By John Owoo
(In Accra – Ghana)
A three-day event comprising a photo exhibition, book reading and a panel discussion that examined issues relating to migration and re-migration ended last week at the Goethe-Institut in Accra.
Physicist, Dr. Martin Egblewogbe engaged German author Jenny Erpenbeck on her book “Go Went Gone”, alongside an exhibition titled “No Man’s Land” by Katharina Behling and a panel discussion comprising representatives from the Ghanaian-German Centre, Adventist Development and Relief Agency as well as two Ghanaian returnees from Germany.
Photos by Berlin based Behling, which are currently on display at the Institut, vividly portray diverse narratives and authentic emotions – in real life situations – together with personal and collective chronicles that focus on people and social contexts.
Indeed, emotive and un-emotive photos intensely portray the challenges of migrants as they travel through the Sahara desert, detentions, torture and abuse in Libya, risky trips on the Mediterranean Sea and the frustrations / uncertainties after arrival in Europe.
The images draw the attention of the viewer to the harsh economic conditions in developing countries while bringing memories of the massive loss of life through the use of rickety boats thereby turning the Mediterranean into a sea of death.
Behling, whose work has been published in magazine and book formats, has received diverse awards and has been supported by funding agencies including DAAD, Käthe-Dorsch-und-Agnes-Straub-Stiftung Berlin and Stiftung Kulturwerk der VG Bild-Kunst.
A 2018 Puterbaugh Fellow, Erpenbeck’s “Go, Went, Gone”, alludes to the fact that the word “displacement” has become a reality to millions of people owing to a number of factors that are currently afflicting the world.
Undeniably, it also recalls departures from countries racked by war and poverty, desperate and hazardous journeys on the Mediterranean Sea and eventual frustration from a bureaucratic process that refuses to allow them to be recognized and their stay regularized in Europe.
Throughout the novel, the author is thoughtful while personal – indeed, national issues relating to culture and custom are brought to the fore through her characters as refugee interlocutors negotiate their relationships with one another.
In a discussion moderated by Nana Yaw Sarpong of the Writers Project of Ghana, Benjamin Woesten, head of the Ghanaian-German Centre in Accra and Justice Abbey from the Adventist Development and Relief Agency equally dilated on the issue of Migration and Re-Migration as relates to the work of the two institutions.
Two returnees shared thought-provoking experiences in Germany that culminated in their return to Ghana alongside re-integration strategies, procedures and support they received from these agencies and others.
The exhibition ends on Thursday March 31, 2022.