Assembling Past & Present wants to make visible and give voice to people dedicated to ‘ justice’, ’empowerment’, and ‘decolonization’ in the present and the past. This ongoing project and growing and living ‘archive’ has been realized in collaboration with a network of cultural workers and peace activists and has been supported by Communal Galerie in Körnerpark and the Grassi Museum in Leipzig. It is anchored historically in the first International Women’s Peace Congress at The Hague in 1915, during which the participants, for the first time in history, came together to debate the socio-political, economic, and intellectual prerequisites for a future, universal, lasting peace. The participants of the congress formulated a set of resolutions meant to be addressed to all nations of the world, and which have lost none of their relevance to this day. Among other things, demands were made for the establishment of a permanent international court of justice and an international peacekeeping organization, worldwide control of the arms trade, and the establishment of regulated new world economic order. By overlaying historical imagery with statements and portraits from today, the boundaries between actors, places, and times dissolve. This artistic strategy enables different perceptions of history and seeks new perspectives for the future coexistence of diverse communities.
Concept and interviews: Mathilde ter Heijne, Lena Fritsch
Camera: Alexander Gheorghiu
Editing: Mieke Ulfig
Sound: Nadel Eins/ Franz Schütte
Organization: Vanessa Gravenor, Stefanie Bach
Thanks to all interview partners.
First Women Peace Conference, 1915, Den Haag, photo: Vredesmuseum, Delft.1/2
Photo: Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom: WILPF, Genf/New York
Lili Ilse Elvenes (1882–1931) wurde als Einar Wegener in Vejle in Dänemark geboren. In seiner Kindheit wurde er aufgrund der langen, lockigen Haare und seiner Stimme häufig für ein Mädchen gehalten und von seinen Brüdern gehänselt. Nach dem Abitur begann er ein Studium an der Königlich Dänischen Kunstakademie in Kopenhagen und lernte dort eine junge Frau namens Gerda kennen. Für beide war es Liebe auf den ersten Blick. Kurz darauf, in 1904, heirateten sie. Bald schon konnte das Künstlerpaar europaweit große Erfolge feiern. Während sich Einar der Landschafts- und Architekturmalerei widmete, galt Gerdas Leidenschaft der Illustration und Modegrafik. Sie reisten viel und zogen schließlich 1912 nach Paris. In dieser Zeit malte Gerda etliche Bilder, für die ein als Frau verkleideter Mann Modell stand, welcher sich Lili nannte. Nur wenige wussten, dass es sich dabei um Einar handelte, der sich zunehmend als Frau identifizierte. Wie in der posthum veröffentlichten biografischen Schrift Wandlung – eine Lebensbeichte (1933) zu lesen ist, wurde er mit der Zeit immer unglücklicher im Zwiespalt zwischen den zwei Rollen „Einar“ und „Lili“, weshalb er sich nach an einer körperlichen Anpassung an das gefühlte Geschlecht sehnte. „Seine letzte Hoffnung war, zu sterben, damit Lili zu einem neuen Leben erwachen könnte.“ Erfolglos suchte er etliche Ärzte auf, die ihn entweder für einen Hysteriker hielten, ihn mit den Worten „Scheren Sie sich um nichts, was auch mit Ihrem Körper vor sich geht“ abspeisten oder ihm prophezeiten „Nur ein kühner, waghalsiger Arzt kann Ihnen helfen.“ Jene Prophezeiung ging in Erfüllung, als er 1929 Kurt Warnekros, den Leiter der Dresdner Frauenklinik, kennenlernte. Dieser diagnostizierte sowohl männliche, als auch weibliche Geschlechtsorgane. Bei der ersten Operation durch Magnus Hirschfeld in Berlin handelte es sich um eine Kastration. 1930 wurden in Dresden schließlich zwei erfolgreiche geschlechtsangleichenden Operationen durchgeführt. Nach dieser Umwandlung zur Frau erhielt Einar neue Ausweispapiere und hie. nun Lili Ilse Elvenes. Bekanntheit erlangte sie jedoch unter dem Namen Lili Elbe, der ihre Dankbarkeit an die Stadt Dresden, welche ihr ein neues Leben geschenkt hatte, zum Ausdruck brachte. Zusammen mit Gerda lebte sie wieder in Kopenhagen, wollte jedoch für eine letzte Operation nach Dresden zurückkehren, um sich eine Gebärmutter transplantieren zu lassen. Einige Wochen nach dem Eingriff verstarb Lili Elbe an den Folgen dieser Operation. Auf ihren Wunsch hin wurde sie auf dem Trinitatisfriedhof begraben.
