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Vanessa Berlein


The name derives from the name Baerlein.

Baerlein is a diminutive of Baer, the German for "bear" and an equivalent of the Hebrew Dov. As an Ashkenazi name, it could also have been taken from one of the house-signs that were familiar sights in German towns, particularly Frankfurt am Main, in the Middle Ages, for instance 'Zum Goldenen Baeren' ("to the Golden Bear")

The Jewish surname Baer is documented in the city since the early 16th century. Its closest biblical association is traced to Issachar (Genesis 49.14), whom Jacob compared to a large-boned ass, a symbol of hard work and strength. Because 'donkey' is a derisive term in Europe, the Jews living there replaced it with another animal embodying great strength and endurance - the bear, whose old German name is linked to 'man, hero and prince'.

For my work for the exhibition Bloodlines: Imagined Histories, I considered that for myself I know very little about my bloodline, but searching on the internet for people with the same name as me (It is not a common name) we are scattered far and wide around the globe and are made up of many different creeds, race and nationality. The only evident link between us all is a shared name, although the chance of us sharing a bloodline is high. I like to think that regardless of where and how we live, we share the attributes of the bear, and on meeting each other, we would recognise this as being our shared bloodline.

I have used the symbol of the bird in the wall paper as a symbol of migration.