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#MauerStories: “Mete Ekşi’s death kickstarted our movement”

The Wall fell, but, as Giò Di Sera says, racism grew.

Graffiti artists Jayone and Giò in front of a graffiti in the early Nineties. The artists were activists against racism.
Artists against racism: Jayone and Giò (Photo: Koretzky / Giò di Sera).

Until the fall of the Wall, the part of Kreuzberg known as SO36, where I was active in the hip-hop scene, used to be an enclave of students. And, even more so, of migrants who had made their home there. Every corner you turned, this “Schutzwall” (English: “protective barrier”, the name for the Wall in the GDR) rose up in front of you. When the Wall fell and Germany reunified, it led to euphoria in SO36, too.

People were all the more disillusioned about racism suddenly flaring up. In 1991, a home for asylum seekers was set on fire in Hoyerswerda. And in the same year, 19-year-old Mete Ekşi, a Kreuzberger of Turkish descent, was beaten to death in Charlottenburg by three brothers from Marzahn. His death was, for me and many others, the impetus to found “To Stay Here is My Right”: a posse advocating tolerance. The group defended itself against racism with rap, street art, events and performances.

Graffiti against racism

Adrian Nabi, a graffiti activist, had the idea for a Wall performance at Checkpoint Charlie. With flyers, we invited the public to “Urban Art against Racism”, Futura2000 even flew in from New York. And then we and the international artists started tampering with a piece of the wall. Rainer Hildebrand claimed it for his Wall museum. Around 150 onlookers came — and the police. After the police left, we continued. The police wrote up a report. But we gave the first of many signals: we exist too — and we have every right to be here.

Giò Di Sera is multimedia artist, radio host, and founder of the charity StreetUniverCity Berlin e. V.

Translated by Aida Baghernejad


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