With their hands in their jacket pockets, eleven young people run through the streets of Berlin-Kreuzberg. Some look straight into the camera, others to the side or at the floor. They appear self-confident and make it clear to the viewer: We are the bosses here!
The photographer Ergun Çagatay, who died in 2018, portrayed the young people of Turkish origin. They had their territory around the Kottbusser Tor and, after reunification, also got into conflicts with neo-Nazis from the eastern part of the city. Çagatay met the 36 Boys, who were closely associated with the development of hip-hop culture in Berlin, in the spring of 1990. The resulting images are now part of the exhibition Wir sind von hier. Turkish-German Life 1990” in the Museum of European Cultures in Dahlem.
“I just felt sorry for you. This country had failed to give them a decent life. They worked hard – and remained second-class citizens. Among the ’36 Boys’ there was only one who went to high school. The task of politics would be to offer people the opportunity to show what they are made of,” Ergun Çagatay is quoted as saying.
As one of the most well-known Turkish photographers of his generation, he worked for the Gamma photo agency in Paris and, as a photojournalist, reported on a refugee camp in Bangkok and the environmental disaster in the Aral Sea. When he traveled through reunified Germany in 1990, he documented the everyday life and living environments of the first and second generation of Turkish migrant workers.
This resulted in almost 3,500 photos, of which the curatorial team selected 107 for the exhibition: starting with the photos from Hamburg, where Çagatay started his journey in May 1990, the exhibition leads through Cologne, Werl, Berlin and Duisburg. Black-and-white and color photographs are presented alternately: a variation of dark mine motifs in Duisburg and the hustle and bustle of the greengrocers and fruit vendors that Çagatay photographed in Kreuzberg and Cologne.
The boundary between the private and the political becomes blurred. Photographs of people in the Fatih Mosque in Werl, of wedding parties and family portraits in Berlin follow photographs from the Hamburg Immigration Office and pictures of workers on the assembly line at Ford in Cologne.
The curatorial team attached great importance to the fact that the visitors find themselves in the exhibition and remember it, explains co-curator Stefanie Grebe.
“Two guest books were on display in the Essen exhibition. A look at the many entries shows that the photographs triggered a conversation between the generations,” she says about the previous station of the photo show. The children and grandchildren of the first and second generation documented by Çagatay have immortalized themselves in the guest book, while eight prominent voices from the German-Turkish community have their say in video interviews produced especially for the exhibition: writer and translator Yüksel Pazarkaya, and the Düsseldorf journalist Asli Sevindim , the sociologist Necla Kelek, investigative journalist Günter Wallraff, star chef Ali Güngörmüs or the former soccer coach Tugba Tekkal share their views on migration and integration issues. In the statements, the famous sentence of the writer Max Frisch “We called workers and people came” is quoted several times. Ergun Çagatay’s pictures tell exactly that.