Dörte Berner

Dörte Berner
From an early age, Dörte Wunsch knew that she was going to be an artist and that stone was her element. At the age of 14, Dörte found her calling. Living with her family in Hamburg-Bergedorf in Germany, she regularly walked past the workshop of a mason. She was captivated by the idea of shaping stone and asked the mason for an offcut. At home, she worked the piece with hammer and screwdriver ... and knew that this was what she most wanted to do – to sculpt stone. Her childhood as a refugee in postwar Germany has undoubtedly shaped Dörte’s outlook. When she was only two-and-a-half, her family was forced to flee her birthplace of Pozna, in what is today Poland, with little more than what they could carry. Dörte’s unwavering drive to explore the fundamental aspects of being human may have found its seeds here. Dörte has produced over 350 sculptures since her teenage epiphany. After a ceramics apprenticeship, she studied drawing and sculpture in Germany, Switzerland and the USA. Back in Germany, she married Volker Berner and emigrated with him to Namibia in 1966. Here the young Berners started their family and, in the solitude and stillness of rural Namibia, Dörte found her creative persona. Three years later, she held the first of over 40 exhibitions, which have taken her work across four continents. The expressive power of Dörte Berner’s sculptures gained widespread international recognition and acclaim early in her career. Many of the sculptures impress with the sheer size of the stones. Some weigh more than 500 kilograms. Yet the works speak with the subtleties of their forms, textures and juxtapositions. Ultimately they touch us because they are able to express our fundamental emotions, our struggles, and our resilience. Farmstudio Peperkorrel (meaning peppercorn), situated around a hundred kilometres east of Windhoek, was the birthplace of most of Dörte’s large and impressive body of work. Peperkorrel was also the home of Dorka Carpets, the creative voice of Dörte’s husband Volker. He retired from weaving a couple of years ago and the Dorka workshop moved to northern Namibia. The former weaving rooms at Peperkorrel have since found a new purpose. Dörte and Volker have refurbished them as exhibition spaces and have turned Peperkorrel into the per- permanent home of a diverse selection of Dörte’s work – Peperkorrel, Home of Sculptures by Dörte Berner. Dörte is a pioneer of Namibian sculpture. Her works adorn public spaces; they form part of the school curriculum. Her sculptures reflect many aspects of Namibian society, yet European influences are clear.

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