stories of displacement

„Displacement“ – unter diesen Begriff lassen sich unterschiedlichste Formen erzwungener Migrationsbewegungen fassen. Unabhängig von Schauplatz und Zeitpunkt des Geschehens bedeuten Deportation, Flucht, Vertreibung oder Umsiedlung tiefe Einschnitte in das Leben eines jeden, der sie erleben muss. Der Audiowalk I would always dream of my house - stories of displacement hat den Verlust und das Zurücklassen einer Heimat und die Folgen, die dieses Ereignis für den Einzelnen, aber auch für die nachfolgenden Generationen hat, zum Thema.

Lange bevor sich Shahana Rajani und Sonya Schönberger 2015 in Karachi kennenlernten, standen für beide die Auseinandersetzung mit den historischen Ereignissen zur Zeit ihrer Großeltern und die Folgen dieser Ereignisse im Fokus ihrer künstlerischen Arbeit. Unter dem Eindruck, dass das, was damals geschah noch immer nachwirkt und die persönliche, sowie kollektive Bilderwelt bestimmt, setzten sie sich intensiv mit den Flucht- und Vertreibungsgeschichten der Großelterngeneration auseinander. Während Schönberger in Deutschland Interviews mit Menschen führte, die den Zweiten Weltkrieg und seine direkten Folgen erlebt haben, sammelte Rajani in Pakistan Geschichten von muslimischen Immigranten und ihren Nachkommen multi-ethnischer Herkunft.

Im Audiowalk werden nun pakistanische und deutsche „displacement“ - Geschichten nebeneinander hörbar. Trotz der Unterschiede in Schauplatz und Historie geht es in I would always dream of my house - stories of displacement um das „Wir“, um den Austausch und das Teilen von Erfahrungen und Erinnerungen als Versuch, die Gemeinsamkeiten zu betonen.

Der Audiowalk findet vom 13.-15. Mai 2016 zeitgleich in Karachi und Berlin statt, wo die Ausgabe der Player am HAU2 zwischen 15-22 Uhr möglich ist. Hörbar in den Sprachen Englisch, Deutsch und Urdu.

von Shahana Rajani & Sonya Schönberger (Konzept und Regie), Annekathrin Walther (Dramaturgie), mit Dela Dabulamanzi, Mariel Jana Supka, Johanna Malchow, Yoshii Riesen, Sebastian Straub, Marco Wittorf, Hauke Heumann, Asad Schwarz-Msesilamba (Sprecher), Abeera Kamran (Design)

Eine Auftragsarbeit des HAU Hebbel am Ufer, Berlin, und des Goethe Institut Pakistan


The term "Displacement" comprises different forms of forced migration. Regardless of place and time, deportation, flight, expulsion and resettlement leave deep cuts in the lives of everyone who has to experience them. The Audio Walk I would always dream of my house - stories of displacement broaches the issue of the loss and leaving of a home and the consequences that these events have for the individual, as well as for future generations.

Long before Shahana Rajani and Sonya Schönberger met in Karachi in 2015, both artists focused in their artistic work on the historical events of the time when their grandparents were young. Under the impression that what happened then continues to have an effect today and still determines the personal and collective imaginary, they looked intensively into the escape and expulsion stories of their grandparent’s generation. While Schönberger interviewed people in Germany, who lived through World War II and its aftermath, Rajani collected stories of Muslim refugees who fled to Pakistan during Partition from India. In the Audio Walk the Pakistani and German "displacement“ stories are now juxtaposed and become audible. Despite the historical and regional differences I would always dream of my house - stories of displacement stresses the exchanging and sharing of experiences and memories. The Audio Walk is an attempt to speak about the similarities we find in humankind.

The Audio Walk will take place simultaneously between the 13th and 15th of May 2016 in Karachi and Berlin, where pick-up of the mp3-players takes place at HAU2, daily from 3-10pm. It is available in English, German and Urdu.

by Shahana Rajani & Sonya Schönberger (concept and directing), Annekathrin Walther (Dramaturgy), with Dela Dabulamanzi, Mariel Jana Supka, Johanna Malchow, Yoshii Riesen, Sebastian Straub, Marco Wittorf, Hauke Heumann, Asad Schwarz-Msesilamba (narrators), Abeera Kamran (Design)

