Somewhere – Kurdistan!
Nations and Names
30 million people make the Kurds the fourth-largest ethnic group in the Middle East. But neither have they ever had a landlocked state nor have they ever been unified in their aim of nationbuilding. If you grow up being Kurdish you’ll belong to some other nation anyway. A presumptive state Kurdistan would turn out to be a nation of abandoned locals from a variety of time-honoured, dignified nations whose languages they speak like their mother tongue, whose traditions and collective memories they share and whose political ups and downs are – seamlessly – interwoven with themselves and their families.
Coming from the mostly Kurdish city of Qamishly, e.g., which is embedded in the border triangle of Syria, Iraq and Turkey, you know by experience that Kurdish culture exists in your community but that just the same this community exists in the national context of Syria. That’s what everybody from your community has been discussing passionately since the going has got tough, and which eventually means that you’ll either be squashed by the grindstones of your country’s upheavals or escape to somewhere else, namely the EU, where you are entirely displaced and doubly homeless. You have lost your Kurdish community which has been torn apart into hostile factions, and, moreover, you can no longer share and add to your nation’s history.
Kurdish communities – somewhere
Here you are now. You are nearly 24 , unmarried, your parents have died early, you observe religious rules, treasure fond boyhood memories of the Libanon, smoke sheesha and your eventful life has been brought to a sickening standstill. You speak Arabic, Kurdish and Turkish but that doesn’t lead you anywhere.
Where are you from? Tired of answering this frequently asked question about your nationality you draw out the country of Kurdistan on cardboard and take pleasure in the graceful borders of this new-born nation. “My name is Nader. I am from Kurdistan and a local of Qamishly”, you reply to the visitor, “let me tell you something about my homeland”.
Kurdistan – out of nowhere
Hi, have you been to Syria? I know, my home country is #1 on the list of dangerous places on the planet, so you can’t go now and you shouldn’t. When cutting out this colourful refugee map from my shattered memories, I tried to imagine Syria before it descended into infernal civil war. I heard my uncle speaking to me from the distance of several countries and he said: “Believe me, boy, Syria, and its cities in particular, were tolerant and peaceful places. Damascus and Aleppo, which are among the oldest, continuously inhabited cities on earth, used to attract visitors from all over the world. For ages and ages, various religions had been respected here. People of different faiths shared public spaces like coffee shops, art galleries, hammams, and you couldn’t tell who was Muslim or Christian, Sunni or Alawite, Kurdish or Arab. Families loved to be outdoors and had picknicks alongside ancient Roman ruins like Palmyra or close to The Crac de Chevaliers or in sight of the waterwheels of Hama. They cheerfully promenaded through souqs, buying ice creams or sweets at Damascus’ Souq al-Hamidiyya. Does that sound like paradise to you? It was, my boy, believe me! ”
I listen to my uncle but I don’t remember such pleasures. My family is torn apart, in fact, my entire community has fled to safety. All those foreign countries I passed through, afterwards I could barely identify them, and mapping my escape from Syria was tiresome. But now I am proud of my work, of my refugee map. I follow the line of the thread back to Syria, listening to my uncle and his treasured memories of peace in Syria.
Local identity and collective memories
Industrial spaces witness the profound impact of technical activities on people’s socio-economic history and presence. The uniqueness of the heritage left over to future generations reveals a lot about the local process of industrial change. Somehow, each site carries the value of a specific local memory. It’s present not only in the industrial space and environmental background, but just the same in contents, mechanical or technical equipment, in the industrial landscape, its architecture and literature. The everyday lives of different groups of people are ‘recorded’ in the industrial heritage and since everyday life is necessarily attached to a certain place, a kind of local identity clings to the site, even if decades have passed. Some exhibits in the ‘working’ museum Industriesalon Schöneweide, the historical centre of a once large-scale, most modern electronics industry on the outskirts of Berlin, very strongly convey such collective memories and a feeling of local identity.
A Microwave Brontosaurus
Developed in the mid-sixties, this GDR (1) microwave oven was produced towards the end of the sixties. It turned out to be the only GDR prototype – just 140 microwaves ever left the production halls. They were used in restaurants and canteen kitchens.
(1) GDR-German Democratic Republic
Using electron tubes in a microwave oven
The microwave oven was manufactured in a state-owned GDR enterprise, VEB Elektrowärme Sörnewitz. The bulky, head-high oven consists of a cooking cabinet and a large chamber for power supply. The electron tubes were produced at VEB Fernsehelektronik, a factory for television electronics.
Those were high-voltage rectifier tubes and magnetrons, initially being “by- products” of a GDR developing program for radar technology. The heat required is generated by the transformation of magnetic field energy into thermal energy within the food product to be heated or cooked.
Besucherzentrum Industriesalon Schöneweide e.V.,Reinbeckstr.9, 12459 Berlin