…and then a strange majority of African passengers

Puis une étrange majorité de passagers africains … and then a strange majority of African passengers

On the day that I was born,
many of my stories came into the world.
— May Ayim (1)


In the summer of 1993, issue 8 of the quarterly “Revue Noire” published an article by Abderrahmane Sissako on his film Oktyabr (October), which was shown that year at the film festival in Cannes. (2)

‘October, October, sky, black sky, sky in which birds fly, more and more birds, ever more and ever closer and whose blackness proves to be only a thick smoke through which the camera descends slowly over a city which is, in reality, only outskirts, suburbia, with more or less abandoned railway tracks and immense poles running along the right side of the screen, and a birch tree wood stretching into infinity underneath the shadow of a city in November, Moscow.’

A bus shelter appears, ‘and underneath the shelter, which is different than those in the centre of the city, a group of people are waiting, not very many, but they are impatient, perhaps because of a first cold snap. They have no doubt been waiting for a long time, and then a strange majority of African passengers.’

One day in 1980, Abderrahmane Sissako and Afonso Baribanga met on a train from Moscow to Rostov-on-Don. The former is the son of Mauritanian and Malian parents, the other is from Angola. The two were among the many Africans who went to the Soviet Union to study after their countries were liberated from Western colonial rule. Before they could begin their actual university courses, all foreign students had to study Russian for two years, for which they were usually sent to Rostov-on-Don. Sissako went on to study directing at VGIK, the state film school in Moscow, while Baribanga probably pursued a degree in economics or engineering. We know more about Sissako, who today is one of the most well-known filmmakers of the continent. Baribanga, on the other hand, we only know about from a film by Sissako.

‘They are immediately recognizable amongst the few Russian suburbanites who seem to make it a point of honour – certainly unconsciously – to keep the necessary distance from any “alien”, as the Russian language calls non-Russians: a Russian to one side, two Vietnamese close to two Blacks, a woman sitting on the broken-down bench under the shelter, and an old man lying on the pavement. There is a long panning shot over the silent, frozen faces, finally taking in, as though by accident, an urban militia van seemingly lying in wait for some drunk or some citizen who has overstepped God knows what limit. When the van moves out of the shot and the faces relax, the camera, in a backwards travelling shot, shows that the man who had been lying on the pavement has disappeared, as if by magic.’

Sissako is describing part of the opening sequence of Oktyabr, his VGIK thesis film and his farewell letter to the country that was then ceasing to be the Soviet Union. He describes the scene how he imagines it, how he wanted to shoot it. The sequence evoked in the text differs from the completed film, however. Whereas Sissako had wanted to cut – or even zoom – from a wide shot to a close-up, the camera in Oktyabr is never close enough to the figures in this scene for their frozen faces or skin colour to be distinguishable. Only if you know what’s coming will the medium long shot of the bus shelter reveal that there are three black people in the group, but the ‘strange majority of African passengers’ remains a rumour, or perhaps wishful thinking on the part of Sissako. Elsewhere in what is no doubt an autobiographical note, he describes the loneliness that enfolded an African in the USSR, a loneliness that he shared with his Russian neighbours, without, however, closeness or even solidarity arising from it.

‘The Blacks’ world in Russia is a “zone”. That is what Chernobyl is called; and Tarkovsky’s Stalker uses that very name to say that right from the start, everything, absolutely everything is contaminated. Blacks in Russia are there to study, as is, of course, Idrissa, to whom the story is dedicated. Not a single African girl in Russia has found even just a friend outside the “zone”, and I know only a few long-time students who have found wives in one of those military-industrial combines that are called universities in Russia.

In October, Idrissa leaves the “university zone” for a few hours, to have a moment of tenderness outside, in Russia, in the large city of which he knows little more than the outskirts. Idrissa, for a night, lives the life of a Russian in the terror that is common to all Russians. […] And his story is perhaps my own.’

