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We are just back from a week pounding the streets of Berlin – it was hot; 34 degrees one day!

That did not deter us from getting out and about every day for full days of sightseeing.

There was inevitably lots of history to absorb at all manner of cultural points. The Museum of German Resistance is, in my opinion, too-little known – both as a place to visit but also as a movement. I was very touched to read the stories and watch the interviews with people who had run interference against the politics of National Socialism and in many cases, lost their lives because of it.

Berlin is a sprawling city with many neighbourhood centers and you can find graffiti covered urban places as quickly as you might walk past a beautiful old church or a park.

Architecturally its a big mix of periods with a lot of Modernist (old and new) cement and glass – not my bag really.

It might just be me, but I found finding what art was in what museum a bit mystifying. We went to the Alte Nationalgalerie and found a range of old master kind of stuff and a little modern art – not what we meant to find but it was interesting.

Arnold Bocklin

On another day we found what we were looking for at Neuen Nationalgalerie which is really lovely museum of art.

Lotte Laserstein

It has a wonderful mix of art from this century laid out in non-chronological order but themed and linked.

Ernst Ludwig Kirchner

The description boards were superb and really gave a sense of meaning and context to the works of art and how they were created as statements of the politics at the time.

Auguste Herbin

It provided a broader understanding of how German artists made comment through their art of what was happening in their home country.

George Groz

And I always enjoy seeing art from a different perspective and culture; other peoples famous names that I might not have known.

Modersohn Becker

There was lots of art to be found and a lot of Protest Art.

The Eastside gallery is 1.3 kilometres of intact wall which is run as a free open air gallery and was the one thing I enjoyed the most.

Immediately after the wall game down in 1989 artists started painting political commentary on it and it is now a mixture of old, restored and some new pieces – all really thought provoking and visually stunning.

If you’re thinking of visiting, we stayed in Kreuzberg which was a lovely district in itself with lots of places to eat, drink, shop and rest.

They do say that one should travel to broaden ones perspective on life and Berlin did that for me.

Last weekend I visited the Britta Marakatt-Labba exhibition at Ikon Gallery, Birmingham. I went expecting to enjoy it but also came away really touched by the deep, unwavering meaning woven into the creation of the pieces and by the obvious beautifulness of the work.

Marakatt-Labba creates “embroidered resistance” art using embroidery to illustrate stories of Sami culture and mythology. The work appears gentle, the materials soft but the stories they tell and the meaning of the pieces is strong, critical and with deep roots.

These pieces use stitches and thread (as line and pen) to illustrate and speak out against colonialism, environment issues and the loss of Sami indigenous lands and ways of life and Sami traditions.

Embroidery is not the first medium you’d maybe think to use for protest art but that is actually where the power in it lies – it catches you unsuspecting through its beautiful and gentle crafting but presents a clear and dissenting message against unfair state management and offences against Sami populations.

Marakatt-Labba grew up in a S├ími administrative unit in Lainiovuoma, Finland and experienced racism and being treated at ‘other’ from a very young age. She has been embroidering these protest pieces with conviction for the last 40 years and we are only now finding her work in the wider world. I find that type of belief and unswerving commitment to ones own style and deep meaning to create, really inspiring.

In addition the work is exquisite – the use of materials is paired back to those that best represent the chosen theme so there is stitch, applique, screen printing, couching and cutwork but used only when it’s the best choice to do so and not as part of a cacophony of methods fighting for attention.

It switched me on to embroider better, use textile processes with more clarity, to become more knowledgable about past & present Sami culture and the impact of colonialism and to be happy staying in my lane creating my work as authentic to me with Britta Marakatt-Labba (now in the 70’s) as a role model.

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