Pêdra Costa is a Brazilian-German Performance Artist and Visual & Urban Anthropologist based between Berlin and Vienna and working with queer artists internationally.
“Europeans have been socialized within this imperial system, with imperial bodies, behaviors, and minds, and in Brazil and Latin America, we have been shaped by oppression and sexual- and psychological violence. Normally we don’t have the means to step out of that.”
Isabella Baumfree (1797–1883) was born into slavery in upstate New York. She obtained her freedom and moved to New York City. There she began to work with organizations designed to assist women. She later became a traveling preacher and quickly developed a reputation as a powerful speaker under the name of Sojourner Truth. A turning point in her life occurred when she visited the Northhampton Association in Massachusetts. The members of this association included many of the leading abolitionists and women’s rights activists of her time. Among these people Sojourner Truth discussed issues of the day and as a result of these discussions became one of the first people in the country to link the oppression of black
slaves with the oppression of women. As a speaker, Sojourner Truth became known for her quick wit and powerful presence. She would never be intimidated. Because of her powerful speaking ability, independent spirit and her six foot frame, she was often
accused of being a man. She ended that in Silver Lake, Indiana when she
exposed her breast to the audience that accused her. Sojourner Truth lived a long and productive life. She spoke before Congress and two presidents. Sojourner Truth is best remembered for a speech she gave at a women’s rights conference where she noticed that no one was addressing the rights of Black women. Her address reads in part:
“Dat man ober dar say dat womin needs to be helped over carriages, and lifted ober dicthes and to have the best place everywhere. Nobody eber helps me into carriages, or ober muddpuddles, or bigs me any best place. And ain’t I a woman? Look at me. Look at me arm. I have ploughes and planted and gathered into barns, and no man could head me! And ain’t I a woman?”
Emilia Roig (she/her) founded the Center for Intersectional Justice in 2017 and has been setting up and running the organization since its inception. She is a renowned expert in the fields of intersectionality, anti-discrimination, diversity, equity, inclusion and more broadly social justice in Europe.
“I understood early on how a social system works. People live their lives in this system, and are like pieces of a puzzle, but are not able to see or change the system as a whole. Many people even accept the system as objective truth, but it is not. The question is, once you understand this complex system in all its injustice, how can you show it to others?”
Madeleine Pelletier (1874 –1939) was born in Paris and as a teenager, attended feminist and anarchist groups. By 1900 Pelletier was actively involved in feminism and socialist activism. She was originally trained as an anthropologist studying the relationship between skull size and intelligence. When she left anthropology she attacked the concept of skull size as a determinant of intelligence distinguishing the sexes. Following her break with anthropology, Pelletier went on to become a psychiatrist. In 1906 she was the first French woman to take the examination to become a psychiatrist. She was also the first woman to work as an intern in state asylums. In 1906 she became secretary of La Solidarité des Femmes (Women’s Solidarity), and established the organization as one of the most radical feminist organizations at the time. During this period she also helped to found the unified French Socialist Party in 1905, sat on its national council until World War I, and represented the party at most international socialist congresses before the War. She worked for the Red Cross during the War, treating the injured from both sides. Her views in favor of birth control and abortion were closely aligned with the French néo-Malthusian movement, supporting the use of birth control and abortion by women; she also wrote for the periodical Le Néo-Malthusian. Pelletier wrote extensively on the subject of women’s rights. She also displayed her beliefs in her dress and social behavior. She wore her hair short and was known for her cross-dressing and celibacy. Her actions were perceived by her contemporaries as a challenge to gender identity. She traveled illegally to the Soviet Union in 1921, wrote Mon voyage aventureux en Russie communiste (My Adventurous Voyage in Communist Russia), first published in La Voix de la Femme (The Woman’s Voice) at the end of 1921, and published as a separate volume in 1922. She joined the French Communist Party upon its creation, but left it in 1926; following her break with Communism she embraced Anarchism. Pelletier wrote utopian novels following her return from the Soviet state, as well as her autobiography La femme Vierge (The Virgin Woman) in 1933. Pelletier was partially paralyzed by a stroke in 1937. However, she continued to openly practice abortion, and was arrested in 1939. Following her arrest, she was interned in an asylum and her physical and mental health deteriorated. She died within a year.