Prompted by Sissako’s reference, I watched Stalker again recently for the first time in a long time. Two moments stayed with me and continue to go around in my head as I write. Shortly after the Stalker, the Professor and the Writer have arrived in the ‘Zone’ and the film becomes a colour film, the Stalker calls his companions’ attention to the fact that flowers have survived in the Zone which have disappeared elsewhere, but that they have no scent. These scentless flowers, in turn, reminded me of what in my view is one of the most beautiful passages in Édouard Glissant’s essay, ‘The Known, the Uncertain’ (3), in which the landscape of Martinique becomes the starting point for an anti-colonial historiography of the Caribbean.

‘I remember the lingering fragrances that lay thick in my childhood world. I feel that then all the surrounding land was rich with these perfumes that never left you: the ethereal smell of magnolias, the essence of tuberoses, the discreet stubbornness of dahlias, the dreamy penetration of gladioli. All these flowers have disappeared, or almost. There barely remains along the roads, as far as smells go, the sudden sugary blanket of hog plums in whose wake you can get lost, or, in some places along the Route de la Trace, the delicate beckoning of wild lilies. The land has lost its smells. Like almost everywhere else in the world.’

This description of loss was written around the same time that Tarkovsky was filming Stalker near Tallinn and several of those involved – including, presumably, Tarkovsky himself – were exposed to toxins that later killed them.

‘The flowers that grow today are cultivated for export. Sculptured, spotless, striking in precision and quality. But they are heavy also, full, lasting. You can keep them for two weeks in a vase. […] These flowers delight us. But they have no fragrance. They are nothing but shape and color.’v

At the end of this passage, Glissant wonders whether the perfectly shaped, scentless flower ‘is the emblem of our wait’: ‘We dream of what we will cultivate in the future, and we wonder vaguely what the new hybrid that is already being prepared for us will look like, since in any case we will not rediscover them as they were, the magnolias of former times.’

On the only two trips I have taken so far to countries of the former Soviet Union, one of the many things I found mysterious were the numerous, usually very large urban flower shops which were often open 24 hours a day. Once in the middle of the night in Vilnius I came upon one of these garishly lit flower filling stations, as wide as a city block, and in Odessa, Kiev and Tbilisi I noticed that not only florists, but also solicitors, pharmacies, sign manufacturers, furniture shops and countless other establishments have a ‘24’ in their logo, although it is hard to imagine that they are literally open around the clock.

The other moment in Stalker that stayed with me after seeing the film again is the Stalker’s statement that in the Zone, the most direct way is never the shortest. The goal is reached only by way of interminable detours, which is complicated by the fact that, as becomes increasingly clear as the film progresses, the goal is that which each of us imagines it to be.


After his successful debut with Oktyabr, Sissako was commissioned to produce a film for documenta X. The online archive of the documenta contains an outline of Sissako’s project, a kind of treatment he wrote before shooting started:

‘In the next few pages I will set out some landmarks for a future voyage, which will take filmic form during the upcoming shooting of the documentary film Rostov-Luanda. These notes follow upon a few weeks of location scouting in Angola, several stays in Mauritania and in Mali, and also upon the memory which is at the origin of this project: the memory of my encounter with Baribanga, a young Angolan student and revolutionary whom I met sixteen years ago now, in the train taking us from Moscow to Rostov-on-Don. This memory is what impels the quest at the heart of my project. It will allow the story of the film to unfold on two intermingling planes: the narrative of an encounter with Angola and a personal ‘retrospection’ taking up some of the major threads of the African continent’s recent history. The choice of this narrative form will doubtlessly place me, in the course of this filmmaker’s journey, face to face with situations that may question, throw into doubt, or blur the imaginary sketch that constitutes a project like this.’

Despite the openness with which Sissako takes on his project, the treatment anticipates many elements contained in the finished film. Thus, on the location scouting trip he mentions above, he discovered the ‘Biker’, a bar and restaurant in downtown Luanda which went on to play a central role in the film.

