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FA discusses the artist’s recent album Social Housing, his modernist DDR neighbourhood, housing policies, and living in Berlin as an artist, while he shows us around Marzahn.
“People think it’s a no-go zone,” says our guide while he drives us around Marzahn, a district on the north-eastern border of Berlin. It’s a sunny August afternoon and we’re about 15 kilometres from Alexanderplatz, being driven around in the Volkswagen Polo of a 40-year-old Mohawk-sporting Englishman, who is showing us around the area in which he lives. It’s an incredibly green and spacious scene, people are walking their dogs, and we hear the excited shouts of the many kids playing outside. And no matter where we look, there’s always a concrete Plattenbau high-rise in the backdrop. There are dozens and dozens of them, many of which have recently been renovated, dressed in fresh colours and looking crisp in the lush summer landscape.
Our guide is Mark Hawkins, better known as Marquis Hawkes, a DJ and a producer of soulful, club-ready house music. Having made music and DJ’d under different aliases since the nineties, he adopted his current pseudonym several years ago. In June, Marquis Hawkes’ debut album Social Housing dropped, an album inspired by the socialist housing estates of Marzahn, where he and his family moved four years ago. “Living in one of the poorest parts of Berlin had an effect on the sound of my album,” Hawkins says. “The backdrop of having people leading tough lives around me, alongside our own everyday struggle just to keep the bills paid and food on the table, it has that influence.” While he speeds his car through the sea of high-rises, we talk about living in Marzahn, housing policies, and how he relates to the scene in Berlin’s popular areas.
Arriving in Marzahn earlier that day, just before getting out on the final stop of the S-Bahn train to Ahrensfelde, we overheard people around us talking Russian. Marzahn has the largest concentration of Russians in Berlin, but the number of people speaking Russian is even higher. While almost 90 per cent of the area statistically consists of ‘ethnic Germans’, some 15 per cent of these Germans are in fact repatriates, whose families had been living in Eastern Europe during Soviet times, and who moved back to Germany after the Soviet Union collapsed. […]