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Art on the Radio
We - Here

WH2
© Rimini Protokoll

Who actually decides which day will be a national holiday? Who decides what and how should be celebrated? Who belongs to it and in the celebration? And how does one idea become a tradition for many? As rarely as flags are waved in Germany, as reluctant as people are to sing the anthem, it seems revealing to take a closer look and ask elsewhere: How do people in Ecuador, Nigeria, New Zealand, Pakistan or Canada celebrate their country? How can a nation be imagined? Which rituals could be invented to fill, mark or expand the void?

WIR - HIER / WE, HERE   

by Helgard Haug / Rimini Protokoll & Thilo Guschas 

To celebrate the People's Republic of China's 70th anniversary, 15,000 soldiers marched across Tiananmen Square, nuclear intercontinental missiles were driven through the streets, while military helicopters and fighter planes thundered across the city. Germany just celebrated the 30th anniversary of reunification and for the 30th time, many faced this day with helplessness or the shrugging of shoulders. “Canada 150,” the sesquicentennial celebration of Canadian Confederation four years ago, triggered ongoing criticism around nationhood, statehood and colonialism.
 
“We engage in learning and raising awareness, even though it can be difficult to engage newcomers and immigrants in such a conversation, especially those coming from war-torn countries, refugees fleeing violence and coming from dictatorships. They are grateful for Canada. But it’s important to say: What did you learn about the Canadian colonial legacy and Indigenous people? You try to integrate that conversation as part of their settlement journey.” -- Sara Asalya, executive director of Toronto-based Newcomer Students’ Association, in The Toronto Star  
 
Who actually decides which day will be a national holiday? Who decides what and how should be celebrated? Who belongs to it and in the celebration? And how does one idea become a tradition for many? As rarely as flags are waved in Germany, as reluctant as people are to sing the anthem, it seems revealing to take a closer look and ask elsewhere: How do people in Ecuador, Nigeria, New Zealand, Pakistan or Canada celebrate their country? How can a nation be imagined? Which rituals could be invented to fill, mark or expand the void?
 
In this radio play co-written and directed by Helgard Haug from Berlin performance collective Rimini Protokoll for WDR Radio, the psychologist Ronja Büchner, born in Leipzig in 1990 as the first reunited-German child, and the historian Jan Plamper, who proposes a "new us," ask: How and what can WE celebrate HERE? Together they set out on a search. They wrote 194 messages asking How does your country celebrate? They contacted stateless people, island sellers and hymn writers, rummaged through archives and their own photo albums and always ended up with the question: Who are we here? In the resulting radio play, every WE and every HERE contained in the answers is a construct: The voices and positions are interwoven into a new narrative, but an actual encounter between the participants never took place.
  
Listen to the radio play (in German) in four half-hour parts. 

Episode One  

Episode Two 

Episode Three 

Episode Four 
 
With Ronja Büchner, Jan Plamper, Kefei Cao, Benedict Anderson, Thomas Braune, Katrin Büchner, Mike Gogulski, Valentin Groebner, Christoph Heuermann, Sota Omoigui as well as ambassadors, consuls and representatives of the following countries:
 
Estonia, Finland, Pakistan, Ecuador, Kosovo, Canada, Denmark, Philippines, Indonesia, New Zealand, USA, Israel, Palestinian Territories, Mexico, South Korea, Malaysia, Seychelles, Great Britain and Taiwan.
 
From Canada Day to the German federal election that will see the end of the era Merkel this fall, the Goethe-Institut Toronto is hosting WE, HERE for free and invites your ideas and feedback. Email us with your thoughts about who, why and how your communities celebrate country of origin and nationhood — or perhaps how it could or should be reimagined. Who are “we here,” now?
 
To begin, we asked representatives in Canada of three European countries whose representatives in Berlin were involved in the original WE, HERE interviews to add their personal voices on how they in Canada, across generations of migration, mark national holidays far from home:
 
“In Denmark, we celebrate Constitution Day on June 5 to remind ourselves that our constitution gives us our democracy, the right to vote, freedom of expression, equality and other rights and freedom. Together with many Danes in Canada and friends of Denmark, I celebrate constitution day at Sunset Villa, a small Danish community club outside Toronto that has existed since 1950. Celebrations include a good Danish lunch followed by a procession lead by members of the Royal Danish Guard. And speeches highlight the importance of democracy in Denmark. It all ends with folk dancing and other entertainment. All in all, our constitution day is a very happy day with everyone connecting and mixing with one another.” – Arne Nordtorp, Honorary Consul General of Denmark in Toronto

“There is something about a solemn speech that signifies celebration of independence ((from Russia)) for Finns, regardless of place. Independence Day falls on December 6, which may have something to  do with that solemnity. On the Sunday closest to it, there are services, also at the Agricola church in Toronto, including the laying of wreaths in memory of war veterans. Followed by coffee and speeches. The Finnish seniors' center celebrates with a guest speaker; the Finnish president sends an online video greeting to expatriate Finns. Yet another speech, but we cannot get enough of them to mark the day.” -- Laura McSwiggan, Honorary Consul of Finland in Toronto

Read the transcript in German and English. Idea and text: Helgard Haug and Thilo Guschas
Director: Helgard Haug
Composition: Frank Böhle
Dramaturgy: Martina Müller-Wallraf
Sound and mixing: Werner Jäger and Jeanette Wirtz-Fabian
 
A production of WDR Westdeutscher Rundfunk 2020

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