‘It’s more than a bar (the oldest in the capital); it is a theater in which to capture the echo of the city’s daily life. This hulk from the early twentieth century and the two administrative buildings that surround it are survivals from the colonial regime, a condition that would seem to be shared by Roberto Passas, its septuagenarian proprietor, who inherited the bar from his father. We enter here by one door, to leave by another. The main room of the Biker covers over three hundred square meters, with three openings that give out on different aspects of the daytime and night-time life of the capital, like a compass indicating the city’s cardinal directions. These three openings are identifiable by the particular light that each provides. On one side is the activity of the market filtering through the entryway, with vendors making frequent appearances, bearing rare goods, products from the provinces or cast-off commodities gleaned through some unimaginable stroke of luck. On the other, the gaze wanders out toward a wide avenue, or welcomes the guests who come, alone or in groups, to seek the always forthcoming hospitality of Roberto Passas. I often saw a group of dignified women partially reclining on the ground on the threshold of this entryway, apparently indifferent to the surrounding bustle. What were they waiting for, in such a position under the watchmen’s shadow? Their dress suggested that they most likely came from a southern province. An enigmatic encampment: women whose vacant and resolute faces bear witness to the existence of a human geography whose movement, dictated by the laws of necessity and survival, reveals the presence of the country’s history and of its human landscape. A third entry, facing the bar, gives out to a narrower passageway, frequented by beggars and thieves who occasionally dare to enter the establishment – now with an eye, now with a few measured steps. At certain hours of the day the place becomes a canteen, a meeting spot where we can rub shoulders with soldiers, policemen, streetside vendors, beggars, doctors, and journalists. […] The Biker will be our home port. We’ll leave from there, we’ll come back there to leave again, toward new districts of the city, toward the provinces. It is a place for waiting, for congregating, for new encounters.’

The all-round openness of the Biker evidently had an effect on the whole film. Those who tell their stories, or someone else’s story, in front of the camera in Rostov-Luanda seem less like invited interviewees than people who just happened to drop by. None of them are specifically introduced, let alone identified in a caption. Almost all of them remain nameless, which, however, hardly renders them anonymous. What they have to say gives them shape, makes them distinctive, even if it is only a rough sketch. Behind our gaze they are connected by Sissako’s search for his friend Baribanga. Although no one knows Baribanga and his name is mentioned ever less frequently, his absence remains present, like a rumour. But the sketchiness that characterizes him, too, has the opposite effect here, making him into a template for ‘any one of us’, as one of Sissako’s protagonists tells him in the Biker: ‘I also studied in the Soviet Union. I could be him. But Afonso Baribanga?’ Only the specific name excludes the others, it appears.

In order to occasionally substantiate the rumour that Baribanga exists and that there is a connection between him and all the others, Sissako makes use of a photograph. It is a group photo of the Russian teacher Natalia Lvovna and her class back in Rostov. Everyone he shows the picture to gazes at it for a long time; most of them turn it over and discover the names of Natalia Lvovna’s students which she recorded on the back in Cyrillic script. It takes a while until we too have seen the photo often enough in this film to be able to memorise it. Natalia Lvovna stands in the middle holding a bouquet of flowers and smiling. The only other person holding anything is Sissako. Crouching in the front on the right, he holds a dark object that looks like a large cuddly toy. Baribanga is standing behind him, looking at the camera in half profile.

One of the people Sissako meets on his journey gives a thorough commentary of the photograph. He doesn’t know Baribanga either, but thinks he can identify the only female student in the picture as being Cuban, another man as Angolan, and another as Filipino. It’s a lovely photo, he says, because it shows a group of young people from all over the world who are studying together. The only pity is that they were studying in Moscow, where they were probably not taught much of use for their later lives. It is not quite clear whether he means that you can’t learn anything useful in Moscow or whether he is alluding to the fact that the people on the photo graduated from university at a time when the system they studied under was already on its way out. It is also not clear whether he is aware that one of the people in the photo is the man he is speaking with.


