Doing culture under state-socialism: Actors, events and interconnections

Über die Darstellung Lateinamerikas und die Verwendung christlicher Symbolik in der Kunst der DDR

  • Marcus Kenzler


„For me, socialism was partly a matter of faith”. On representations of Latin-America and the use of Christian imagery in the art of the GDR

Latin-American art and culture as well as political and social developments in that region had a major impact on creative work in the GDR. A peculiarity of the Latin-American influence was the utilization of motifs and symbols from Christian iconography. Artists from all disciplines and generations used this form of expression establishing a pictorial world in GDR art that seemed to contradict the atheist credo of the SED. The application of Christian imagery did not necessarily result from religious conviction but rather from the deep roots of religious visual expressions in the European tradition, the commitment to the ideals of humanism, and an assumed comparability of Christian and socialistic ideology. In addition, complex socio-political processes and issues could be addressed in a clear and comprehensible way by way of this emblematic and allegoric pictorial language. To some extent, Christian symbolism lent the aura of holy mission to liberation struggles. This is how, for example, the crucifixion functioned as an expression for martyrdom, innocent suffering and heroic sacrificial death; also, the Pietá – vividly portrayed in Werner Tübke’s Chilean Requiem – mourns and represents the victims of militarism and fascist violence in Latin America as martyrs. Artworks suggested now and again a similarity in appearance and character between Jesus Christ and Ernesto “Che” Guevara – with the aim of presenting Guevara as the modern messiah of the 20th century. The utilization of Christian iconography occasionally served as a means of self-reflexion and self-questioning and in some cases expressed a longing for a democratic and humane socialism as an antithesis to the political dictates of the SED.

Available Formats



How to Cite

Kenzler, M. (2014). „Sozialismus war für mich auch Glaubenssache.“. Comparativ, 24(4), 68-83.