BY ANDREAS PESCHKE
The German-Indian poet Rajivinder Singh defined the ‘principle of the six eyes’: We should always look at each other with our own eyes, with the eyes of the other – and from a joint perspective.
To live ever closer together in a globalized world, we need to understand each other. To solve our joint challenges like climate change, migration or to fight the evil of terrorism, we need mutual understanding to foster cooperation. We need to build bridges of comprehension across continents, religions and cultures. As Mr. Singh said, we need to see the world not only with our own eyes, but with the eyes of the other.
Modern foreign policy should play its part to create a platform for exchange and understanding. Extremism grows where dialogue stops. We must speak to each other, and not remain silent at each other. In my view, culture has a crucial role to play to bring us together and to help us act together.
From 15 to 23 May, German institutions in Nairobi and Kenya will celebrate the “German Week” with our German and Kenyan partners. A German Cultural Week is a chance to showcase examples of our ‘culture’ and to make it interact with the art and culture of our host country Kenya.
Within 9 days, the German Embassy and its partner organisations will hold around 20 events. The events are diverse, representing the whole spectrum of cultural, political and social activities of “Germany in Kenya”.
The objective of the German Week is to make people curious: Germans to know more about Kenya, its languages and fascinating cultures; Kenyans to learn more about Germany. Yes, we are a country of fantastic beer and sausages. But we are also a country of wonderful theatres, artists and poets. After all, curiosity to know each other is the basis of a mutual understanding and tolerance.
The German Embassy will launch the German Week on 15 May with an exhibition of famous Kenyan cartoonists at the National Museum of Kenya in Nairobi. Their caricatures focus on Germany and Kenya, Kenyan and German cultural relations, opportunities, the challenges of devolution and decentralization in our countries, as well as the 25th anniversary of German reunification. The exhibition will run for two weeks at the National Museum to give everyone a chance to visit.
As in everyday life, music will take an important place during the German Week. For instance, the German cultural Goethe Institute invites the German DJ duo Schlachthofbronx for a concert to Nairobi. In addition, the German School Nairobi holds its spring concert and organizes a fashion show, a football tournament and an art exhibition.
In the field of higher education, the German Academic Exchange Service DAAD will promote research opportunities in Germany. In addition, the DAAD in cooperation with the Goethe Institute will host a literary reading with contemporary German author Sarah Stricker.
As for political and social dialogue, the Heinrich Böll Stiftung organizes an exhibition on Kenyan identity as well as a gender forum which hosts a dialogue on the role of men in gender equality debates. Moreover, the German development organisations GIZ and KfW invite to a workshop on renewable energies which presents great chances for both Germany and Kenya.
The finale of the German Week will be the annual German Cultural Festival which is an absolute highlight for all German language learners in Kenya. Last year, over 600 pupils from all over Kenya took part in the event showcasing their language skills in theater, poetry slam and music.
The political and cultural relationship between our countries has a long tradition. Not only is there an agreement on cultural cooperation since 1987, but Germany was also the first country to recognize an independent Kenya in 1963. Needless to say, the German Week is a great opportunity to further increase exchange between Germany and Kenya.
I think this is important, as we need to invest in sustainable strategies to ensure peaceful international cooperation in the future, and to prevent future crises. Cultural exchange and civil society have a crucial role to play. As the German sociologist and politician Ralf Dahrendorf once said: we need to move from a foreign policy of states to a “foreign policy of civil societies”. Only open dialogue between our societies – between our citizens, young people, artists – will allow us to build lasting mutual trust and understanding beyond borders. Welcome to the German Week in Kenya!
(Andreas Peschke is the German Ambassador to Kenya)