Rostov-Luanda is a film about Angola, about an African country that had just recently seen the end of a thirty-year period of war. The ten-year war of liberation against the Portuguese colonial regime was followed by a devastating civil war between the communist MPLA and the anti-Communist UNITA. It was one of the many wars in which people in southern hemisphere paid the price for the northern blocs’ finely balanced equilibrium they referred to as the ‘Cold War’. After the brief euphoria of freedom and self-determination, these wars ravaged most African countries to the point that they were ripe for the World Bank gag contracts which forced them under the yoke of the old and new colonial powers, for most of them until the present day. But Sissako proceeds without bitterness.

‘Angolan reality, on the one hand, is so mobile, so unpredictable, and so far removed from West African cultural references that an insightful gaze will have to search beyond the picturesque to detect evidence of the divisions that mark the country’s present situation. On the other hand, recent African history is expressed with unusual violence and confusion in this country, and perhaps even more so today, now that the end of the war reveals the depth of the impact that three decades of combat and wartime culture have had on the country and its population. In view of this confusion and violence, I will attempt to see the extent to which it represents not the particular conditions of the Angolans, but a destiny common to many African countries.
These few words no doubt describe a project of staging my own situation of discovery, along with a confrontation between imaginary and visible realities. Such a mediation by a clearly identified gaze, narrating its own discovery, seems necessary to me. From the very outset, this self-staging will allow for the inscription of the differences that make this story possible: the difference that separates French and Portuguese-speaking Africa, the difference of a man living in exile, of one whose aim is to render visible – to himself first of all – realities which have remained invisible.’

What Sissako did not know at the time was that his search for Baribanga would ultimately lead him to Berlin. The final scenes of Rostov-Luanda were filmed in Berlin, probably in October 1996. I recently discovered that there are at least two different cuts of the film, with one of them more than ten minutes longer than the other. Until then I had only been familiar with the shorter version (just under 80 minutes), available on video at the Berlin city library. I have borrowed it again and again over the past few years, in order to remind myself of a particular detail or to verify a memory that was starting to fade. The tape’s condition is deteriorating steadily; the image flickers and is distorted in places, looking as if one is watching through a transparent sheet flying in the wind. For a while now, a pale yellow stripe has been cutting vertically through the image for long stretches of the film, while the other colours seem to be slowly evaporating or, on the contrary, becoming abnormally lurid. It seems safe that while I am keeping my memory of the film alive, the life expectancy of this video cassette is continuously decreasing.

The day before he planned to leave Angola, Sissako meets a man who also studied in the Soviet Union and who recognizes a friend on the Rostov photograph with whom he is still in touch. They converse in Russian. ‘He just came to Luanda yesterday’ – ‘Here? Tochno? Is that true?’ In a certain way this is the first time in Sissako’s journey that the photo has been able to establish a real connection between past and present, between Rostov and Luanda. The director seems to be caught off-guard by his own undertaking: the here and the now have come so close together that what initially served as the pretext for the trip, and in the meantime had been all but forgotten, now suddenly seems realistic.

In the Biker that same day, apparently, Sissako meets Cassange, the man his previous conversation partner recognized in the photo and who may have information about Baribanga. Their exchange is shot from a distance with a long lens, like most of the scenes in the bar. It is a joyful reunion; the men laugh and speak in Russian. A third person is with them, for whom Cassange translates the unexpected scene into Portuguese. And then the question about Baribanga. Baribanga has been living or working in Germany for a while now, Cassange answers. Sissako wants to know whether he moved there before or after reunification. Before, Cassange answers, to the GDR, but now it’s one country: Germany. Sissako asks for an address and Cassange promises to look it up. Finally, the director wants to know what city Baribanga lives in. The question is left open.

