October and kingdoms rise And kingdoms fall But you go on And on. (U2 – October, 1982)
I have two beginnings for this blog post. I’m not sure I have a suitable ending.
Opening one: I’m just back from a discussion, with Naika Foroutan, about East-German migration analogies and prejudices against East-Germans, here at the local Literarisches Zentrum. “Here” means: Göttingen, West-Germany, for me, an East German by origin, my home of seven years now. Diaspora as well as home. “Here” also means: amongst an audience of, primarily, West-Germans. Naika Foroutan and host Robert Pausch are West Germans, too. They (“they”) speak about East Germans (“us”). Some of “us” are in the room. Their safeguard is the “objectivity” of the (social) sciences. “Objectivity” implies an object. An object implies a subject. Who’s who? I can feel I am one of the objects here, regardless whether I want to or not, and someone else assumes the role of the subject-agent. I observe.
30 years ago today, the “Wende”, the peaceful revolution in East Germany, truly started. After the brutal crack down of police on protesters and bystanders alike in Magdeburg two days earlier, everyone knew that something would happen. October 9 was a Monday, and hence I was at school (EOS Humbodt) in the morning hours. Directors and staff leaders in pretty much every institution and company approached their staff or students or even children at kindergarten, threatening that if they went out into the streets tonight their (or their parents’!) safety could not be guaranteed.
30 years ago today, the German Democratic Republic was meant to celebrate her 40th anniversary. There was little to celebrate, though. Thousands had fled the country in previous months, and illegal demonstrations happened in every major town, notably on Mondays. This though was a Saturday afternoon, and Sandow were playing in Magdeburg, by the banks of the river Elbe. Heavy rains delayed the soundcheck, and in the meantime lots of police trucks had pulled up and the police surrounded. Men that were much too old for punk music in groups of two or three infiltrated the crowd.
Until 90 years ago, powder made from mummies, i.e. human corpses, was considered a useful drug in Europe, and available in pharmacies until 1924. I need to remind myself of this when reading about body-part juju in Africa. The practice arose from a misinterpretation of the Arabic word for bitumen, mumiya.
The third step in misinterpreting mummia was to substitute the blackened flesh of an entire mummy for the hardened bituminous materials from the interior cavities of the cadavers. The ancient tombs of Egypt and the deserts could not meet the European demand for the drug mumia, so a commerce developed in the manufacture and sale of fraudulent mummies, sometimes called mumia falsa. The Italian surgeon Giovanni da Vigo (1450-1525) defined mumia as “The flesh of a dead body that is embalmed, and it is hot and dry in the second [grade], and therefore it has virtue to incarne [i.e., heal over] wounds and to staunch blood”, and included it in his list of essential drugs.
See also this article (in English) published by German pharma company Merck.
The Czech contribution to this year’s Eurovision Song Contest is by a band with the not-so-Czech-sounding name Lake Malawi. I saw lots of things in their video, as far as I followed it, except anything from Malawi, lake or otherwise. I guess it’s just a name … Wikip.: “the band’s name, is inspired by the song “Calgary” by [a band named – D.S.] Bon Iver, from their 2011 … album”. And then? I go and check. A German website has more: singer Černý was inspired by the line “So it’s storming on the lake” from “Calgary”, and Lake Malawi was chosen because “it sounds like a far-off romantic place” (my trans.). That’s got to be the reasoning of a Eurovisionary!
30 years since the Fall of the Berlin Wall: Three weeks ago I was looking for a present for dad, and as a late thought I considered Gert Dietrich’s Cultural History of East Germany (Kulturgeschichte der DDR) a good idea, albeit an expensive one, perhaps a joint present for us all. So I went to Göttingen’s best academic bookshop, which happens to be located down the road from the publishing house where the book was made. I couldn’t find it on their shelves and asked for it. Their response: it’s “too exotic” for them to have it on stock. East German matters are “too exotic” some 60km from the old border, I get it. You wonder why I feel at home in Africa, kkkkkkkk! Have a happy anniversary next year, you re-united Germany!
I was with Chimz in Malawi when Cyclone Idai hit the East African coast near Beira in Mozambique. Malawi and Mozambique had had losses of life before due to flooding and falling trees, but the full blow of Idai was something else. Some suggest it will turn out to be the worst natural desaster to have hit the southern hemisphere in known history. Idai left hundreds dead in southern Malawi, eastern Zimbabwe and, foremost of all, in central Mozambique. Beira, a big city, is largely destroyed, and an inland ocean has been formed, in which to this day survivors are struggling with the water, with moskitos, snakes and wild animals and the lack of the bare necessities of life.
Back in Jo’burg, a town that is so rich in music, and a town that seems to have decided to accomodate me as best as she can, especially with music events. This time it was only a few hours after my touch down that Constitution Hill opened its gates for the music festival that accompanies the Human Rights Day activities here. I admire the fact that 21 March is celebrated here, a day that hardly anyone I know in Europe is even aware of, or would care about.