Ahlam Shibli احلام شبلي

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© Ahlam Shibli


Nordhessen, Germany, 2016–17
series of 53 photographs, 40 × 26,7 cm; 40 × 60 cm; 60 × 40 cm; 100 × 66,7 cm; 66,7 x 100 cm, chromogenic prints

To John Berger

Home is an appropriated space. It does not exist objectively in reality. The notion of "home" is a fiction we create out of a need to belong. Home is a place where most people have never been to and never will arrive at. Except below that patch of mound that has a number you notice as you glide past on your way to nowhere anywhere.

—Santu Mofokeng

The work Heimat (Home) refers to two large and diverse groups of people who migrated to Kassel and the surrounding area at different times, for different reasons, under different circumstances, and with different expectations. One group are expellees and refugees (Heimatvertriebene and Flüchtlinge) of German descent who were forced to leave their homes east of the Oder-Neisse line and in Eastern European countries in 1945/46 as a result of the Second World War. They had to separate from their belongings and environment and suffered devastating atrocities both before they left and on their way. Up to fifteen million people were displaced and hundreds of thousands of them lost their lives.

Guest workers (Gastarbeiter) from the Mediterranean region on the other hand were recruited since the middle of the 1950s to facilitate the German "economic miracle" after the war and ease economic problems in their countries of origin. They came by invitation, which did not however spare them and their descendants xenophobic resentment and violence. The most apparent case of this nature is a series of murders committed between 2000 and 2007 by the so-called National Socialist Underground (National-sozialistischer Untergrund).

Heimat is concerned with ways in which members of both groups of migrants succeeded in, failed at, ignored, or resisted creating a new home for themselves in a place they did not particularly choose for that purpose.

Research provided by Ayše Güleç, Emin Günaydin, Benjamin Kiel, Andrea Linnenkohl, Ulrich Loock, and Clara Sakić.
This work has been produced with the support of documenta 14 and the A. M. Qattan Foundation (Ramallah, Palestine).