The scene cuts to a bartender rolling crates of beer into the Biker, followed by a panorama shot of the sun setting in a hazy sky over Luanda. In the next scene, we’re sitting in the back of a driving car, through whose windscreen we immediately recognize the East Side Gallery gliding by, less colourful than it is today (which may also be due to the condition of the videocassette), but without gaps. Sissako sits in the passenger seat, fiddling somewhat awkwardly with a fold-out city map. We catch a short glimpse of the driver’s profile as well, when he leans over to point something out to Sissako through the window. The old warehouse near the Oberbaum Bridge can be seen in the distance. The car is just passing the spot where today the poison-blue mouth of the “O2 World” arena yawns, and it is driving east. The shot lasts only about ten seconds and answers the question that was left unanswered in the Biker: What city?

A traveling shot along railway tracks running down the middle of a street, filmed through the windscreen. Just ahead a walkway spans the street, connecting two buildings. The brick architecture suggests that we are somewhere in the old industrial quarters between Ostkreuz and Schöneweide, which at the time were largely vacant and in the meantime have become home to all sorts of businesses – off-licences, martial-arts schools, surfer shops, furniture restorers –, but which for the most part now belong to the expanded campus of the University of Applied Sciences. The next shot clearly locates the scene on the Berlin map: a close-up of a V-shaped, forked street sign allows us to read the name “Walkürenstraße” and, half hidden behind it, another street name beginning with the letter “O”. The narrow angle of the two signs suggests that it must be a V-shaped intersection, and a glance at the map allows it to be identified as the intersection of Walkürenstraße and Odinstraße. Baribanga lives in a neighbourhood where the streets are named after Wagner operas. The car pulls up in front of a house with the number ‘3’ on the door; Sissako gets out, walks up to the building and rings the doorbell. A short cross-cut shows Baribanga – we assume – on the ground-level balcony indicating with a wave that he will open the door.


This sudden visit with someone who has been here for a long time, who has been here the whole time. This abrupt cut to Berlin inevitably leads to a temptation which would perhaps be best resisted, the temptation to retell the story from the end, so that it can be told as my or as our story. To inscribe it, for instance, into a ‘Chronicle of the Fall of the Wall’, whereby recognition of the other and his proximity would also begin the process of his assimilation.

The unknown neighbour one has lived next door to for years without becoming acquainted is a serviceable theme. But it only leads us deeper into ignorance if it becomes a catalyst for a narrative that only revolves around our own cluelessness and negligence and how to compensate for it as quickly as possible. This lack of acquaintance, after all, may have been a one-sided failure, only mine, ours, not Baribanga’s, who may have been very attentive to me and the guests who came and went through my door; to the parties we had, and to the silence behind the wall. He knew where he was; we were the ones who didn’t know. It is even quite likely that he, an Angolan who studied in Moscow and then came to Berlin shortly before the fall of the Wall, learned very quickly to look and listen closely to what happened around him and how it affected him. The intoxication of the others will have made him all the more sober.

If Baribanga moved to East Berlin in the late 1980s, as the little information the film provides leads us to presume, then he must have learned a lot about his neighbours and the country where he was living. About what it means in Germany to have a history and to lay claim to this history. He will have read or listened to what little was written or proclaimed at the time about the murder in Eberswalde of Amadeu Antonio Kiowa, an Angolan like himself. He knew about the pogroms in Hoyerswerda and Rostock-Lichtenhagen and he may have experienced first-hand the cowardice and fear of German racists, the constant willingness of the “We are the people”-people to come together for a pogrom.

