Germans protest with Engels’ statue wrapping against Chinese suppression of democracy and freedoms

Statue of Friedrich Engels in Wuppertal, Germany art wrapping against Chinese’s suppression of activism

To protest against PR China’s suppression of democracy and freedom of press, speech and opinion, German civil society covered the statue of Friedrich Engels in Wuppertal, Germany, the birthplace of Engels. The statue was a gift of the Peoples Republic of China to the city of Wuppertal.

The action of 27 November 2020 on the eve of Engels’ 200’s birthday denounces how Chinese propaganda abuses the critical thinker for its unjust purposes. If Engels lived in China today, he would be arrested like many Chinese thinkers, journalists, writers and domocracy activists are.

The art action expresses its solidarity with the democracy movement in Hong Kong and with jailed or killed Chinese activists.

On 27. November 2020, the day preceding the 200’s birthday of Friedrich Engels, the thinker and revolutionary with world-wide impact, two internationally active literature societies, together with Chinese and German artists, realised a joint art event of wrapping. The Armin T. Wegner Society and the Else Laskar-Schüler Society are organisers of the wrapping of the Friedrich-Engels-Statue in the Engels-Garden in Wuppertal, Germany. The statue was a gift of the Peoples Republic of China to the city of Wuppertal in 2014.

The wrapping of this memorial statue is a continuation of the art form of the great and critical art of wrapping – as was performed by Beuys, Christo, Tapies or Kosuth. The wrapping mystifies the wrapped or covered object, moves it closer to the sphere of what is not taken for granted and secretive, it poses questions and encourages the observer to “un-cover”.

In Wuppertal, this art wrapping textile fabric was enriched with a printing on it in Chinese and German of the internationally known proverb „真言一出,快马难追” “A speaker of truth needs a fast horse.”

This proverb was passed down by the Wuppertal thinker, travel writer and Righteous Among the Nations, Armin T. Wegner from the oppressed cultures of the Osman Empire. A version of the proverb with equivalent meaning can be found in all cultures – as it can until today in China or Russia. This sentence refers to escape and exile: dangers, which those humans face, who are speaking inconvenient truths.

With the organisers remind of Friedrich Engels who in his time had to go into various exiles himself, because he was standing up against oppression and exploitation in his home country, Germany, and all over Europe. The group was also showing with this, that the government of the Peoples Republic of China, from whose hands the city of Wuppertal had received the state memorial present, is currently massively suppressing the freedoms of opinion, press, information and assembly – at this moment increasingly also in Hong Kong. With this art event the two organisations are explicitly declaring their solidarity with the democracy movement in Hong Kong.

In 2014, when the city of Wuppertal had received the statue, the Armin T. Wegner society had pointed out these relationships and the abuse of the personality of Friedrich Engels.

Eventhough, the government of China officially uses in its propaganda the name Friedrich Engels, in reality China is conducting a new state-capitalism. If Engels lived today, he would be imprisoned in China or under house arrest. He would be prohibited from writing and he would be blocked from free media access – like thousands of chinese writers, journalists, bloggers and critical minds.[1]

The protest art action and the public performance at the statue is at the same time a creative declaration of love to Chinese and German literature, music, visual art and art of dance. Music of Chinese and German composers was played, renown Wuppertal stage artists recited texts of Chinese and German authors. There were alsosamples of Chinese dance.

The programme of the joint action also reflects the creative and liberal heritage of Else Lasker-Schüler and Armin T. Wegner, the critical thinkers from Wuppertal, Germany.

[1] Ulrich Klan, Armin T. Wegner Gesellschaft e.V. in Wuppertaler Rundschau of 7.6.2014

Leave a comment