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Director, 2016-2022
Wilfried Eckstein

We interviewed Wilfried Eckstein for the 25th anniversary of the Goethe-Institut Hanoi:

HAN Interviews Wilfried Eckstein© Goethe-Institut Hanoi

The core business of the Goethe-Institut Hanoi is cultural dialogue and cooperation between Vietnam and Germany. If I were to name three events that illustrate in scope and in complex subject matter what we do, I would like to highlight the theater productions on KIEU on ANTIGONE and our current exploration of Vietnamese identity entitled MY VIETNAM.

Our approach to the national epic KIEU has been highly praised by audiences. Everyone knows KIEU as material from school; many do not like this literature because the main character has nothing to do with a modern image of woman and man. That's why we asked ourselves how can we up-date this 200-year-old literary work. In our preparation we involved academics, and artists from the fields of performing and fine arts, philology and law. They questioned the relevance of the work from a contemporary perspective. They reread and reinterpreted it. In the end THE GIRL KIEU project addressed the role of women in today's society and gave KIEU's resistence and resilience a new life.

ANTIGONE is about a completely different female figure and addresses different questions and cultural values. ANTIGONE by Sophocles is great world literature. The play has influenced thinkers, politicians, philosophers and of course writers and filmmakers. It is still performed as a play in many countries today. In Vietnam, the ANTIGONE is almost unknown. Our six theatre, dance and multimedia productions were preceded by intensive public discussions about the female figure, the subject matter and its relevance for Vietnam. I believe that we all together have given ANTIGONE respect and relevance for Vietnam.

For both KIEU and ANTIGONE we used a similar approach. We asked how relevant are tradition and cultural heritage for us today. The current project MEIN VIETNAM is different.

MY VIETNAM is also the outcome of some years of observation and conversations. At MY VIETNAM we ask writers in Vietnam and in the diaspora what it means to them to be Vietnamese. What is Vietnamese identity in Vietnam and growing up and living abroad as a Viet-KIEU? Writers from Germany, France, the Czech Republic and the USA are currently involved, as well as five authors from Vietnam, a total of four female and five male writers. Through the literary texts that are made for theater and that will be recorded as films.

The Goethe-Institut contributes to an important aspect of international reflection and understanding of cultural identity in the medium of art.