Talita Uinuses fordert die Anerkennung des Völkermordes an die Nama und Herero in Namibia, die Rückgabe von geraubte menschliche Überreste von Herero und Nama an ihre Nachkommen, und einer offiziellen Entschuldigung wozu unweigerlich auch Reparationszahlungen gehören.
“Wir Nama sind historisch immer schon Farmer gewesen. Mit dem Landraub in Namibia würde unseren Lebensgrundlage genommen. Viel geraubtes Land gehört nach wie vor Deutschen. Sie kommen nur im Winter nach Namibia, zur Trophäen-Jagd, und dann gehen sie wieder. Deutschland sollte sagen, es tut uns leid.”
Zora Neale Hurston (1891–1960) was born in Alabama, and moved to Eatonville, Florida, with her family in 1894. Hurston was the sixth of eight children of John Hurston and Lucy Ann Hurston. All of her four grandparents had been born into slavery. When she was three, her family moved to Eatonville, Florida, one of the first all-black towns incorporated in the United States. In 1925 she was offered a scholarship to Barnard College of Columbia University, where she was the college‘s sole black student. After graduating from Barnard, Hurston spent two years as a graduate student in anthropology at Columbia University. While in New York she became a central figure of the Harlem Renaissance. Her short satires, drawing from the African-American experience and racial division were published in anthologies such as The New Negro and Fire!! In 1927 Hurston interviewed Cudjoe Kazzola Lewis, of Africatown, Alabama, who was the last known survivor of the Transatlantic slave trade. The next year she published the article Cudjoe‘s Own Story of the Last African Slaver (1928). Upon receiving a Guggenheim fellowship in In 1936 and 1937 Hurston traveled to Haiti and wrote what would become her most famous work: Their Eyes Were Watching God (1937). The novel tells the story of Janie Mae Crawford, who learns the value of self-reliance through multiple marriages and tragedy. Also published during this time was Tell My Horse: Voodoo and Life in Haiti and Jamaica (1938), documenting her research on rituals in Jamaica and Haiti. Her novels went relatively unrecognized by the literary world for decades. Hurston died in poverty in 1960,
before a revival of interest led to posthumous recognition of her accomplishments. Interest in her work revived after author Alice Walker published In Search of Zora Neale Hurston in the March 1975 issue of Ms. Magazine. Hurston‘s manuscript Every Tongue Got to Confess (2001), a collection of folktales gathered in the 1920s, was published posthumously after being discovered in the Smithsonian archives. Her nonfiction book Barracoon was published posthumously in 2018.
The Blaue Distanz are Anna Erdmann and Franziska Goralski. They have been working together as an artistic duo since 2016. In their artistic work they are interested in queer ways of living and learning, lesbian realities, (digital) feminist perspectives, how to share knowledge, and what visibility means in hierarchical structures like the current political system.
Margaret Alice Murray (1863–1963) was born in Calcutta, India. She attended the University College of London and was a student of linguistics and anthropology. During the late 1890s, she accompanied the renowned Egyptologist, Sir William Flinders Petrie, on several archaeological excavations in Egypt and Palestine. This helped secure employment at the University College as a junior lecturer. She became well known in academic circles for scholarly contributions to Egyptology and the study of folklore, which led to the theory of a pan-European, pre-Christian pagan religion that revolved around the Horned God. Her ideas are acknowledged to have significantly influenced the emergence of Wicca and reconstructionist neopagan religions. Murray’s best-known, but also most controversial text, »The Witch-Cult in Western Europe,« was published in 1921.
She was named Assistant Professor of Egyptology at the University College of London in 1924, a post she held until her retirement in 1935. In 1926, she became a fellow of Britain’s Royal Anthropological Institute. Murray became President of the Folklore Society in 1953. Ten years later and having reached 100 years of age, Margaret Murray published her final work, an autobiography entitled »My First Hundred Years« (1963). She died later that same year of natural causes.
