Prejudice inspires filmmaker to discover Afro-German roots
“It all started with a public threat on my life.”
Within the first few minutes of Mo Asumang’s documentary “Roots Germania,” students, faculty and Bloomington residents became part of a search for the director’s identity.
The documentary was presented Friday in Morrison Hall and was followed by a question-and-answer session.
“You don’t hear about German and African relations very often, so I thought it would be something different,” graduate student Sarah Keil said.
Asumang said the journey to find her identity was driven by a desire to understand where racism toward Afro-Germans originated.
“It’s like a job to search for identity,” Asumang said. “It starts when you’re born in Germany – it’s not so easy to be part of that country.”
The film was triggered by a song, written by a Neo-Nazi band the “White Aryan Rebels,” that calls for Asumang’s murder. Lyrics in the song include “This bullet is for you, Mo Asumang.”
Asumang wanted to create a film about racism in Germany and finding her heritage after hearing the song. Throughout the film Asumang illustrated the struggles of having biracial parents in scenes with right-winged Neo-Nazis and Ghanaians.
“I didn’t know who I was,” Asumang said. “I tried to be white when I was younger, so years later I tried to be black.”
Asumang said the movie proves individuals do not consider people of a different race to be German.
While filming, Asumang did not tell Neo-Nazis she was an Afro-German when she called to speak with them – surprising them at their meeting.
Asumang also used the movie as an opportunity to get to know her father and learn more about her mother’s experience with racism.
When Asumang visited Ghana, her father said she did not have to decide exactly who she is and he would always accept her as Ghanaian. Her mother also expressed ideas of acceptance and said that she was forced to move and put Asumang up for adoption because her daughter was Afro-German.
“I can be both, and it’s super,” Asumang said. “I can be on one side a German and on the other a Ghanaian.”
One similarity between her identities, Asumang noted in the film, was spirituality and rituals performed in forests.
Janice Levi, a graduate student, said she took note of the spiritual connection between these two cultures.
“It was interesting how she related it far back to Pagan culture in Europe and experiencing rituals in the forest to both areas,” Levi said.
Asumang ended her film saying that for every Neo-Nazi convention, there are at least three challenging it.
“Some people will never change, but you can change your own life,” she said.
Being a Moorish-American myself and having lived and studied in Germany (BA in German) I find this fascinating because it seems different, almost alien.