Vintage Hipsterby Ts'eliso Monaheng / 26.09.2013
Shoni, a sharp cat who grew up with members of The Brother Moves on in Kempton Park and is now involved in organising Str.Crd 2013, had been telling me about this Berlin-based female collective called eVe without Adam for the past six months. They’ll be appearing in the fouth Str.Crd festival in Jozi this weekend. So we chopped it up with three of the ladies from the collective – Michal, the Jewish stoner girl born and bred Germany; Dreya, the Romani intellectual who lived in New York before moving to Berlin; and Mayra, born in Ibiza but living in Berlin for the past five years – on issues ranging from the importance of making physical connections, to gentrification.
MAHALA: Please tell us a bit about what you guys are about.
Michal: We’re a female collective called eVe without Adam. We mostly perform on our website, and we’re here to produce an online magazine which we call Opposites Attract. We want to find out more about women who think like us.
Mayra: We’ve been going since 2010, and we mainly focus on pushing and networking and featuring international females that have any creative output. We’re here to collaborate with Str.Crd on, as Michal said, this on-line magazine to show the cultural similarities – but also differences – that women from South Africa and Europe have.
Have you guys been anywhere on the continent before?
Mayra: Well, I was in Johannesburg last year, same time, also for Str.Crd. But that’s about it.
Would you like to hit up any other regions? Are there other places in sight?
Mayra: I wanted to go to Mozambique, but that’s not working out this time!
Michal: We’re still going to Cape Town, so we’re going to see something else as well.
How central is the Internet and the connectivity of web 3.0 to what you do?
Dreea: A huge number of people wouldn’t be known as they are if the internet wasn’t there, but it’s really something that’s been created before the internet was big that allows you to present what you present on your platform.
What do you mean by that?
Dreea: Meaning all these connections. The offline work is still happening.
So offline is also important, hence these human connections which need to be made…
Mayra: As important as online.
Dreea: It’s ninety percent.
But how do you facilitate those connections with all the costs involved in travelling?
Dreea: We work, we bust our asses.
Mayra: But it’s also chance, and also maybe part destiny. Suddenly, you are in situations like right now where you meet another set of people connected to another set of people, which will reconnect you to the first set of people you met a while ago, and that is a pattern that stretches itself out and continues to repeat itself. The more people get together, the bigger the family gets, and that’s what’s continuously happening.
That’s cool. What are your thoughts about Berlin as a place to live in, and also as a space currently undergoing gentrification in certain parts?
Dreea: I don’t know if it’s the same for them because they also live in very different districts of Berlin that maybe don’t have such a big gentrification part to [them]. But the neighbourhood I live in used to have a really large Lebanese/Muslim population. I live in Neukölln. Now it’s really popular with Americans and Australians and English people…
Michal: It’s the new hipster district. I would never live there! I’m from Berlin and I would never live there.
Dreea: ‘Cause she’s from an area that’s already been hipster for 20 years.
So you’re vintage hipster…
Michal: No, I’m from West Berlin okay, which is totally not hipster. When I moved into my first apartment, I went all the way to the East, which was the first hipster area which [has now become] the new super-popular family hipster district. [Now] I live in Mitte because it’s a hipster district but it’s in the middle of everything; I can reach everything very easily. I can wear short skirts; I can wear heels and nobody [will be] spitting in my face. I grew up somewhere else already and I got that shit already, I don’t need it anymore.
Mayra: I guess that what she’s trying to say is that the district where Dreea lives is very masculine.
Dreea: It has different values, there are a lot of Muslims. So the main people on the street are men who smoke hookah. So of course if you walk on the street as a girl and you’re wearing high heels or a skirt, you’ll definitely get a comment.
That’s interesting because I see that type of behaviour a lot in South Africa, but have never really thought of Europe in those terms.
Dreea: We have that too, [and] it’s very specific to where I live. Germany has a big history of guest workers. Most of the guest workers that came and stayed were mainly from countries like Turkey and Lebanon, or they were war refugees. So they came in and also stayed, which means that the segregated population of Germany are mostly Muslims. There are these areas where it was really cheap. In these types of districts, ten years ago maybe, a non-Muslim or a non-white German would not really go. You asked about the gentrification part; in Neukölln where I live, it only happened in the last four years. And it’s very slow because the district is bigger.
Mayra: I’m not from Berlin; I’m not even from Germany. When I moved to Berlin, it took Berliners quite a while to accept any sort of foreign influence. It was also like ‘yeah, they’re not from Berlin’. They did not understand that what these other people coming from outside were doing was actually as positive for the growth of Berlin as what [they] themselves were producing.
Dreea: It’s the arrogance of the capital.
Michal, what’s your experience of growing up in Berlin? You’re sort of on the other side of the fence…
Michal: I think it is definitely capital arrogance. But on the other side it’s also…Berlin is a little bit [of] ‘you have to prove what you’re showing me I believe you’. So if I see a mask and I cannot see behind it, well…whatever.
How do you navigate this somewhat curated space of social networks and tumblrs yet still possess the level of consciousness which enables you to think for yourself?
Dreea: The internet is a guilty pleasure, you know? You can’t really describe it any other way. I hate tumblr, but I tumblr all the time. I think on facebook I’m really disturbing.
Michal: To be honest, both of them are cracks. The whole digital world – twitter, tumblr, facebook, they love everything! And they check everything everyday.
Dreea: I’ve lived in New York for a while and most of the phenomena that we see on the internet now is something that I personally feel like I’ve experience on-site first. So for me now everything’s like a reproduction; everything’s a reproduction of a reproduction…
Do you ever feel that the blogs begin to look the same at some point?
Dreea: It is absolutely the same, it’s very stagnated!
Mayra: But that’s the goal for us, to not be the same.
So let’s go into that, your work…
Mikhal: We check other blogs, for sure, just to see what’s on the scene.
Mayra: But we mostly do our thing.
What does that mean though?
Mayra: That means looking at what is happening around us and what interests us on a personal level and maybe trying to communicate and have the interaction with others about that subject.
Mikhal: I think Berlin is just a very big source. A lot of people come and go, so you get quite a lot already from being surrounded by the right people. In our environment – music, art, and fashion, and culture in specific ways – we get surrounded by it all the time. Everything that we blog about is what we see and what is around. The information we get from the internet is just an add-on, and maybe inspiration in another way.
So you’re drawing from your environment, essentially.
Dreea: Yes, definitely! I wouldn’t say that necessarily anyone does anything that has never been there before. But the interesting part of a reproduction is to also look at it from a different angle and to treat it more critically. Because we are part of something and we know that, even though I feel like I’m such a special individual and I feel like I’m such a crazy individual. At the same, there are 20 000 other girls that feel the same way. The second you start thinking [differently] from the way you look, or your mind works [differently] from what you present, that’s when it becomes edgy and critical and interesting. I don’t want to be just another girl running around with cool clothes on. I want to draw the attention, and then, when I’ve got the attention and I get to open my mouth and my mind, I want people to go like ‘fuck the clothes, let me get into her mind!’
*Eve Without Adam will be part of a panel discussion on ‘Women in urban culture’ on Saturday, 28th September at Constituion Hill (Old Women’s Jail)
** Images © Ts’eliso Monaheng