concrete panels and rusty metal spokes
from Kat in Berlin
I am walking on the streets of Berlin. It is hot. I am sweating. It is April 2019 and we are spending three days re-tracing a past, reflecting and mapping a future. Posters of candidates for the European elections smile at us as they look down from lamp posts, unknown yet welcoming faces shot against a series of brightly coloured backgrounds, reassuring. General message is “Together in Europe”. Many large blue flags with gold stars wave about from buildings. Cars revs their engines. Men with mustaches drink espressos. Women in heels navigate cobbled streets. We stand, we sit, we people watch.
My mind is constantly shifting gear. Sometimes into sports mode, sometimes just gently floating my foot on the accelerator, feeling the forces gently moving me, alive to the points of resistance.
In a few days I will put on my white shirt, white knee high socks, red converse, and blue chavdar scarf. It's Fallen Fruit time! Time to skip again, to re-learn a mega script, time to punch the air, time to dance, time to remember and time to reflect.
I am standing in the heart of Europe, as an European citizen. The rain above me is gentle and warm. The tarmac steams. We traipse the city and tick off yet another point where the Berlin Wall once stood. Sometimes marked by concrete panels, sometimes by bronze lines on the road. East. West. Invisible and hyper visible reminders.
A german couple in a restaurant start a conversation with us. They ask where we are from. I say Bulgaria. Ah yes, the man says and moves on, like - ahhh isn’t it great that the Bulgarians can afford restaurants now, so sweet. Then Alister says- Scotland. Bingo! Man tells us he used to work in Wick. It's like a test: he knows how few Britons know where that is. We pass. About 15 seconds on, the man says - “What a disaster!” We all know what he is referring too, so a discussion ensues.
This is a city that knows what divides can do. It looks back with horror, and keeps the reminders of the past to avoid repeating the same mistakes. Throughout the conversations around what our new friend called the 'disaster' (a term which also calls to mind the Palestinian an-Nakba), I was thinking about my forthcoming visit to Belfast. When I arrived in Britain, in 1999, the Good Friday agreement was already in place. I built my practice on the idea that speaking across differences, learning about each other and enjoying diversity is the way forward. Now, that seems a delicate hope.
I am re-learning my Fallen Fruit lines, the way I move, my pathways through the show, and it's a journey through my own past. My invisible history and visible body, an intersection of an east and a west. Two feet plugged in two parts of Europe- one furthest east and the other furthest west - a stretch to hold it all together. And yet so important to put both on par with each other. Two distant and distinctive pasts and history, histories of the oppressor and the oppressed, all within a small continent.
I am re-learning my Fallen Fruit lines and with each line re etched into my mind and visible on my body, with each step taken daily towards a bridge and not a gap, I am increasingly aware of the ever growing cracks, the ever growing walls, the ever present borders and the borders ever to be negotiated. My body - a bridge. A complex structure of the place I come from and its network of layered history that holds and the foundations I try and lay towards a conversation, a dialogue and path of acceptance.
I am re-learning my Fallen Fruit lines and I am ever thankful to be able to carve a space and a path for dialogue about difference, about two Europes, about love, about what we construct and about destruction, about bridges and mainly about listening to each other.