Produced for HAU Hebbel am Ufer, Berlin, and Goethe Institut Pakistan

Berlin 1 klkarachi 1 klBerlin 2 klkarachi 2 kl

Displacement, regardless of place and time, leaves deep cuts in the lives of everyone who has to experience it. The Audio Walk I would always dream of my house - stories of displacement broaches the issue of the loss and leaving of a home, tracing the unravelling of lives faced with dispossession. Long before meeting in Karachi in 2015, both our artistic practices focused on uncovering the human dimensions of war and violence. We became interested in the escape and expulsion stories of our grandparents’ generation, to make visible how experiences of war continue to cast their shadow on the present. The collecting of oral narratives became our way to document and understand experiences of dislocation, of suffering and trauma, of painful regret and nostalgia for loss of home. While Sonya interviewed people in Germany and the USA, who lived through World War II, the Holocaust and their aftermath, Shahana collected stories of refugees who had fled their homes during the Partition of India and the creation of Pakistan. These events caused the largest displacement of people in the twentieth century and were accompanied by unprecedented genocidal violence. The coming to power of the Nazis in 1933 in Germany marked the beginning of a global escape, expulsion and resettlement movement during which around 40 million people were torn from their previous lives, uprooted and forced to make a new life elsewhere. Soon after, and also as a result of the events in Europe, the colonial rule of Great Britain in India ended. On 14 August 1947, the two independent states of India and Pakistan were established. This partition of territories, which gave statehood to Muslim majority provinces of British India, forced 20 million people to leave their homes. Refugee crises are routinely understood as only ‘temporary’, wherein refugees emerge fleetingly on the stage of history before being restored to a more settled existence. However, our project shows that displacement is a long and arduous process that fundamentally and irreparably alters the lives of those affected as well as following generations. For many, 70 years later, the violence of displacement is still on going. In bringing together stories of displacement from seemingly disparate historical events, we draw connections around the conditions, experiences and making of refugees across borders. While similarities in experiences of German and South Asian refugees are striking, we also acknowledge the differences of experience based on place and location. From the European post-war experience, the refugee emerged as an identifiable social and legal category in the world. However, excluded from the mandate of these newly written international refugee laws were refugees in non-Western parts of the world, including those in India and Pakistan who identified themselves as stateless. Mobility and refuge were not granted to the contemporary Indian refugees as basic human rights. Their peripheral location to the post-war international order left them in situations where options for seeking refuge and asylum were considerably more limited than their European counterparts. A politics of location continues to mark people today with differential legal, political and human standing, evidenced by the tightening of borders and criminalization of certain movement. With I would always dream of my house, we hope to link past histories with present situations in order to apprehend these modes of dispossession as a fundamental part of our modern existence. The liminal zones of indistinction inhabited by refugees of World War II and Partition, continue to multiply today. We live in a world, where an average of 42,500 people are forced to flee their homes every single day. Over 60 million refugees exist today, who live in limbo, belonging not to any country, but to the internment camps, where the dividing line between citizen and outlaw, legality and illegality, law and violence, and ultimately life and death are fatally blurred. Through tracing personal histories we attempt to understand this perplexing persistence of rightlessness in an age of rights.¹ The personal histories presented here have not written themselves. As artists and mediators, we have been intensely, emotionally and politically involved in this project. Through conducting interviews, we became deeply aware of the burden of memory – the unbearable grief, exhaustion and speechlessness of remembering. We began to recognise that remembering also meant reliving the past from within the present. This entailed a refusal of neat chronologies, as the past kept mixing with the present. Stories had no clear beginnings or endings. Silences became equally telling, as speech faltered in the moments when something too painful was encountered. We embraced this incompleteness, often even contradictoriness, in the stories as part of the process. In the Audio Walk, we reproduce acts of remembering as a way of disrupting dominant narratives and frames of war which continue to claim some lives as grievable and others as not. We create a counter-geography that traces the erasures and disappearances inherent in the violence of displacement. We centre lives lived on the margins, in an attempt to apprehend the precariousness and vulnerability of the human condition across borders. As Judith Butler explains: “It is not that mourning is the goal of politics, but that without the capacity to mourn, we lose that keener sense of life we need in order to oppose violence.”²

Shahana Rajani & Sonya Schönberger

¹ Borrowing from the title of Ayten Gundogdu, Rightlessness in an age of rights: Hannah Arendt and the contemporary struggles of migrants (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2015). ² Judith Butler, Precarious Life: The Powers of Mourning and Violence (New York: Verso, 2004), xviii.