EXCERPTS FROM THE LATEST OKWUI ENWEZOR INTERVIEW.
SPIEGEL: What do you notice?
Enwezor: The political climate in this country is causing many people to give up everything that has been achieved in the past decades.
And you can see that most clearly in dealing with the refugees. When I was appointed head of Documenta in Kassel in 1998, Germany was then arguing about dual citizenship.
But today’s debate, the level of hostility, is really dangerous.
Cultural institutions have to take a stand against the other values. One should not hand art over to the populists.
SPIEGEL: You were a refugee yourself as a child. Nigeria was in civil war at the end of the 1960s, and your family fled from one place to another.
Enwezor: That’s something you never forget.
Especially if you have experienced that as a young person, you will never get over it.
This feeling of being constantly in danger of being hunted. Today, tomorrow, the day after. It was very dramatic, but my family survived, at least my smaller circle. Two million people died at that time.
Today we see so many new catastrophes, Syria is just one of them, and when I hear how refugees are being talked about and how some of them just want to capitalize on it, that’s shattering for me.
Here, not far from my apartment, Pegida supporters marched through the streets every Monday night. I often was coming from work and I saw them.
That basically clarified my position here, as an African in a predominantly monocultural city, I am one who stands out. And then you ask yourself, can you feel safe?
Who will help you if something happens to you? It’s just something that goes through your head.
SPIEGEL: As a director at the Haus der Kunst, have you become the victim of a political climate?
Enwezor: Basically, I do not see myself as a victim of anything. But it is quite conceivable that my origin, even my appearance, leads some to make projections.
I observe very well how I am devalued culturally.
SPIEGEL: How do you determine that?
Enwezor: In the way people talk about me, the way communication from official places targets me, it also finds an echo in the newspapers.
There I read that the next director has to speak German. On the other hand I am reproached for not mastering the German language.
This is frighteningly overemphasized. Some people do not even bother to pronounce my name correctly, but they demand that I speak German.
It makes it sound as if I have to pass a language and integration test, but I do not have to, I’m not an immigrant, I have a Nigerian and a US passport.
I came because I was asked to. They brought me from New York and hired me, even though it was known that I did not speak German.
I believe that for those who now are now demanding one speak German, it’s not about communication but about something else.