German Lesson is inspired by meetings with Austrian volunteers who were teaching the German language to refugees from different countries. I assisted in several of their meetings, where I met a woman from Vienna who had been teaching German to a refugee from Eritrea.
The video focuses on a session where the teacher asks the Eritrean woman to read a text in German based on some questions I had posed: How was life in Eritrea and why did she leave? What were her memories of her family and friends back home? How does she feel in the new country?
In the video, as the Eritrean woman reads, the teacher corrects her pronunciation.The dynamics of the relationship between ‘teacher’ and ‘student’ in this video, are intended as a metaphor for how alterity is dealt with in ‘developed’ Europe. The desire to integrate “the other” within the normative identity of “the self” — which in this video is displayed by the corrective voice of the invisible teacher — highlighting the limits of multiculturalism in Europe today, where cultural borders, i.e. difference, are attempted to be effaced.
Matilda Odobashi is a visual artist based in Tirana, Albania, interested in social and cultural displacement and their effects on society.