Now I have inscribed his story into a chronicle of the fall of the Wall after all. But this inscription turns the chronicle into a different one, and the fall as well; it becomes the fall as experienced by those excluded from the German blood brotherhood. In every law, as Jacques Derrida notes in ‘Force of Law’, a silence is ‘walled up, walled in’.xii And thus the various laws concerning immigration and citizenship which were issued or amended in Germany in the first half of the 1990s encase a silence. The silence of the contract workers of Hoyerswerda and Eberswalde, the silence of those murdered and beaten to death, who have since been offset against the new national identity. This silence is roaring in all of our ears. Why else do we always have to raise our voices when we try to defend ourselves?

Antonio Amadeu Kiowa was born in 1962 in Quimbele in north-eastern Angola. “Amadeu Antonio Kiowa (n. 12 august 1962, Quimbele, Angola – d. 6 decembrie 1990, Eberswalde) a fost un muncitor angolez, care a fost victima neofasciştilor din Germania”, reads the Romanian Wikipedia page, which along with the German one is the only Wikipedia entry on Amadeu Antonio.xiii He came to East Germany in 1987, prior to which he also spent time in the Soviet Union. If it had been up to him, he would have studied aviation technology in the GDR; instead he was assigned to work in the slaughter and processing combine in Eberswalde. The slaughterhouse, which was built on a greenfield site in 1977, is said to have been the largest meat-processing plant in Europe for a time. After partial closure in 1991 and bankruptcy in 2000, the plant was reopened under new management in 2002. ‘Today operations focus on the company’s core competencies (the production of cooked and raw sausage as well as cured and pre-packaged meats)’ and is now only ‘the largest meat-processing plant in Brandenburg’.

A typical post-reunification-trust-agency story, it seems, with a symbolic sale for one Deutschmark and millions in subsidies which quickly vanished, complete with post-reunification forgetfulness. The company’s Wikipedia page, which seems to have been written by their own PR department, states that employees were ‘recruited from all over the GDR’, thereby eliminating the more or less forcibly hired Angolan and Mozambican contract workers from the company history almost as fast as they were removed from the country in 1990 and 1991.

Today the Eberswalder Wurst Company is the sausage supplier of the ‘O2 World’ at the East Side Gallery, and while I’m compiling this story, I remember that the Eberswalde abattoir was an unlocalizable fragment floating through my childhood: my family’s (West German) construction company was involved in building the plant. It was the first and only project in East Germany my father got involved with, and he talked about it again recently when I was showing him Tempelhof Park on the old airport grounds. He recalled flying into Berlin Tempelhof airport regularly in 1976 and driving from there to the building site in Eberswalde with the West Berlin planning company.

‘Our landscape is its own monument: its meaning can only be traced on the underside. It is all history’ (7), Édouard Glissant writes about the Caribbean and a poetics that might approximate its history. But the impulse to apply this quote to every square metre of Germany should be accompanied by a corrective awareness. The problem begins with the fact that even the most critical literary archaeology in this country is almost exclusively restricted to European sediments, making only very rare excursions to Cairo, Windhoek or the Chilean highlands. The ‘explosive seeds of absence’ Glissant evokes were dumped into the waters that separate and connect Africa from the rest of the world over the course of centuries and until the present day. If we try to get involved in salvaging them, they will blow up in our faces first.


I would like to rewind one last time to the spot where Sissako is being driven past the East Side Gallery. If the Wall were lower or if the camera had been mounted on a crane, we would have been able to see across the Spree to a willow and poplar-lined section of the Kreuzberg side of the river, which on Sissako’s city map was still called ‘Gröbenufer’. Otto Friedrich von der Gröben was a Brandenburg colonialist who built Fort Groß-Friedrichsburg in what is today Ghana in 1683; shortly thereafter it became an important staging post on the slave trade routes. A whole slew of historians and commentators exercised their German correctness in establishing Gröben’s historical significance as they attempted to block a citizens’ campaign to change the name of the riverbank. In 2008, Gröbenufer was changed to May-Ayim-Ufer. Everything relevant there is to say about this name change, beyond the haggling over whether and how much this explorer of Africa, native of Napratten in the Warmia region, personally profited from the slave trade, May Ayim committed to paper in 1990 in one of her poems (8):

