Exhibition “The Early Days. Hip-Hop in the GDR”

Press Release No. 46/2013
8 March 2013
Heidelberg Center for American Studies traces the history of breakdance, DJing, rap and graffiti on the other side of the Wall

The reaction of the GDR to hip-hop culture from the United States is the subject of an exhibition showing at Heidelberg University’s Center for American Studies (HCA) since 14 March 2013. In the early 1980s hip-hop turned into a global youth culture that also transcended the Iron Curtain. The exhibition “The Early Days. Hip-Hop in the GDR” traces this cultural transfer, analyses the relations between protagonists and the GDR authorities and looks at the spaces conceded to breakdancers, rappers and graffiti artists on the other side of the Wall.

The four elements of hip-hop culture – breakdance, DJing, rap, graffiti – originated in the Bronx. The scene that quickly materialised in the GDR put the SED regime in a major quandary. After the film “Beat Street” was screened widely in GDR cinemas in 1985, hip-hop culture began to spread all over East Germany and quickly formed extensive regional networks. Though not outright prohibited in the GDR, the authorities controlled and monitored the scene and intervened when deemed necessary. The exhibition centres on the biographies of the protagonists, based on interviews with contemporary witnesses, archive material and everyday objects from private collections. “This specifically transatlantic culture transfer still stimulates a cross-generational dialogue between East and West”, says Reno Rössel of the Steinhaus Bautzen e.V., which developed the exhibition  together with Leipzig University. “It also gives us insights into an unusual aspect of everyday culture in the GDR.”

The exhibition opens at 6 pm on 14 March 2013 with a showing of the film “Here We Come” (2006) by Nico Raschik featuring protagonists of the GDR hip-hop scene and other contemporary witnesses. “The Early Days. Hip-Hop in the GDR” is on show at the HCA, Curt und Heidemarie Engelhorn Palais, Hauptstraße 120, till 26 April 2013. Open Mondays to Fridays, 10 am to 5 pm, admission free. For more information, go to

Dr. Anja Schüler
Heidelberg Center for American Studies
Phone: +49 6221 54-3879

Communications and Marketing
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phone: +49 6221 54-2311


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