Path 6 – The View From the 21st Century: Berlin Women Rediscover the Artworks in the Bode Museum

The sixth path presents the multifaceted perspectives and inspiring contributions of 21st-century Berlin women.

To this day, the diverse achievements and successes of women continue to be heavily underrepresented in our society – and thus, also in museums. The Bode-Museum and its collections – which are intimately connected with the city of Berlin and its inhabitants – are no exception. This route is an attempt to help rectify this.

Impressive Histories and Fresh Perspectives

Since the Bode-Museum opened in 1904, the artworks in the museum’s collection have lived through a history of wars, division, and reunification, just like the people of Berlin. And like the residents of the city, they today form an integral part of an open, diverse and hospitable city. One whose diversity is also displayed in the histories of the women who live in Berlin who were interviewed especially for this exhibition.

Based on artworks they have chosen from the collections of the Bode-Museum or from the exhibition intervention Photovoice, in video interviews, nine women from very different fields and professions talk about their lives, their work, their experiences and their decisions. Their personal histories open up a fresh and contemporary perspective on the various artworks.

Trans Activist and Officer

Anastasia Biefang was born in Krefeld, Germany, in 1974 and has been an officer in the German Armed Forces (Bundeswehr) since 1994. She studied education, served in various leadership and staff assignments, completed the General Staff Course of the Bundeswehr and served as an aide in the Federal Ministry of Defence. She became the first openly transgender battalion commander in the German armed forces in 2017. She lives in Berlin and is currently division head in the Cyberspace and Information Space Command in Bonn. During her time of service she was deployed to Afghanistan twice. The activist is engaged in a volunteer capacity as the Deputy Chair of QueerBw and champions LGBTIQ* rights. Since 2020 she has been writing the column "The Trans Perspective" for the LGBTIQ* magazine MANNSCHAFT.

Physician, Founder of the Jenny De la Torre Foundation with the project "Health Centre for the Homeless"

Jenny De la Torre, mother of a son, was born in 1954 in Nazca, Peru, where she studied medicine until in 1976 she received a fellowship to study in the GDR. There she continued her medical training, completed a residency, and obtained her doctorate. Her great desire to return to Peru was denied due to bureaucratic reasons. In 1994 she began providing medical care to homeless people at Berlin Ostbahnhof. Getting to know these patients, their problems, and their fates impressed Jenny and motivated her to help them and to try anything she could to allow them to lead a dignified life. In 2002 she was able, with the prize money from the "Goldene Henne" award for charity, to establish a foundation that serves exactly this purpose. Thanks to the foundation as well as to many donors and volunteers, in 2006 Jenny De la Torre was able to open the Health Centre for the Homeless in Berlin. The goal of her work is to give to people who are seeking help a new perspective and an opportunity to get back off the streets.

Rabbi for the Jewish Community of Berlin

Gesa S. Ederberg was born in Tübingen in 1968. She studied physics and Jewish studies in Tübingen, Bochum, Berlin, New York, and Jerusalem. After rabbinical studies at the Schechter Institute in Jerusalem she received her ordination (smicha) in 2002. She works as a congregational rabbi of the Jewish Community of Berlin and is responsible for the Oranienburger Straße synagogue. In addition, she is the spiritual advisor at the Zacharias Frankel College, the Masorti rabbinical seminary in Potsdam. In 2002 she founded the "Masorti e. V. – Verein zur Förderung der jüdischen Bildung und des jüdischen Lebens" (Masorti Registered Society for the Promotion of Jewish Education and Jewish Life) in Berlin. She is a member of the board of directors of the society, which is, among other things, a supporter of two bilingual day care centres and a bilingual elementary school in Berlin. As a coinitiator, Gesa S. Ederberg is involved in the planned Three Religions Day Care Centre building in Berlin (construction start: 2022). In Winter 2020 she was recognised with the Louise Schroeder Medal for her commitment to democracy, peaceful cooperation, and the equality of women and men in all spheres, especially in religion and interreligious dialogue. She is married and has three children.

