21. Juni 2019

Open letter from civil society actors on the invitation to tender for Werkstatt der Kulturen


Dear Senator of Culture Dr. Lederer,

we are profoundly dismayed by the invitation to tender dated 06/06/2019, of the Werkstatt der Kulturen. We are disappointed that you, as Senator for Culture and your Senate Department for Culture and Europe, have no interest whatsover in paying tribute to the transcultural and decolonial work done by the Werkstatt der Kulturen and instead are now submitting it to the competition as „Cultural Location Wissmannstraße 32/ Neukölln“.

In this step we recognize a hegemonic arrogance that ignores existing work and disregards civil societal efforts. Would it occur to you to tender the Volksbühne as: „Invitation to tender the cultural location Linienstraße 227/Mitte“?

With this kind of „cultural policy“ you make yourself complicitly responsible for the marginalisation and deliberate concealment of the city‘s migrant and post-migrant history!

You conceal the significance of a cultural venue where a postcolonial and decolonial culture of remembrance was practiced long before you were able to put a postcolonial culture of remembrance on the agenda of your cultural policy with the current coalition. As early as 2003, the Werkstatt der Kulturen began to deal in depth with German colonial history and continues to do so today.

Through your tender of the Werkstatt der Kulturen as „Kulturstandort Wissmannstraße 32/ Neukölln“ you claim that it is a neutral place without prehistory. For us, this is a clear indication that your Senate administration has not yet been able to give serious consideration to the Werkstatt der Kulturen as a cultural location.

Postcolonialism or decoloniality can only be understood in connection with strategies of empowerment and anti-racism: The Werkstatt der Kulturen represents a unique model in which people and members of civil society marked out by race are offered a space for empowerment. The Migrationsrat Berlin e.V. (Council on Migration), one of the largest umbrella organizations for migrant self-organizations, was founded in the Werkstatt der Kulturen.

The Black History Month is held annually in the Werkstatt der Kulturen. Since 2015, Refugee initiatives have been provided with spaces for self-organization. It is regularly requested as an event partner for countless migrant*internal self-organisations, including the initiative Salam Schalom, Amaro Foro e.V., the Neue Deutsche Medienmacher e.V. (New German Media Makers) and many more.

We are asking the Senate for Culture and Europe:

  • Which other cultural institutions in Berlin can claim such a long-standing and continuous involvement with the subject of colonial history and colonial continuity?

  • Which other cultural institutions in Berlin represent equally longstanding sites of empowerment and anti-racist practice?

  • Which other Berlin cultural institutions can claim a comparable close network with actors*from the most diverse marginalized communities?

Despite repeated efforts and offers of discussion on our part, an exchange at eye level has not yet taken place. Instead, the Senate Administration is presenting the civil society alliance and the public with a fait accompli with this invitation to tender.

We therefore demand

  • Suspension/extension of the tender procedure until a transparent, fair and participatory procedure involving various stakeholders* in the city has been secured.

  • Provision of resources for a new application process by creating a concept in which the expertise of marginalised communities and experts in postcolonial memory culture plays a decisive role. Here, the responsible community representatives are to be involved in order to facilitate a polyphonic dialogue.

  • Inclusion of the existing representatives of the Werkstatt der Kulturen in order to integrate the existing expertise into the further development of the Werkstatt der Kulturen.

  • Abolishing the structural disadvantage compared to other established cultural institutions that are not dependent on realising their programmes through third-party funding. The example of the Werkstatt der Kulturen shows that marginalised cultural work is made dependent on the acquisition of third-party funds, which devours human resources that are lacking for creative work and restrict artistic work.

  • The repositioning of the Trägerverein/executive association in a different legal form with a clear perspective for adequate institutional funding instead of temporary project funding. From our point of view, it is essential to guarantee sustainable legal and institutional structures.

  • The Senate Administration for Culture and Europe displaying openness towards a dialogue at eye level with a diverse, intersectionally positioned group of experts* who will be seriously involved in the conceptual development of the Workshop of Cultures.

We are also aware that the location of the Werkstatt der Kulturen holds great economic potential. The property at Wissmannstrasse 32 is located in the heart of Neukölln, directly connected to Hermannplatz. With a view to the current displacement processes in this neighbourhood, we ask ourselves:

  • Why is the Werktstatt der Kulturen only being tendered for only two years?

  • Are there sustainable plans for the preservation and further development of a transcultural cultural institution, or is the tender implicitly aimed at interim use?

  • What happens to the property at Wissmannstrasse 32? How is it to be managed?

As representatives of civil society who are critical of discrimination, we have a great interest in participating in the post-colonial and transcultural work of the city and in the future of the Werkstatt der Kulturen. We are ready to support the Senate Administration and other city institutions with our knowledge and expertise. However, it is essential to take seriously our questions and objections, which are not addressed to the Senate Administration for Culture and Europe for the first time.


Signed by:

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Kontakt für Rückfragen & Interviews:

Ed Greve

Telefon/Mobil: 0176 99 11 49 43