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New (English) mags with a cause

Two new boutique Berlin-based English-language magazines, "Panta" and "Nansen", promise to open their fellow young creatives’ eyes to the fascinating hidden lives around them.

Image for New (English) mags with a cause
Photo by Dustin Quinta

We at Exberliner have never believed in the so-called “death of print”, and we seem to not be the only ones. More and more international Berliners are coming out with boutique English-language magazines that promise to open their fellow young creatives’ eyes to the fascinating hidden lives around them – be they immigrants or “artivists”.

Image for New (English) mags with a cause
Photo by Dustin Quinta

The latter term was coined by Panta, a formerly online-only mag that came out with its first print edition in February. It means a “creative talent” who uses their “craft… to make a positive impact on society”. In practice, this means everyone from rappers to cartoonists to an all-female street art project, showcased in eye-catching, photo-heavy profiles, interviews and even recipes. The latest issue includes a chat with Berlin’s gender-defying performance artist Reverso and a meta-interview with an anonymous voice actor from guerilla art collective AWGTF, alongside more established names such as artist and AIDS activist Avram Finkelstein. Should you be bothered that the 100-page, €15 coffee-table tome is published by Book A Street Artist, the Berlin-based Portuguese-German company that links buskers and taggers with wannabe-edgy brands? At least there doesn’t seem to be much crossover between the mag and the site, give or take an ad or two.

More idealistic is Nansen, a brand-new self-styled “magazine about migrants of all kinds”. Founder Vanessa Ellingham is definitely a migrant of a certain kind: a writer, former communications consultant and ukulele enthusiast from New Zealand who moved here four years ago and got involved with the refugee volunteer org Give Something Back to Berlin. While shopping at IKEA, she says, the idea hit her to explore the lives of her “fellow migrants” in greater depth. Subject number one: ubiquitous whistleblowing bicyclist Aydin Akin. Over 95 thick, full-colour pages, she profiles the Turkish voting rights advocate, charts both his cycling route and his “migration route” (basically a straight line from Turkey to Germany) and uses him as a springboard for related issues, like guest workers, Willkommenskultur and, yes, döner. By the end there seems to be some tenuously linked page filler, including several pages of photographs from the Ausländerbehörde and Instagram photos of successful visa applicants, which makes you wonder about Ellingham’s insistence that she’s “never going to run out of stories”. You might get frustrated by the light-hearted tone, or the blithe assertion that all migrants share the same experience – Ellingham even goes to the Meryl Streep “We are all from Africa” well on page one. But while it might skim over some inconvenient truths to serve its shiny-happy narrative (you won’t read about Akin’s pro-Erdoğan politics here), this is overall an aesthetically pleasing peek into the life of a Berliner everyone sees, but few know. Ellingham took out a loan to finance Nansen’s first issue and has no plans for advertising that isn’t “migrant-related”, so buy it (€12) to stand a better chance of finding out who’s on tap for issue two.

Panta See Berlin vendors or order online at pantamagazine.com

Nansen Order online at nansenmagazine.com