Stewardess to raise funds for South African and German needy with art from Berlin
(Editor: Alex Smit-Stachowski is speaking in her column about life as a South African now living in Germany. The South African journalist lives in Krefeld, in North Rhine-Westphalia/ Germany).
Lufthansa stewardess Claudia Retief (43) is a German-Italian married to an Afrikaans South African. She started the enthusiastic art community volunteer initiative, „Night of a 1000 Drawings Berlin“ and their exhibition in May will raise funds for less fortunate South Africans and Germans.
The „Night of a 1000 Drawings Berlin“ debut exhibition is on the 24th of May at the Willner Brauerei in Berlin Pankow. It is a once-off art sale to raise funds for a good cause. Be it doodles, scribbles, graffiti, sketches, watercolors or oil paintings – they are collecting A5 artworks to go on sale at the exhibition for 10 Euro each.
All the proceeds will go to charities in South Africa and Germany. A portion will go to Paballo Ya Batho, a soup kitchen in the CBD of Johannesburg, while some will go to the Berliner Tafel which collects food and redistributes it to less fortunate people. There might be a yet undecided third charity.
“The motto is to draw anything, with anything, on anything sized A5! The mission is that we want to make a difference and help a worthwhile cause while being creative and having fun at the same time.” Claudia says she has collected art work from all kinds of people so far. “Anyone can contribute – there is nothing such as ‘I don’t think my art is not good enough’. We have gotten work from artists, designers, illustrators, movie directors, kids, hobby artists, friends and musicians.”
While living in South Africa, Claudia attended the “Night of a 1000 Drawings” event in Johannesburg’s CBD which was a no-go zone then. The well-organized exhibition brought people of all backgrounds together. “It took place in a big empty house and one had to stroll through several rooms to get to see all the wonderful artwork.” She loved it so much, that she wanted to introduce it in Germany so she spoke to the organizers in Johannesburg and the project was born in Berlin.
Claudia explains her passion for South Africa, “It was love at first sight or shall I say smell?” when asked about why she is so passionate about South Africa, “I believe in a country’s first smells – like a baby’s first imprint of its mother’s smell.” The beauty of nature and its beautiful people also impressed her. But the clincher for her was “Its laid-back attitude”.
She elaborates, “I was brought up in the North Western part of Germany, close to Düsseldorf. When I was in my late twenties, I felt restricted and boxed in by those German rules. Staying in South Africa made me realize, there is no other country where people ask as many times as Germans do: Do you think it’s allowed?”
South Africa made her understand people better and she felt comfortable. She adds, “Although it’s known for its crime, I felt free. Free in a mental way. South Africans of all backgrounds have been through a lot in their history and it has made them stronger, inventive and less bitter. You can meet someone smiling brightly at you, but when you listen to their stories, you ask yourself where they got their power from and why they have not given up yet?”
Claudia likes to draw and loves art. “Art is therapeutic – it is spending quality time with oneself, taking the edge off the duties of everyday life. Everything expressed in a drawing shows as an immediate result. Even if you don’t like the art work yourself, some other person might like it and find it interesting.”
The „Night of a 1000 Drawings Berlin“ Facebook page keeps the followers informed about possible doodle sessions. “We organize scribble-gatherings where we provide the art material and people can join us for a live drawing evening. We had one in a gallery and one at a beer garden. It was supported by fine tunes from a DJ, a pencil in one hand and a glass of wine or a bottle of beer in the other.”
All money spent for organizing the art exhibition and props, “will be paid for out of our own pockets,” Claudia explained. “We have decided to try and get donations for such things like the venue, drawings and art material, PA for the band, printers etc. The exhibition where people can buy the art is a kind of crowd funding.”
She and her music industry husband have been living in Berlin for four years. “Berlin reminds me of South Africa in that anything is possible. People here are less mainstream and open to new ideas, opportunities and trends. Berlin offers the comfort of a German town with lots of influence and diversity from other countries.” Claudia finds that Berlin offers a great life quality for their needs. “We don’t have a car, we call a small flat our home, but we are entirely happy and we feel part of the “Kiez” (neighborhood) without having to party until the light comes up.”
She concluded with, “We are striving to collect and exhibit 1000 drawings. So help us collect them. We need many more.”