Film + Discussion: Milli's Awakening

In partnership with Georgetown University's BMW Center for German and European Studies and the Department of German, the Goethe-Institut Washington will host a screening of Natasha A. Kelly's 2018 film Milli's Awakening (Millis Erwachen), followed by a discussion with the filmmaker moderated by Dr. Katrin Sieg, Graf Goltz Professor and Director of the BMW Center for German and European Studies.

Film Summary

Nadu (born 1955) is a mask maker, Naomi (born 1965) is an actress and filmmaker and Maciré (born 1995) is a student and spoken word artist. They are three of eight women, who have the commonality of being Black, living in Germany and working in an art context. Their biographical narratives show to what extent art (in all its manifestations) can serve as a »remedy« to alleviate lived emotional isolation and social oppression. For centuries, Black women have been eroticized and exoticized by the white male gaze. In the works of many German Expressionists, who are regarded as »European classics«, Black women were merely portrayed as »objects of desire«. The reknown painter Ernst Ludwig Kirchner (1880 - 1938), for example, was less interested in exploring the anatomy of the female body. Rather, he wanted to feel his own manhood through the alleged »bondage to nature« of his motives. In 1911, at the height of German colonialism he painted »Sleeping Milli« naked on a couch. The only source of his inspiration was his male sense of eroticism.

While numerous art historians take the aesthetics as well as the sexual fantasies of Kirchner in the focus, the documentary film wants to immerse in the thought and emotions of his »muse« and let Milli awake figuratively. In interviews with the director, Black female artists of various generations, who have overcome the common colonial stereotypes and have formed their own self-determined identity as Black Women within the white German majority society report on their challenges in and with German art institutions, visual representation and political and social exclusion. Where can we build on their experiences? Which strategies can be brought together? Which must be re-thought? Thus, art does not only form the architecture of the film, but is also presented as the foundation for the social and political activism of the project participants. In the bilingual publication of the same name, the conducted interviews are printed in their full length. The aim is to show the importance of artistic creation from a Black feminist perspective.


Natasha A. Kelly is a writer, curator and scholar activist. In her works, she combines theory and practice due to create transfer-lines between art, academia and society. With her new publication and her simultaneous debut as a filmmaker she portriats collective experiences of Black Germans contrary to the usual formats of the dominant society.

This evening is a part of our #FeminismToMe hashtag campaign. With this hashtag, we are collecting personal definitions of feminism on Instagram. The social media campaign is the overarching theme of a series of events, in which we give different voices of the feminist movement a platform at Goethe-Institut Washington.

Please RSVP for this event through the website link

Tuesday, March 19, 2019 at 6:30pm to 9:00pm

Goethe-Institut Washington 1990 K St. NW, Suite 03, Washington, DC 20006

Event Type

Special Events


Students, Faculty/Staff, Alumni, Public


Georgetown College, German


german, film, Milli's Awakening





Natasha A. Kelly, Dr. Katrin Sieg

Open to the public and the press?


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