Katharina Oguntoye is an Afro-German writer, historian, activist, and poet. She founded the nonprofit intercultural association Joliba in Germany and is perhaps best known for co-editing the book “Showing Our Colors: Afro-German Women Speak Out.” Oguntoye has played an important role in the Afro-German Movement
Fossemalle collection,16, unknown women, Santander, Spain, ca 1915
Zora Neale Hurston (1891–1960) was born in Alabama, and moved to
Eatonville, Florida, with her family in 1894. Hurston was the sixth of eight
children of John Hurston and Lucy Ann Hurston. All of her four grandparents
had been born into slavery. When she was three, her family moved to
Eatonville, Florida, one of the first all-black towns incorporated in the United
States. In 1925 she was offered a scholarship to Barnard College of Columbia
University, where she was the college‘s sole black student. After graduating
from Barnard, Hurston spent two years as a graduate student in anthropology
at Columbia University. While in New York she became a central figure of the
Harlem Renaissance. Her short satires, drawing from the African-American
experience and racial division, were published in anthologies such as The
New Negro and Fire!! In 1927 Hurston interviewed Cudjoe Kazzola Lewis, of
Africatown, Alabama, who was the last known survivor of the Transatlantic
slave trade. The next year she published the article Cudjoe‘s Own Story of the
Last African Slaver (1928). Upon receiving a Guggenheim fellowship in In
1936 and 1937 Hurston traveled to Haiti and wrote what would become her
most famous work: Their Eyes Were Watching God (1937). The novel tells the
story of Janie Mae Crawford, who learns the value of self-reliance through
multiple marriages and tragedy. Also published during this time was Tell My
Horse: Voodoo and Life in Haiti and Jamaica (1938), documenting her
research on rituals in Jamaica and Haiti. Her novels went relatively unrecognized
by the literary world for decades. Hurston died in poverty in 1960,
before a revival of interest led to posthumous recognition of her accomplishments.
Interest in her work revived after author Alice Walker published In
Search of Zora Neale Hurston in the March 1975 issue of Ms. Magazine.
Hurston‘s manuscript Every Tongue Got to Confess (2001), a collection of
folktales gathered in the 1920s, was published posthumously after being
discovered in the Smithsonianarchives. Her nonfiction book Barracoon was
published posthumously in 2018.
„1915 mit dem Friedenskongress ist im Grunde zum ersten Mal eine Tagung in der Welt gewesen, die sich wirklich dem Frieden in der Welt verbunden fühlte. Wir hatten viele Kongresse vorher in Europa, die dienten aber vor allem immer dazu Macht zu verteilen. Durch sehr wenige Menschen wurde Macht sich selbst und anderen zugesprochen. Es war weit weg davon, dass Bevölkerungsschichten gefragt wurden, was denn ihre Interessen sind, was sie sich vorstellen, dass Frieden bedeuten kann. Daher ist der Friedenskongress 1915 sehr besonders und prägend. Insbesondere sich nochmal klar zu machen, zu welcher Zeit das stattfand.“ (3 | -25:40)
Aletta Henriëtte Jacobs (1854–1929) was born as the last of eighth children
of a Jewish doctor’s family. At the age of thirteen she started to attend
“The ladies’ school” which became a nightmare for her, and after two weeks
she refused to return to school. Aletta then stayed at home; during the
day her mother taught her housework, while in the evenings she learned
French, German, Latin and Greek. In 1869, for the first time, a girl had taken
the admission examination to become a pharmacist’s assistant; Aletta
Jacobs did the same in 1870. After some efforts she was also permitted
to attend classes at Groningen University. She received her medical doctorate
in 1879. During these years Jacobs became concerned with social
She began to practice as a doctor on the Herengracht in a small room she
rented. Through the leader of the Dutch General Trade Union, Jacobs was
introduced to other members of the trade union’s board. In the winter of
1880 Heldt made available several rooms in the union’s building, so that
Jacobs could offer a course for women to teach them the rudiments of
hygiene and the rudiments of caring for infants. One result of these classes
was that she decided to hold a free clinic two mornings a week for
poor women and children, a practice she continued for fourteen years
and which brought her in close contact with the issue of birth control.
Early 1882 she read about the use of the Mensinga pessary, which from
then on she always prescribed. She maintained her clinic until 1904.
In 1903 she accepted the association’s leadership of the Dutch Association
for Woman’s Suffrage and also worked for the International Woman
Suffrage Alliance (IWSA). Among other things she made two trips with
Carrie Chapman Catt to help women in their fight to vote. She travelled
to Austria-Hungary and in 1912 through Africa and Asia.
Claudia Tribin was born in Colombia. She is an architect, visual artist and educator. Since 2014 Claudia Tribin has been project coordinator and migration consultant at Xochicuicatl e.V., a Latin American women’s association in Berlin. She is a member of the Berlin State Advisory Board for Integration and Migration Issues. In addition, Claudia Tribin supports the Colombian Truth Commission in taking testimonies and in activities for reconciliation and non-recurrence. She has also been active in the Paulo Freire Institute since 2006, focusing on gender and peace work.