Joan Smedinghoff ’15
“I painted over the wall of shame so freedom is ashamed no more. Inferno ruled too many years, until the people chose the light. I put my faith in you, Berlin, and give to you my colors bright.” – Fulvio Pinna
On our second day in Berlin we went to the East Side Gallery, which is a section of the Berlin wall that was left up and artists have painted murals on it’s eastern side. It’s spectacular and stretches on for a few blocks. There were many different kinds of murals — some with beautiful scenes, some with messages of peace and togetherness, and some about Germany’s past or future. They were so intriguing that I found myself stopping and taking pictures at almost every mural.
One of the things I found myself thinking a lot about was the difference between pictures take from the western and eastern sides of the wall. In pictures from West Berlin, the wall is covered top to bottom in graffiti. In East Berlin, though, people were not allowed to come near the wall, so it stayed barren. In West Berlin people graffitied everything from their initials to anti-communist slogans, but the people of East Berlin did not have that outlet to express their frustrations because it, like so much else, was cut off from them.
After reunification, the East Side Gallery finally became a place for people to paint their images of protest and peace. The Berlin Wall represents a difficult time of separation in German history, and those two very different pictures of the graffitied and barren sides of the wall represent the the free speech that was lost in East Germany. However, I think that the East Side Gallery now stands as a representation of that free speech being given back to the people of eastern Germany.