One of the major highlights for me this year was watching our good friend Esther Perbandt, the iconic Berlin fashion designer, succeed on the new designer competition show Making the Cut by Heidi Klum and Tim Gunn. It was the first time for me to see someone I personally know on a hit TV show and it was such a thrill to follow her through the lens of American reality TV.
Those of you who have been following us now for a long time, know that Esther is very closely connected to us as we organized one of her early runway shows with our sister project Designer Scouts back in 2010 and co-hosted the two aftershow parties of her spectacular Volksbühne fashion shows in 2014 and 2017. She also curated one of our city guides for us showing her favorite places in Berlin. It is always so amazing for us to become part of her black avantgarde universe and we feel so proud of all of her accomplishments as a designer in all those years.
Caitlin Hardee, an American who’s lived in Berlin for almost 10 years, slept badly beside her laptop on Tuesday night awaiting results she knew would not come by morning. With the presidential election still undecided until Saturday, Americans in Berlin haven’t slept much at all last week.
Because Donald Trump hinted he would declare victory before all mail-in ballots were counted, Democrats Abroad, the overseas chapter of the Democratic Party, organized a “Rally in Berlin for free and fair elections in the United States” in front of the Brandenburg Gate on Wednesday to demand all votes be counted. Around 50 people attended the rally with little commotion, but police were present to ensure social distancing measures were followed. Emily Lines, the vice-chair for Democrats Abroad, said that only two counter-protesters came to the rally. One of the counter-protesters was not an American, but still chose to support Trump and was not wearing a mask.
Berlin is known as the LGBTQIA+ capital of the world, with its reputation dating 100 years back. The city welcomes all types of people, making it the perfect place for otherwise marginalized groups to feel not only at home but also celebrated and – why not? – normal. Its nightlife is famous for being open to all sorts of experimentation.
In the 24h+ parties, people from all walks of life express themselves freely and expansively. Everybody can exist, take up space, and move however they feel comfortable.
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.