Page last updated at 09:41 GMT, Wednesday, 17 June 2009 10:41 UK
Hidden history inspires art show
By Rachel Broome
BBC South East Wales

Amanda and her design
Amanda's suitcase design was inspired by stories she discovered in Berlin

Whilst working on her degree project at UWIC Cardiff, textiles student Amanda Joynes made a surprising discovery which inspired her collection.

Amanda was researching the women in her family when she learned that her grandmother escaped from Communist East Berlin as the wall went up in 1961.

Her collection is based on the stories of escape Amanda uncovered whilst visiting the German city.

The summer exhibition runs until June 19th at UWIC's Llandaff campus.

Amanda's great-grandfather Herbert Muller was involved in protests against the Communist authorities running the Soviet-controlled sector of occupied post-war Germany.

He worked on the railways and at the time of the Berlin blockades he assisted in the delivery of food to East Berlin which was forbidden. He was forced to go on the run as the Stasi secret police were after him.

The rest of the family were interrogated by the Stasi and had to pretend they were going to stay. They had to spend the next few years waiting for word from Herbert that there was an opportunity to escape.

Although the East German authorities closed the border to the west in 1952, people were still free to travel between the eastern and western sectors of Berlin.

But as millions of people used this freedom to flee Communist rule, in 1961 they built the Berlin Wall to block this escape route and divide the city for decades.

Amanda's grandmother Barbara didn't know until the day of their escape that they were going. They were told they had to go to the station and follow a man onto a train but keep their distance.

Amanda continues: "'My nan said that one of the worst moments was when they saw one of their neighbours in a uniform.

"They didn't know he was in the secret police. If he'd seen them they would've been thrown into prison or worse."

They endured an extremely stressful train journey to freedom and because they had to leave in such a hurry, they were forced to leave not only possessions but also loved ones behind.

The interior of Amanda's case
The photograph of Amanda's grandfather is tucked into the east side to show that he was left behind

Barbara didn't get the chance to tell her boyfriend Dieter Wald they were leaving so he was left in East Berlin.

A few weeks later she found out she was pregnant with Amanda's mother. Barbara didn't see Dieter for 28 years until 1989 when the wall was opened amid the fall of communism.

When Amanda's mother first told her about her grandmother, Amanda admits that she was in a state of shock, but she decided she wanted to find out more about her own family's story and the Berlin Wall.

Amanda and her sister decided to make a visit to Berlin to get a better understanding of her grandmother's traumatic experience.

The inspiration for Amanda's final year piece came from some of the stories she came across out there. Some people made their escape by hiding in suitcases, which were then hidden in the boot of a car, so Amanda based her collection inside an old suitcase.

The miniature pop-up figures inside the suitcase are based on the toys and keepsakes that would have been left behind by those families making a quick escape.

On the back of each fabric character are Amanda's family's personal stories. The writing also emphasises that the characters could only communicate with each other through writing letters.

Amanda hopes that her project will make people think about the personal stories behind the Wall and how it divided not only a city but thousands of families too.

The University of Wales Institute, Cardiff (UWIC) Summer exhibition runs until 19th June and takes place at their Llandaff and Howard Gardens campuses, with Amanda's work on show in Llandaff.




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