2013-2015 — Russia, Canada, Germany
About this series
“Since their birth as a branch of Christianity in the Holy Roman Empire of the 16th century, the Mennonites have faced persecution and since the 18th century, they have been in near constant movement. During the world wars, many members of this Germanic community were deported to Siberia.
During the economic crisis that followed the collapse of the Soviet Union in the 1990s, 100,000 Mennonites emigrated to Germany, where they founded more than a hundred of their Brethren churches. Many others left for Canada. Across this diaspora, they are connected by their belief, their culture and their Low German dialect. My parents grew up as estranged descendants of the Low-German Mennonites in the German villages of Russia. Our ten-person family emigrated to Germany in the early nineties. My curiosity led me to become a believer at the age of 13, but I lost interest after a year. A decade later I wanted to reconnect with the Mennonite community, this time through a photo project. I was eager to learn about their thoughts, dreams and fears, and to show them in their daily life.”
Mika Sperling is a photo-based artist currently living and working in Hamburg, Germany.
She was born in Norilsk (1990) a mining city in Northern Siberia where her family lived for 20 years.
In 1991, her family migrated to Germany. She received her Diploma from the University of
Applied Science in Darmstadt in Communication Design in 2015 and went to the U.S with a Fulbright and DAAD Scholarship to pursue her MFA at the San Francisco Art Institute in 2018. During her studies, she began to work on the project Brothers and Sisters. A story about the ethnical-religious group of Russian Mennonites who’s belief she followed freely for a year as a teenager. As she spent more time in the community, questions arose about her own identity and together with the interviews she took, the project developed a reflection of her own fears and thoughts.
Her practice is based in photography, video, writing and sound and engages ideas and concepts of family and language. Her work has been primarily biographical where she explores her own experience as one of eight children to understand the complexities of multiculturalism, identity and place.
When she returned to her birthplace Norilsk in early 2018 to start her project Before You – Above the Circle she soon found out to be pregnant with her first child. Suddenly her work and personal life merged together and would lead to a solo exhibition at the Aggregate Space Gallery in Oakland, overlapping with her child’s birth. After her return to Germany in 2018 she was selected for the recommended fellowship and started the work Mother Tongue which has been exhibited at the House of Photography / Deichtorhallen in Hamburg and will be shown at Foam Museum, Amsterdam in March 2021.