Hand in Hand for Tolerance

We are Berlin

The Project

The Berlin Buddy Bears have been a symbol of Berlin for many years and are promoting tolerance and international understanding worldwide, among other things through the exhibitions of the United Buddy Bears.

Starting on May 13, 2022, the Buddy Bears will have a new exhibition project in Berlin to specifically promote tolerance, respect and peaceful coexistence among the people living in the capital. For this purpose, an installation of seven 2m Buddy Bears will be presented on Wittenbergplatz for half a year. The motto of this artwork is "Hand in Hand for Tolerance". The Berlin street artist "DYR Wandbrand", Damian Yves Rohde, has designed the sculptures. His visual language revolves around the central concepts: Tolerance, Respect, Freedom, Diversity and the leitmotif "Hand in Hand"

After studying at the Berlin University of the Arts, Rohde has remained faithful to his roots in street art and visualizes in his typical style, with fresh bright colors the diversity of the population living in Berlin. His seven Buddy Bears illustrate the joyful togetherness in the city, whose basis is tolerance and respect. They show people whose roots lie in all parts of the world. People of diverse cultural backgrounds, different religions, of all skin colors. Berliners with diverse concepts life and various orientations. The sculptures show: They are Berlin. We are Berlin!

Hand-in-Hand for Tolerance Buddy Bears
Hand-in-Hand for Tolerance Colors
Hand-in-Hand for Tolerance Artist DYR Wandbrand

The German capital has always been a melting pot for people from many countries and their cultures. Since the time of the Huguenots, immigrants from all parts of the world have left traces that have been absorbed into Berlin's cosmopolitan culture. Today, more than 190 nations live in the metropolis.

Living together in such a densely populated space is not always without tension. In regard to current populist tendencies that fuel intolerance, Buddy Bear Berlin sends an unmistakable signal with this installation - for Berlin. This art project is like a metaphorical embrace, because the diversity of Berliners, whether long-established or newly arrived, is what gives the city its energy and distinctive character: Being a Berliner is not a question of skin color, religion or origin. It is a question of attitude.

The Opening on May 13, 2022

On the occasion of the unveiling of the artwork, the patron of the project - the Governing Mayor of Berlin, Franziska Giffey - also gave a speech.
"For over 20 years, the Buddy Bears have stood for Berlin and thus also for what makes our city: tolerance, diversity, freedom and peaceful coexistence. The Buddy Bears carry this message into our Berlin society and far beyond. They stand for a colorful society - in Berlin and worldwide," said Giffey.
In addition to the Governing Mayor, social entrepreneur and model Zohre Esmaeli also spoke to the invited guests from the arts, culture and Berlin's business community, as well as visitors to Wittenbergplatz. Among those present were also Jörn Oltmann (District Mayor of Tempelhof-Schöneberg), Dr. Andreas Knieriem (Director of the Zoological Garden), Stephanie Otto (Chairman of the Board BSR), Steffen Schröder (Managing Director Bürgerstiftung Berlin) and other personalities from the Berlin business and cultural scene.

Zohre Esmaeli appealed to the visitors: "Our current global situation demands, more than ever before, that we should be there for each other in solidarity and at the same time strengthen our democratic values."
Managing Director of Buddy Bär Berlin GmbH, Dr. Klaus Herlitz, found the following words at the ceremonial unveiling of the tolerance installation: "The greatest gift that can be given to a people is freedom. Berlin is the city of freedom. I am happy to have grown up in a free and tolerant Berlin and to be allowed to live here."

The event was opened by the premiere of the song "Oh Please", presented by the musician Mari.ama, which in terms of content already picked up on the central motifs of the installation such as Tolerance, Respect, Freedom, Diversity and the central idea of "Hand in Hand".


