The Berlin Wall stands simultaneously for struggle, divisions, unity, and hope. Once it divided East from West, but now all factions have come together in protesting that the longest surviving remnant is not bulldozed down. The Wall came down in 1990 – it marked the start of the process of German reunification, concluding officially on 3rd October 1990.
This month has seen constant protests from angry Berliners who want such an important piece of their history to remain; the Wall is not only significant in a historical context but it also forms the East Side Gallery: the open air gallery that features graffiti alongside profound and important works of art that evolve organically.
On 12th June 1987 Ronald Reagan made an important speech at the Brandenburg Gate, challenging Mikhail Gorbachev who was the General Secretary of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union to “tear down this wall” to increase liberty and to literally break down barriers:
“We welcome change and openness; for we believe that freedom and security go together, that the advance of human liberty can only strengthen the cause of world peace. There is one sign the Soviets can make that would be unmistakable, that would advance dramatically the cause of freedom and peace. General Secretary Gorbachev, if you seek peace, if you seek prosperity for the Soviet Union and eastern Europe, if you seek liberalization, come here to come here to this gate. Mr. Gorbachev, open this gate. Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall.”
Now, underneath the wall and in response to this stands an ironic take on the above speech – addressed to Berlin’s current Mayor: of the East Side Gallery: “Mr Wowereit, don’t tear down this wall.’’
The attempt to pull down this part of the Wall has met with much contempt and anger; a cynical attempt to perhaps cleanse Berlin of its turbulent past and make way for a complex of plush apartments. This seems to be part of a larger attempt to ‘clean up’ a city and repress artistic movements such as YAAM (Young African Artists’ Movement) as well as independent galleries and alternative art projects. Just as Berlin is finding out its true identity, it is now being forced to deny what has made it.