September 2017

- Greetings from Graefekiez -

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Like a village in a city and yet quite different – this is a Kiez or ‘block’ in Berlin. Without a centre or an official border, it consists of several streets, public squares and many residential buildings, mostly with a small shop, restaurant or café. A Kiez is so densely populated with thousands of people that even after a few years one is still as anonymous as if one is in a big city. But on the other hand, you know so many people from one’s Kiez that, like in a village, every trip to the shops results in a chat. How are you, neighbour? Have you already heard, the coal shop is closing! What, the household supplies shop and the junk shop as well? As yes, I see, the rising rents, the new supermarkets, the changing Zeitgeist. Unlike a village, a Kiez is constantly changing.

“Haven’t you always wanted to paint me?” said Atilla to me one day, the nice seller in the Turkish vegetable shop just round the corner. “Sure,” I replied, “I’ve wanted to do that for years. But since when did you have a free half hour?” – “I can just take the free time, we close the end of the month. And such a picture of me in front of the store as a memory, that would be something, right?” – I just nodded and the next morning I had arranged to paint Atilla in the back of his shop. As expected, the old fidgeter was not a patient model: "Marion, are you finished soon?” – “No, I only started 5 minutes ago. But you are already sketched.” – “Now I have to go to the front of the shop, Tamer cannot manage alone.” – “Atilla, there are no customers at all. You'll stay here. And don’t move: I'm painting straight your arms and legs at the moment.” – “Marion, I cannot stay anymore, I'm going now.” – “Better not, your face is still missing. The most important thing.” – “But quickly, I can’t take much more.” – “Think of something nice, Atilla, that helps, and keep smiling.”

Finally, the session was over –  and Atilla was happy, because he liked the picture. Afterwards, I painted the business owner Ayten, her children, my children, our neighbour Nadim, the puppy lady and a couple of guests in the café outside on the pavement. After three weeks, the picture was finished, the colourful life of our Kiez captured like a snapshot on paper. Briefly, time had held our breath. But it would all change again – as soon as just after the last brush stroke.

 

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