities of flight as well as common pathways marked by biographical timekeeping, power structures of border-making, and precarious solidarities in Germany.

Recursive Scenes, Approaching Figures
With Aziz Hazara and Taqi Akhlaqi, moderated by Natasha Ginwala

20:15 – 21:15 Screening and Conversation, Main Stage

Centering the landscape of Kabul, this conversation with artist Aziz Hazara and author Taqi Akhlaqi will include film segments and a live reading. Traversing anecdotes and common experiences of militaristic intervention, everyday living amidst surveillance architectures, and how forced exodus has impacted different generations. Their sonic and oral accounts offer creative approaches to enter into realms of fiction and subjective chronicles in an era of rampant erasure and rewriting under NATO intervention, the oppression of warlords, and Taliban takeover.

24 June 2023

Sudan - a sonic reminiscence by Habibi Funk
With Larissa Fuhrmann and Muhammad Salah Abdulaziz

17:00 – 17:30 Playlist, Foyer
19:15 – 20:00 Listening Session, Main Stage
21:30 – 22:15 Listening Session, Main Stage

This listening session accompanied with rare video recordings focuses on Sudanese music particularly jazz, soul, and funk blending political lyrics composed over decades prior to the military coup in 1989 that gave rise to a 30-year dictatorship under Omar al-Bashir. Habibi Funk is committed to re-release and preserve these sonic legacies and will highlight bands like Kamal Keila, Sharhabeel Ahmed, The Scorpions, and Saif Abubakr. Since the war broke out in the country on April 15, 2023, two rival armed groups have been systematically destroying the urban center of Khartoum, including universities, libraries, archives, and civilian houses. Keeping Sudan's artistic and musical history alive is part of the ongoing struggle against military dictatorship and political violence.

C.V. by Viviana Medina Medina
With Sara Claire Wray followed by a conversation, moderated by Magnus Elias Rosengarten

17:30 – 18:10 Performance Lecture, Main Stage (In German and Spanish, English translation available as PDF download)
18:15 – 18:45 Conversation, Main Stage (In English)

C.V. offers private insights into the letters that C. receives from his family in Cuba to the former GDR. While the Cold-War led regime crumbles overnight the many migrant movements and lives connected to the country threaten to disappear. V. the daughter, as the family’s archivist, stores these unseen moments, encounters and new relationships that unfolded in East Germany. C.V. excavates the epistolary exchange via two performers, Joyce Sanhá and Sara Claire Wray, as a way to commemorate the many lifelines of “Vertragsarbeiter*innen” (contractual workers) in the former East. Medina's lecture performance foregrounds a Cuban-East German perspective on exile.

Imagining Otherwise: Black German Authorship
with James Gregory Atkinsonand Karina Griffith, moderated by Magnus Elias Rosengarten

20:15 – 21:15 Screening and Conversation, Main Stage

Artists and curators James Gregory Atkinson and Karina Griffith trace the persistence of anti-blackness in Germany's societal structures and public consciousness, especially through filmic work, community dialogues, and archival labour. Atkinson’s “time capsules'' disclose Black legacies in Germany dating back to the Prussian Empire and narrate, for example, the life of orchestra conductor Gustav Sabac el Cher or the film character Toxi, emblematic for the so called “Besatzungskinder”, children of white German mothers and Black American GI’s in post-Nazi Germany. Griffith’s work attends to colonial disruptions and ways in which pursuits of healing and reparations can unfold through alliances amidst creative communities. Her method of “speculative curatorship” offers a visionary approach to curatorial processes by filling archival gaps in German cinema history through activating imaginative powers in order to restore Black authorship and expanding grammars of spectatorship.


Taqi Akhlaqi, James Gregory Atkinson, Kholoud Charaf, Tobias Diener and Ina Herkenhoff, Lamin Fofana, Habibi Funk, Karina Griffith, Aziz Hazara, Viviana Medina Medina, Stella Nyanzi,Oksana Stomina and others

An event by the Berliner Festspiele as part of the festival “Performing Exiles” presented in cooperation with the Akademie der Künste, Berlin

The discourse programme is supported by Allianz Foundation and the Federal Agency for Civic Education