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“The Fifth Wall” Special Exhibition
by Marinell Haegelin

The specialness of the 2023 special exhibition was a reflection on the dokumentarfilmwoche hamburg turning twenty and once again having a festival center. They were able to spread out and properly display the chockablock full exhibition The Fifth Wall, Navina Sundaram: An insider's outside view or outsider views of an insider; Sundaram worked in public television forty-plus years. Fux eG, the nonprofit cooperative for culture, education, and production, filled the huge old Viktoria-Kaserne in Altona-Nord, built between 1878 -1883 and under historic preservation since 2010.

Pong Berlin curated the online archive, The Fifth Wall; Navina Sundaram, A Digital Archive, designing it as a digital biography of Navina Sundaram, a television journalist, presenter, documentary filmmaker, and editor. The exhibit sourced material from her private collection including letters, photos, texts, and ARD and other TV archival materials. A native of New Delhi, India, Sundaram began her career at 19 with a two-year internship at Norddeutscher Rundfunk (NDR TV) in 1964. Her non-native perspective added weight and insight to a wide-range of topics: class, decolonization, feminist affairs, internationalism. As a political editor on West German television, she covered West Germany’s positions on racism, migration, and asylum politics with a unique perspective.

From Studio New Delhi (India) in 1962, Navina appeared on a NDR broadcasting in a sari; she “…used it consciously as a strategy, for authenticity.” On her Welt Spiegel program she highlighted a 1984 protest letter whereby the author thought it scandalous to have a foreign moderator and, “the lady” should return to Kaffraria, i.e., the Eastern Cape of South Africa and predominately Black. On the other hand, Germans heard an insider’s perspective when Sundaram reported on India: the 1984 Bhopal catastrophe, social/political topics, problems from foreign involvement, etc. The extensive material was shown as themed programs: Decolonization, Culture in pictures, Feminist Perspectives, Politics in India, and there were open discussions and workshops attached. With the focus on one person and her work, The Fifth Wall; Navina Sundaram, A Digital Archive opens a door into the future with a nod to the past.