Buddy Bear Berlin Hand in Hand for Tolerance Opening Buddy Bear Berlin Hand in Hand for Tolerance Opening Buddy Bear Berlin Hand in Hand for Tolerance Opening

Video "Making of Hand in Hand for Tolerance"

The Making of the Installation

The Artist

Damian Yves Rohde aka DYR Wandbrand

Born on 03. 03. 1985 in West Berlin. A typical West Berlin child, he grew up in a multicultural context that was musically and artistically influenced. Raised in the Kreuzberg and Schöneberg art scene, surrounded by art students and already established artists, his affinity for art developed early on and was encouraged accordingly. Be it, for example, the "Dead Chickens" living in Kreuzberg at that time or his foster father David Vostell (son of Wolf Vostell, the co-founder of Fluxus art), who motivated him to art and taught him in it. Damian Yves Rohde grew up in his early years at the Berlin Wall, whose graffiti influenced him unconsciously and consciously and inspired him in his later work. Exhibitions he visited also influenced his artistic work. For example, a visit to the Guggenheim in Berlin with the James Rosenquist exhibition had a long-lasting effect on him - and still inspires DYR today.

After graduating from high school with a performance subject in art, he transferred to the University of the Arts (UdK Berlin). DYR began doing graffiti in 1999 and stood out with his candy-camouflage style of frequently recurring figures and slogans. Beginning in 1999, DYR traveled annually to visit his family in Cuba and also embellished Havana walls there in his second home. Since then, he is considered one of the first street and graffiti artists on the island.

Abroad, he has already participated in various street art exhibitions, such as the 2013 "Art Libertè" at the Gard de Est in Paris, France, by Sylvestrè Verger along with all the famous artists of the Berlin Wall. There DYR met the artists Christophe Emmanuel Bouchet, Thierry Noir and Kiddy Citny, with whom he had some works together. Especially by Kiddy Citny Damian was taught and supported in abstract painting for many years. A little later came his breakthrough with murals in museums, galleries and festivals such as "Wandelism" (Berlin), "Ungeniert/Engagiert" (Kunsthalle Wilhelmshaven) and "Urbane Kunst" (Art Basel, Switzerland). During this time, DYR became involved with the visualization of wave music and 1980s science fiction films, which have strongly influenced him to this day. He practiced photorealism, combining bear heads (emblematic of his native Berlin) with digital elements of typical VHS effects (distorting and doubling), palm trees and neon lettering. He also painted this style all over the world, for example in Havana for the Biennale, in Paris, in Kaiserslautern, in Berlin, London, Brussels and Miami for Art Basel. At the end of 2019, he made street art history with his groundbreaking exhibition "Squared Skills" at Potsdamer Platz in Berlin, where he painted on 50 canvases with 50 internationally known artists in just two months.

Since 2020, Damian has been more involved with Pop Art again, trying to create a style all his own. He took faces from his immediate family circle and abstracted them to retain only the most necessary features to keep the person recognizable. Since then he has been "popping" portraits in bright colors and placing them in an urban silhouette with traffic signs, traffic lights, birds and trees.

Hand-in-Hand for Tolerance Artist DYR Wandbrand

His Interpretation of the Installation

Tolerance knows no prejudices, it knows only love for each other and with each other. 

Love is the determining motivation for the artistic work of Damian Yves Rohde DYR Wandbrand. The idea to create the Buddy Bear installation on the theme of tolerance grew out of the artist's love for the people around him, his family and friends. 

Portraits are the essential element powerful or thoughtful, cheerful and loving, proud as well as approachable, loud and colorful they embody the infinite diversity of people living in all parts of Berlin. They look at us, open to encounters and dialogue.

The characters are painted in the unmistakable pop art style of Damian Yves Rohde. This is infectiously life-affirming. In addition to the very realistic, as well as playfully added details, it is the unconventional, unexpected use of color that surprises the viewer. DYR Wandbrand deliberately refrains from stereotypical differentiations. Each of the portrayed is first and foremost a human being, which for the artist is the true interpretation of tolerance. 

In addition to the characters, elements of Berlin, the common center of life and also the artist's hometown, can be found in the background. 

The chestnut leaves are a tribute to his favorite tree, statement for a livable, green city and symbol of the origin of the people.


Our Partners

We want to thank our partners for the support of this speacial project.

Hand in Hand for Tolerance Partners