Interview with Berthold Schoellhorn, German inmate in Kamiti prison
(© Johannes Doeveling/Lou Angelina Lauer)
Berthold Schoellhorn was convicted to life imprisonment for being in possession of illegal drugs. He has been in prison for three years now. He is serving his time in Kamiti prison near Nairobi.
Interview by Johannes Doeveling and Lou Angelina Lauer
Mr. Schoellhorn, how are you doing?
I am always in a positive mood. However, sometimes I break into tears and feel lonely. But I have a motto: “The sun will always rise again.” You will also find this motto in my paintings. In prison, it is extremely important to be straightforward. You should never accept indignities. This requires assertiveness. Since I have been imprisoned, my view towards life has developed to be more pragmatic.
What is the reason for your imprisonment?
I was caught with a suitcase containing drugs.
Who supports you while in prison?
The German government as well as my uncle. And Mr Yuma, of course. He is the governor of the prison. Our relationship is very good. I would like to thank him for that.
What is your biggest wish?
To get out of prison! And football club VfB Stuttgart to win the title in the German Bundesliga. And a Tusker baridi.
Looking back, how would you change your life, if it was possible?
I would revolt against my parents. However, we had a good relationship. But they forced me to become a bank trainee. Rather, I should have chosen interior design or arts.
What did you learn in prison for life?
I became more religious. Faith can move mountains. This makes me strong. Even though two of my brother are catholic priests, I do not go to church. But I believe in God and in Jesus Christ.
How do the Kenyan authorities treat you?
I have a good relationship towards them, especially to Mr Yuma. They do accept me. I also get along with the prison wards. They call me Amosh. This is how Luo call a baby that was born between four and seven in the morning. They gave me this name as I was already around at the beach in Mombasa at that early time of the day. However, it bothers me that there are so many prohibitions. Even sugar is prohibited. But I understand Mr. Yuma has to do so as it could be used for fermenting.
What has been, so far, your most impressing experience during your imprisonment?
To see how my inmates have to struggle for their survival.
You are keen on drawing and painting. Please tell us more about it.
Life here is pretty stressful. Dangerous situations occur again and again. Therefore, I need to paint to remain relaxed. I would love to work together with young African artists once I get released. They are so talented.
What do you like to paint? Why do you paint?
Painting has been my greatest hobby since my childhood. I love to paint animals as well as modern pictures in the styles of Warhol and Fuchs. I greatly admire both of them. My biggest problem is the lack of tools to work really precisely here in prison.
How many people live in your prison cell? What is the food like? How much time do you daily spend in your cell?
We are just two inmates in our cell. That is a rare exception. We can get out at around six in the mornings and will be locked in again at half past eight in the evenings. They serve African food: Ugali, rice, potatoes. But as a foreigner I am allowed to buy additional food, like tomatoes and carrots. Mister Yuma is very generous in this regard.
What kind of hopes do you have for your appeals procedure?
No good hopes. It is hard to presume the outcome of court proceedings.