Exhibit Presents ‘Private Photographs of a Forgotten Time’

East Germans in Mozambique
East Germans in Mozambique

A doctoral student’s collection of photographs documenting a decade of East Germans living and working in Mozambique will be on display May 3-10 in the Augusta Savage Gallery, 103 New Africa House.

The opening reception for “East Germany in Mozambique: Private Photographs of a Forgotten Time” will be Thursday, May 3 from 5-7 p.m.

Between 1979 and 1990, thousands of East German teachers, engineers, doctors, consultants, and others moved to Mozambique with their families as part of the Friendship Treaty with the German Democratic Republic (GDR). They worked alongside Mozambicans to train and educate locals. The East Germans stayed in Mozambique for two to three years, and many of them also traveled through the country on work assignments. They brought not only their technical expertise to the country, but also their cameras.

The photographs featured in this exhibition are part of Katrin Bahr’s dissertation on everyday life experiences of East German citizens in Mozambique during the 1980s. They offer insights into the lives of those citizens and the development aid work they did while they were there. These images serve as a counter-narrative to official images published by the East German government, which mostly portrayed the successful labor of the experts. The current photo series aims to portray all aspects of everyday life and they provide insight into ongoing colonial structures that were further supported by the concept of solidarity.

The collection portrays work and family life, excursions and leisure activities, and interactions with native Mozambicans. The images, taken by amateur photographers, were given to Bahr as slides. She scanned, enlarged and printed them for this exhibition.

Bahr is a Ph.D. candidate in the German and Scandinavian Studies program. She grew up in the former GDR and considers herself a third-generation East German. She lived in Beira, Mozambique from 1982-1984, along with her sister, mother, and her father, who was assigned to help reconstruct a local railroad line. Her personal life story and the missing narratives of East Germans in the discourse around the history of the GDR motivated her to pursue a doctorate in German Culture and History.

Regular hours at the Augusta Savage Gallery are Monday and Tuesday, 1-7 p.m.; and Wednesday-Friday, 1-5 p.m.

The exhibition is made possible in parts by the UMass Arts Council, the DEFA Film Library and the German and Scandinavian Studies Program.