On Sunday, August 28th, artists from all over the world came together with the United Buddy Bears at the Tierpark Berlin. The occasion? Buddy Bear Berlin celebrated its birthday. 20 years have passed since the first exhibition of the colorful bears in 2002.
Originally, Buddy Bear Berlin was created by the idea of Eva and Klaus Herlitz as a temporary art action. Artists from all countries recognized by the United Nations were invited to Berlin via the embassies to create a bear for their country. These bears were exhibited for the first time in front of the Brandenburg Gate. Many were auctioned off after the exhibition; the proceeds were donated to children's charities.
The friendly bears were so popular, however, that they became a fixture in Berlin and soon generated notoriety beyond the city limits. Today, the Buddy Bears are the unofficial symbol of Berlin. They stand for tolerance and a peaceful coexistence of nations. The United Buddy Bears have always traveled around the world: New Delhi, Jerusalem, Buenos Aires...Countless Buddy Bears have been auctioned off to support children's aid projects, hotels, numerous institutions and large companies decorate their entrances with individual Buddy Bears and the Buddy Bear miniatures are a popular souvenir from Berlin. So there is a lot to celebrate.
For this occasion, the Buddy Bear team has organized a party for the artists and their families. Many of them have been with Buddy Bear from the very beginning. In the middle of the greenery, directly at the restaurant Kakadu in the Tierpark Berlin, where the United Buddy Bears currently live, buffet and stage were set up.
Founder of Buddy Bear Berlin, Klaus Herlitz, welcomed the more than 100 guests and the Buddy Bear team, after zoological director Christian Kern had taken the guests into the world of real bears.
Klaus Herlitz introduces the artists: Suikô Shimon from Japan, Dazaa Aniama Kenneth from Nigeria, Kani Alavi from Iran, Helge Leiberg, who designed the first German Buddy Bear and many more. With warm words, Herlitz commemorates his wife and idea giver of Buddy Bear Eva Herlitz: "I would like to thank my wife Eva. She was the soul of Buddy Bear Berlin. Her motivation was always to help others." Many of the guests remember Eva Herlitz well, the mood is reverent and the artists think fondly of the lively and energetic bear mama. Klaus Herlitz continues, "The Austrian sculptor Roman Strobl, who created the first Buddy Bear sculptures together with Eva, later described this joint creative work as one of the happiest hours of his life." Klaus Herlitz asks for a minute to wish and remember: "Without Eva, we all wouldn't be here today. We are thinking of her." The zoo in front of the stage sinks into the past for a few moments. This is helped along by a video by Erika Grimme-Schamoni showing Buddy Bear Berlin's first exhibition. This is followed by images that take you back to the exhibitions around the world.
The anniversary celebration in pictures
Back in the present, Herlitz thanks the entire Buddy Bear team. Although a "winning team" should not be changed, Buddy Bear says goodbye and honors two long-time and faithful companions: Michael Stefanescu, second managing director next to Mr. Herlitz, is succeeded by Viviana Plasil; the position of Christine Hagen, artistic director, will be taken over by Guillemette Jaeger.
Songwriter Mariama found haunting words about the message of Buddy Bears inspired by Eva Herlitz. The message of a world where people of different origins, cultures and religions listen to and tolerate each other. Mariama also stands for this with her personal story. She herself was born in Sierra Leone, sees herself as an Afropolitan, cosmopolitan, Cologne girl, Fula nomad, Parisienne and Berliner. This diversity is also reflected musically in her mixture of Western and Afrodiasporic sounds. Mariama wowed the guests with the song "Oh Please", written especially for Buddy Bear and produced by Samuel Brözel. The song is about how a society, divided in many ways, can come together more. The song says "How did we end up so divided. Can we somehow find a way to unite us?" Very much in the spirit of the Buddy Bears. The appeal of "Oh Please" got under the skin and the guests took the melody home with them. You can also listen to the song on Spotify.
French artist Bruno Di Martino surprised the guests with a musical piece on the hang, a rare instrument from Bern. The sounds went well with the serene atmosphere of the celebration.
There was talk and laughter over wraps, wine and conversation. Children were able to design their own Buddy Bears at a painting table, and the large golden Buddy Bears served as photo opportunities with the artists. As the sun disappeared, the festival slowly came to an end.
It was a warm reunion that clearly showed the international character and origin of Buddy Bear. So many languages, so many interesting people gathered in one place to celebrate 20 years of Buddy Bear Berlin.
A special thank you goes to Bärlin Team Eventdesign GmbH who has been accompanying Buddy Bear for a long time with the set-up of the stage and the equipment of the technology. Also, a big thank you to Tierpark Berlin for hosting our United Buddy Bears and providing us with a wonderful place to celebrate on this day.