Despite Berlin’s claim to counter-culture, the city has not escaped the TikTok invasion. The app has undisputedly taken over our lives these past few months (thanks coronavirus), but in Berlin, it’s much more than tacky dances and never-ending renditions of WAP. Here’s our list of the top five Berlin-based TikTokers you should be following.
photos: Gili Shani.
I first met Gili Shani when he took my photo on a Wednesday night three years ago in KitKat. It may seem ironic that one of the most famous sex clubs in the world has a photographer, but no evening by the pool would be complete without the sleek, black and white moments he conjures. Shani refuses to call himself an artist, instead insisting that he simply captures the atmosphere inside KitKat. His photos offer a taste of what happens within the fabled walls of the notoriously hedonistic space. However, his work simultaneously subverts the sexual nature of the nightclub, “What I do is documentary,” he says, “it has nothing to do with sex.”
I sat down with Shani at Alexander Platz for a coffee and chat about his time in Berlin, his work in KitKat and what he’s been up to during quarantine.
Because of the corona pandemic, many Berliners were forced to adjust or even completely rethink their careers. Having their professional opportunities or carefully devised plans suddenly wrecked, some might be considering taking matters into their own hands and going freelance. But what’s it really like to turn your art or hobby into a career? We’ve collected some expert advice from people who’ve made it happen before Corona hit and are now established in their respective fields. Read on to find some words of wisdom and inspiration from a wide array of Berlin-based creatives with fascinating careers, including a ceramic artist, a belly dancer, and a tarot card reader.
photos: Roger Sabaté.
One of the most rewarding parts of running iHeartBerlin is getting to know some of the most interesting people in Berlin. Throughout the years I was able to connect and make friends with talented designers, musicians, artists, as well as entrepreneurs, event makers and creative people with fantastic projects. They all contributed greatly to what makes iHeartBerlin unique and inspiring to so many others. And I am glad to be able to support them with my platform and connect them with collaborators and audiences.
For our interview series iHeartBerliner we sat together with one of those inspiring people of Berlin: Shani Ahiel, owner of Shishi and Yafo. We talked with her about running two restaurants in a male-dominated gastronomic scene, about life in Berlin as an Israeli and so much more. Shani shared with us her experience of building up a business in a foreign city, how life here feels like compared to Tel Aviv and what interesting encounters she made because of her restaurants. Enjoy the video below!
photos: Roger Sabaté.
Hannah Joy Graves has a magnetic presence which I have first registered when I showed up for a tattoo appointment at AKA, a Neukölln studio that she managed at the time. With Berlin being more of a village than its map might suggest, our paths crossed again when I found out that Hannah, introducing herself to the world as Cult Mother, began offering tarot readings – a practice that can only grow more relevant as reality becomes increasingly uncertain. As Cult Mother put it: “People are feeling disconnected and disorientated and are discovering that tarot is a great tool for navigating confusion and uncertainty.”
But there’s more to this interview than cards. Hannah told us about finding her way into spirituality, how she envisions tarot as part of Berlin’s nightlife, and why the city continues to inspire her after she got sober.
With our previous guides about the cultural contributions of Brazilian, Syrian, and Vietnamese creative people living in Berlin (and many others) we have already shed some light on the benefits of living in a city that embraces its international community. With this new feature, we are drawing a wider circle by highlighting some extraordinary talents from Europe’s black diaspora that will come together these days for the poesiefestival Berlin.
In a time like now, it becomes abundantly clear that we urgently need to listen more to Black voices. And what better voices to listen to, than those of poets and thinkers. The online edition of the 21st poesiefestival in Berlin that will be celebrating its opening night today has a beautifully diverse program with talents from all around the world. But one event has especially caught our attention.
Congolese poet Fiston Mwanza Mujila has been mapping the poetry of poets of African origin in Europe for some time now, as he found that black poets are not represented enough in the European poetry circuit. He found a lot of powerful texts that need to be heard, experiences from Africa and Europe that need to be shared. For the event “Unheard Poetry: Europe’s Black Diaspora” he is bringing some of the Black poets he found together, and I think it’s really important we listen to them.
In this feature, we want to introduce you to the talented Black poets that will present their work in this special event, as well as a few other events from the program of the festival. With each poet, we included a link to the event they participate in where you can watch the live stream, or a recording later on. Now it’s up to you, to listen.
photos: Aja Jacques.
While the pandemic and the lockdown have been pretty devastating for artists and creative professionals economically, they certainly have not been lacking in being an inspiration. In the last weeks, we received quite wonderful submissions from photographers and artists all dealing with the different aspects of the pandemic and how they influence our life, among them the Stay At Home series, the corona comics, and a curious techno song. The latest project we want to introduce you to today is dealing specifically with one of the measures to contain the spread of the virus: social distancing.
Aja Jacques is one of the artists from our Uncensored Berlin exhibition that we hosted back in 2018 and that dealt with censorship of artists through social media platforms. Aja was not only one of our muses acting as a model for several of our photographers, but she also exhibited her own photos. Her new project “At A Distance” is a series of analog nude self-portraits she took with several fellow Berliners in prominent public places – at a safe distance of two meters. We talked with her about the series and about how the quarantine has been for her so far.
photos: Lilika Strezoska.
History has proven to us time and time again that necessity truly is the mother of invention. In 2020 this saying strikes again, as these spectacularly unusual times have driven people to find solutions for the limitations that the wake of the pandemic has brought upon our daily lives. As the routines of our private and work life have been rethought, we want to shed light on ways especially creative people have found, to still exercise their craft. The no contact rule has sparked ideas, that allow our creative Berliners to pursue their passions even in times of crisis.
One fantastic example is Lilika Strezoska. The talented photographer has moved to Berlin one and a half years ago to study Communication Design at the University of Applied Sciences – way before the pandemic changed our lives. Given that we are all to stay home and facetime, rather than meet in person, she came up with a simple solution to still take pictures of what she loves most in photography: people.
With literally every single queer bar, club and venue closed until further notice and all Pride parades and other queer festivals canceled this year, it looks pretty dim on the queer visibility front right now. But all clubs and bars are closed and festival canceled – what difference does it make, you might wonder? Of course, every nightlife and cultural space has its importance – but for the queer community these places and events are not just for fun and socializing, they are important platforms for activism and for the fight for acceptance and equality. There is still a lot of homophobia and transphobia in the world, even here in Berlin. Queer visibility is an important act against those nasty phobias – and for queers to disappear into quarantine behind locked doors and behind anonymous masks is quite the setback.
Musician, stage performer, editor, and Berlin’s only real Diva Kaey has come up with a clever plan on how queer visibility can continue in a creative way in times of Corona. For over a month now, she has taken the time during the quarantine to sew hundreds of colorful facemasks with rainbows, sequins, and Tom of Finland prints for the queer community. This way we can be out and proud every day when we’re complying with the new face mask rules in the city.
Berliners and their apartments continue to serve as an inspiration to numerous projects, including this recent photography series portraying Berliners through their windows in times of Corona. But now more than ever, we especially need projects that aim to connect people. That’s the goal of Nomads at home – an online network for quarantined Berliners which collects their various definitions of home.
Nomads at home is a project created by the architect Zuzanna Kotecka. It’s an online space for quarantined Berliners to showcase their idea of home and connect with others, with the aim to establish ”a network of people that support each other, personally and professionally.” Each entry on the website features a particular Berliner, along with their photo, job description, country of origin and an answer to the question ”What does home mean to you?”.