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Darling of the Month: Thao Ho and a 1998 letter from West Java

1. April 2023

Thao Ho worked at the SMU as a research trainee, focusing mainly on transnational queer movements and practices of remembering. Her activist input, especially in empowering the voices of the Asian diaspora in Germany against the backdrop of intersectional discrimination, has inspired and enriched the museum. Our Darling of the Month has also resurfaced in the context of her work…


Introduce yourself in three short sentences: where are you from, what do you do, what keeps you busy?

I grew up in Berlin and have been a research volunteer at the Schwules Museum for the past 1 ½ years, researching alternative archival practices, transnational queer movements (AIDS), queerness in Vietnam, and queer BIPOC* storytelling.

So what activities did you pursue at the museum? What did you particularly enjoy doing here?

I mainly worked in the archives and education departments. My tasks included, for example, digging up archive orders, booking tours, processing archive requests from theaters, film productions, artists…Through this I came into contact with many interesting people, such as Tarek Shukrallah. I met Tarek through the outreach project initiated by Carina Klugbauer and Panda Ortmann shortly after I started working at the museum. Since then, we’ve been working at the SMU Archives on “Archiving Queer BIPOC Stories.

What challenges has your work at SMU presented you with?

The Schwules Museum is a special artistic-activist space, and working here has made me think a lot and inspired me in different ways. Different generations, understandings of inclusion and activism, and power relations come together. This sometimes leads to conflict, but that is not abnormal and sometimes necessary. Also being exposed to and navigating different workspaces, high workload and different moods at the house, full time has been challenging.

Please introduce us to your sweetie!

My darling is a 1998 letter from West Java, Indonesia that I found while researching AIDS activism in Southeast Asia. The letter is addressed to Manfred Baumgartner, one of the co-founders of the Schwules Museum. In the letter, the Indonesian activist writes about his visit to the Schwules Museum’s library (then still at Mehringdamm) and how nice it was to have met.

And what connects you with your sweetheart?

The lightness… But in the letter, the Indonesian activist also talks about the May 1998 Riots in Indonesia and the fear of going out into the city, of gay magazines to swap, and the hope of meeting again soon. The letter somehow feels like a warm hug of solidarity that transcends time.

What treasures are you missing from the museum?

The other day I was talking with Samuel Perez, one of the curators of the exhibition “Ocaña. The Angel Who Sings in Agony” / talked about this: more sound!