For those on the periphery




How far is the periphery from the centre?
Where does the centre end and the periphery start?
Can one exist in the centre and the periphery at the same time?

The concepts affiliated to the notion of the centre or the periphery
are obviously very much relative to the position of the beholder
and the perspective from which, as well as the prism through
which the beholder sees the world. The idea of centrism, which
is valid on a geographical, political, economic, philosophic, poetic,
or art level is thus much dependent on the authority and interest
behind the definition of who or what is in the centre or periphery
and for what reasons.

Take for example the much debated upon subject of the projection of the world map: based on the Mercator projection (maps still in common use today), which consequently increases the sizes of regions according to their distance from the equator and falsifying the dimensions of countries, Europe and North America seem to be the centre of the world and other continents like South America, Africa and Asia lie in the periphery, thus giving them a subordinate significance. The Gall-Peters projection of the world, which more or less, tries to presents equally sized of regions of the globe on the map gives non-western areas of the world their rightful proportions and placing them in the centre of the world. Arno Peter’s famous quote in his 1983 publication gives a hint on the political and social weight that comes with trying to redefine the “centre” and the “periphery”:

Since Mercator produced his global map over four hundred years ago for the age of Europeans world domination, cartographers have clung to it despite its having been long outdated by events. They have sought to render it topical by cosmetic corrections.

...The European world concept, as the last expression of a subjective global view of primitive peoples, must give way to an objective global concept.

The cartographic profession is, by its retention of old precepts based on the Eurocentric global concept, incapable of developing this egalitarian world map which alone can demonstrate the parity of all peoples of the earth.

It is therefore interesting to investigate possibilities of renegotiating the concepts of the centre and likewise the periphery.

The exhibition For those on the periphery will choose as its point of departure bits and pieces of the language, process and documents of the seminal Afro German poet May Ayim to reflect on being in the periphery. By re-reading the semiotics in this poet’s works and based on discussions, interviews and an examination of her book “Blues in black and white”, this exhibition project aims at presenting a series of interventions that interrupt and interrogate our relationship to the centre and the periphery. As a point of reference, For those on the periphery will catch a glimpse of the ideas and circumstances around the life of Ayim, whose work as a pivotal writer, activist and poet was a constant struggle to formulate a sense of independence and home for herself as well as for those who were labelled/ bound to be/ exist on the periphery. The exhibition claims in no way to be a scientific case study, representation or thesis on May Ayim’s biography but rather as a frame work of navigation for the exhibit.

The exhibition features artists from a wide variety of disciplines and backgrounds. Kenyan Photographer Mimi Cherono Ng’ok creates a series of still life photographs exploring issues of fragmentation, isolation and acts of repetition in everyday life, that function as a form of ritual. In collaboration contemporary dancers Raisa Kröger (Germany) and Cilgia Gadola (Switzerland) stage an intervention exploring issues around the body, and the familiar. German artist Ulrich Schaefer’s intimate and subtle installations investigate ideas of falling out of the frame – real and imagined. This work is situated in Berlin, a multicultural city, yet a city with a fractured history as well as an island and sanctuary for individuals that exist or once upon a time existed on the periphery and now may or may not have migrated physically or meta-physically to the centre.

The exhibition also functions as an intimate reflection of the artists’ interactions with May Ayim’s works and Berlin as a city, while also creating a discourse regarding identities that are continuously being constructed based on the periphery and the centre.

The exhibition is accompanied by a catalogue.