Birgit Severin & Kegham Djeghalian

Birgit Severin und Kegham Djeghalian

Since early 2020, HTW Berlin has been one of several German universities supporting the establishment of the German International University of Applied Sciences in Cairo (GIU for short). Various business, engineering, design and culture degree programmes at HTW Berlin form part of the cooperation. In this interview, Birgit Severin and Kegham Djeghalian, give an insight into their collaboration in the field of Industrial Design and Fashion Design.

What are your greatest passions?

Birgit Severin: I explore the psychological dimension of our environment - with the aim of shaping processes, objects and visions for a more socially just and sustainable society. In doing so, I often stray from conventional paths. Just one example: I am supporting Prof. Tania Singer with the Max Planck Institute’s CoSocial project, developing course materials that explore the impact of mindfulness-based mental training programmes to reduce pandemic-related emotional stress.

Kegham Djeghalian: I am very lucky to be able to combine my passions for fashion, art and education as part of my profession. Classical music is another great love of mine, with a preference for baroque operas and instrumental music. I have been playing the piano since I was a child (when I did so much more then than I do now!). I have quite a diverse cultural background, have lived in many places and am very interested in cultural dialogue and exchange. I would also describe this as one of my passions.

What distinguishes GIU from a German or Egyptian university?

Kegham Djeghalian: The German International University was initiated as part of an official cultural exchange with the primary vision of introducing German approaches to science, practice-oriented education and an interdisciplinary, applied scientific academic philosophy to an Egyptian context. I believe that this institution not only seeks to embark on an exchange of culture and knowledge with Egypt, but also with the entire MENA region (i.e. “Middle East and North Africa”) as a result of Egypt’s position within these geographical areas. Such investments and efforts will inevitably produce an institution with a different mindset that strives to innovate in the field of education and knowledge production and to act as a real driver of scientific, technological, economic and cultural improvement and innovation.

What are your thoughts as you prepare to embark on your teaching position at GIU?

Birgit Severin: GIU is a very young university as yet lacking entrenched structures in systems and minds, which can often act like invisible walls. I look forward to embracing this freedom and the responsibilities that come with it. I am also filled with gratitude at the opportunity to learn from the Egyptian people and their social competence. This is because I believe that becoming aware of cultural patterns of thought and behaviour always also helps me to become more liberated too.

What makes this German-Egyptian cooperation so interesting in your eyes

Kegham Djeghalian: As academics and practitioners, we are chiefly concerned with finding new approaches to curriculum development and to consider alternative modern design practices and educational strategies as a result of this cooperation. In the process, we seek to exceed the familiar as far as our knowledge, practice and pedagogy are concerned. Some questions that we are trying to answer directly and indirectly in the context of this cooperation include: How can we decentralise design education and recognise the geocultural specificity of Egypt in relation to its German counterpart in particular and the Western context in general? What are the demands posed by today’s design industry and how can we address the issues involved?

Who would you like to have coffee with (at HTW Berlin)?

Birgit Severin: With the two Egyptian sisters Sarah and Deena Mousa. They are the founders of the Egyptian start-up “Shamsina”, which produces solar water heaters for low-income communities.  In my eyes, they epitomise young, strong Egyptian women who are making a real contribution to social change. I would love to learn more about them and their vision over a coffee.

Kegham Djeghalian: I was actually fortunate enough to have coffee with three very unique, extraordinary and inspiring fashion professors at HTW Berlin: Anke Schröder, Grit Seymour and Johanna Michel. Our enriching exchange was a real meeting of minds, which was a pleasant surprise, and I look forward to further conversations and collaborations with them. Another professor at HTW Berlin who has always been a role model and inspiration for me throughout my art and fashion career is Professor Hussein Chalayan. Sadly, he was not in Berlin during my stay, but I hope that we will meet more often during my future visits to the university. It goes without saying that I’ve already enjoyed many coffee-fuelled conversations with my colleagues Prof. Katrin Hinz, Prof. Horst Fetzer and Bianca Koczan, thanks to whom this project has been made possible.

[Translate to Englisch:] Birgit Severin und Kegham Djeghalian

After studying psychology and design, Birgit Severin founded “studio b severin” in 2013. Her conceptual works have been shown in museums and at biennials worldwide. She has been teaching at various universities, including HTW Berlin, the German University in Cairo, GIU and the Kunsthochschule Berlin Weißensee (Weissensee School of Art and Design Berlin) since 2015. In September 2022, she will take up the position of professor at GIU in Cairo.

Kegham Djeghalian studied fine arts and fashion in Cairo, London and Paris.  Throughout his career, he has specialised in fashion imagery and art direction, working with various designers and fashion houses including Kenzo and Hermès. Kegham Djeghalian pursues a wide range of activities, including having been a guest lecturer at his alma mater L’Institut Francais de la Mode (IFM) where he was appointed as the pedagogic director of the Master’s programme in Image Design in Fashion for two years.  Also he was faculty member at the Paris College of Art (PCA) since 2016, where he and several colleagues developed a Master’s programme in fashion film and photography. He has taught at GIU as guest lecturer in April 2021 and was appointed professor of fashion design in February 2022.

Kegham Djeghalian Birgit Severin

The questions were asked by Hannah Weißbrodt, team communication

Photos: HTW Berlin/ Alexander Rentsch
Berlin, 19 August