Deputy Director General of the Staatliche Museen zu Berlin

Christina Haak studied art history in Braunschweig and Münster and received her doctorate in 1999 with a dissertation about Baroque portrait in northern Germany. After a three-year research project at the Museum für Kommunikation in Frankfurt am Main, she was Head of Project Management at Museumslandschaft Hessen Kassel (formerly the Staatliche Museen Kassel) from 2003 to 2008. She then moved to Berlin and became Head of Project Planning at the Directorate General of the Staatliche Museen zu Berlin. In 2011, Christina Haak assumed the position of Deputy Director General of the Staatliche Museen zu Berlin, where as Chief Digital Officer from 2017 to 2019 she was also responsible for digital transformation within the Prussian Cultural Heritage Foundation. She has been Vice President of the Deutscher Museumsbund e. V. since 2018.

Head of Security at the Bode Museum

Heidi Kasten was born in 1966 in East Berlin and has a son. For many years, she worked as a train driver in the Berlin subway system (U-Bahn). She then started her own business renting charter boats, later working as the office manager at a large insurance company and then in the office of an auto repair shop. In 2018, Heidi Kasten began working as a security employee at the Bode Museum, and since 2019 she has been its Head of Security, responsible for a staff of 40.

Nurse at Frauentreff Olga on Kurfürstenstraße

The Frauentreff Olga is a drop-in and counselling centre for drug-using women, trans women, and sex workers that is located on Kurfürstenstraße. Basic care like laundry, showers, a place to sleep, and a warm meal is as much a part of its offerings as medical assistance and drug, legal, and social counselling in a number of clients’ native languages. Angelika Müller has worked here as a nurse for 22 years. She first began her education as a physician’s assistant at the age of 15, and immediately after obtaining this qualification trained as a registered nurse at the German Red Cross, where she worked for several years as an intensive care nurse. After having lived for more than ten years in Greece, she has worked since then as a nurse at Frauentreff Olga.

Model, Entrepreneur, Speaker and Author

Sara Nuru was in 2009 the first person of colour to win the TV competition "Germany’s Next Topmodel". Shortly after her first visit to New York Fashion Week, she travelled to the homeland of her parents, Ethiopia, where she was confronted with the poverty of the inhabitants. This experience awakened her desire for social engagement. Since then, not only does she support Ethiopian women with microcredit through her own association, nuruWomen, she also runs the socially responsible business nuruCoffee with her sister, Sali Nuru. In this enterprise, the sisters advocate for, above all, women who are still mostly disadvantaged in the supply chain to be able to lead autonomous and independent lives. In recognition of her work, the Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ) in 2018 designated the native of Erding as an ambassador for fair trade.

Junior Professor of Islamic Theology

Mira Sievers is a Muslim theologist at the Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin. She studied in Frankfurt am Main and London and earned her doctoral degree in Frankfurt in the area of creation theology in the Qur’an. In the process, she spent a great deal of time studying languages in Cairo, Istanbul, and Beirut. In Berlin, Mira Sievers currently focuses on Islamic religious instruction and Islamic ethics.

Choreographer, Dancer, and Director

Sasha Waltz studied dance and choreography in Amsterdam and New York. Together with Jochen Sandig, she founded the company Sasha Waltz & Guests in 1993. She is a co-founder of the  Sophiensæle (1996) as well as the Radialsystem (2006) in Berlin. From 2000 to 2004 she was a member of the administration of the Schaubühne am Lehniner Platz. During the 2019–20 season, Sasha Waltz, together with Johannes Öhman, assumed the directorship of the Berlin State Ballet. The development of innovative and boundary-transcending forms of performance and creation is an important focus of her artistic work, in which she draws a line from internationally renowned dance pieces through choreographed operas right up to pioneering dialogue projects. In her current choreographic work, Waltz is concentrating on the consolidation of collaborative processes, such as the synchronous development of choreography and music. In parallel, Sasha Waltz is engaged in the transfer of dance knowledge and in dance as a medium for social and socio-political understanding. Since 2013 she has been a member of the Berlin Academy of the Arts.