i will be african
even if you want me to be german
and i will be german
even if my blackness does not suit you
i will go
yet another step further
to the farthest edge
where my sisters – where my brothers stand
o u r
i will go
yet another step further and another step and
will return
when i want
if i want
and remain
borderless and brazen
May Ayim was a speech therapist, educator and poet. She lived in Berlin and was an important figure in the Afro-German movement which began to organise in the mid-1980s. She took her own life in August 1996, less than two months before Sissako drove down Mühlenstraße on his way to meet Afonso Baribanga in Berlin-Karlshorst. In 2011, a commemorative plaque in her honour was posted on the bank that now carries her name. At the unveiling ceremony, Joshua Kwesi Aikins, one of the initiators of the name-change, gave a short speech, beginning with a proverb he translated from Adinkra, the symbolic language once used in Ghana: ‘Go back and get it.’

In May I took the suburban train out to Karlshorst and, after a 15-minute walk, had no trouble finding the house where Baribanga lived. It was the first really warm day of the year, a Saturday. The streets were lined with lime trees, beeches and poplars, whose white wool was piled up in drifts like dirty snow and tickled my nose. I was amazed at how recognizable the house was, and even more so when I discovered that one of the names on the doorbell panel was the same as in Sissako’s film, where it can be glimpsed in a two-second intercut. I rang the doorbell next to the name. A woman’s voice came on over the intercom. I introduced myself as a journalist writing an article about a former neighbour of hers. The woman immediately fended off any request, claiming that she hadn’t lived there in the 1990s, only to assure me in the very next sentence that she didn’t know the Angolan I mentioned, that she’d never had anything to do with him. ‘We didn’t know him.’ – ‘So you remember him? Mr Baribanga?’ – ‘Yes but we never had anything to do with him.’ She suggested I make some inquiries at the university he attended.

Rostov-Luanda ends with the sound of the buzzer and the door closing behind Sissako, and the following voice-over:

Baribanga lives in Berlin, but not for much longer. It is the last station of his exile before he returns to his homeland. On this October morning I heard him pronounce, in the language we learned together in the name of old illusions, the word ‘return’ like an accomplishment: vozvrashchenie.

Tobias Hering

Translated by Millay Hyatt

Thanks to Barbara Janisch, Jan Lemitz, Jörg Frieß, Marie-Hélène Gutberlet.

Published in Marie-Hélène Gutberlet (Ed.): The Space Between Us, Berlin/Bielefeld (Kerber) 2013. The book also contains a photo essay by Jan Lemitz, who takes the same closing scene of Rostov-Luanda as the starting point for his very own commemorative research in Berlin.

1 – May Ayim, Grenzenlos und unverschämt, Frankfurt/Main: Fischer 2002, 13.

2 – Revue Noire (Paris), 8 (1993), pp. 4-5. Translation slightly modified.

3 – Édouard Glissant: ‘The Known, the Uncertain’, in: Caribbean Discourse: Selected Essays, trans. by J. Michael Dash (Charlotteville: University Press of Virginia, 1989), pp.13-96.

4 – Translator’s note: The East Side Gallery is a section of the Berlin Wall left standing after reunification and covered with commissioned murals. In recent years sections of it have been removed to make room for new development.

5 – Jacques Derrida, ‘Force of Law: The Mystical Foundation of Authority’ in Acts of Religion, ed. by Gil Anidjar (New York and London: Routledge, 2002), p. 242.

6 – This was the wording on the company’s website by the time this text was written, in 2013. In the meantime, the text on the site has been modified.

7 – Édouard Glissant, Introductions, op. cit., 11.

8 – May Ayim, ‘borderless and brazen: a poem against the German “u-not-y”’, in Blues in Black and White, trans. by Anne Adams (Trenton, New Jersey and Asmara, Eritrea: Africa World Press 2003), p. 48.