Dear Hope Theatre Nairobi

Dear members, friends, supporters, partners, 2019 is the year we will celebrate the 10th anniversary of the Project and I want to thank you all for the intensive and finally successful time we had together. The 1st day of our important year is the right day to pause for a moment and reflect. When we had started the group no one of us thought of going to Germany ten times, of celebrating 10 years of common work, to have reached over hundreds of reports in German, Austrian and Kenyan media, of developing 7 plays, of playing more than 500 shows and to deal with a lot of high class partners. Honestly we didn’t think of anything else than to just start something that had to do with theatre. Back from my first trip to Nairobi I started with a website (that is still existing) and promised to come back. Already in February 2010 I had contact to people who are now leaders of the NGO, we planned the 1st slum theatre festival in National Theatre Nairobi and realised it the same year in December. In August 2010 we talked about structures and managed to have our logo. In 2011 we knew that we will have our 1st premiere in Germany in 2012, we founded the Hope Theatre Nairobi CBO and the Kenya Art Projects e.V. and our 2nd Slum Theatre Festival was inaugurated through the Austrian ambassador. After a great 1st tour through Germany and Austria in 2012 we decided to go on, in 2013 a member disappeared and the dram of a great future was immediately destroyed. After several meetings with some members, an appointment with the former Minister of Development in Baden-Württemberg, the guarantee of the Major from Stuttgart and a second chance from the visa-department of the German Embassy in Nairobi we managed a 3rd tour and even started the relationship with new partners. 2014 was the 2nd foundation of the project and a very successful tour with fair-trade Germany, Bread for the World and the State Ministry Baden-Württemberg. Lot of partners, big ones and local ones can be traced back to this wonderful year, the 5th anniversary of the project.

The anniversary-show took place in the Linden Museum Stuttgart, the only ethnological state museum in Baden-Wuerttemberg, on 3rd May 2014 and presented a mixed program of dances, scenes, and statements from the group and friends like Alexandra Kamp, Elisabeth Kabatek, Peter Friedrich and Heike Schiller. Dieter Overath surprise the audience in a short play I wrote for him as an actor representing a horrible German do-gooder with a black young wife. Part of the audience even got annoyed about this guy because they didn’t recognize him and took it seriously. Funny enough that many sentences he said I had just tapped from real conversations with people who had worked in Africa. Anyway, the birthday-show was a success and Dieter is still our member and active guest-actor. With scenes like “Der Unterschied” or “Second Hand People” we mirror the German view on Africa and reflect the German self-image. Interesting, that pupils and students are mostly more open minded than experts. The hope theatre members have learned a lot from the European people and are grateful about it. But sometimes they also have to set the record straight.

Now, in the year of our 10th birthday we can count on several continuous partners, who support us with money, knowledge, network and input and we can look retrospectively at intensive, controversial, helpful, cooperative, various encounters, performances, discussions and cross-border cooperation. In December 2017 we were proud of welcoming the delegation of the State Ministry and the ministry of Economy Baden-Württemberg in our rehearsal hall in Mathare Slums. Organized by department-head Simone Höckele-Häfner the delegation saw the group and the juniors in their real living environment. We presented some scenes and dances and opened the space for an open talk with chai and chapatti for mutual understanding. It was impressing and enduring morning and we are so grateful, that State-Minister Theresa Shopper will salute the audience for our anniversary show in Stuttgart in Theater der Altstadt. Peace is not only the name of the play we will present on our tour but also the motto of the whole tour. Why?

In an Article of the German Press Agency on the 28th December was written under the headline: “Rüstungsindustrie droht Regierung mit Schadenersatzforderungen” (Armaments Industry threatens the German Government with claim for compensation” amongst others: Wegen des Rüstungsexportstopps für Saudi-Arabien droht die Industrie der Bundesregierung mit Schadenersatzforderungen. Der Hauptgeschäftsführer des Bundesverbands der Deutschen Sicherheits- und Verteidigungsindustrie (BDSV), Hans Christoph Atzpodien, forderte die große Koalition aus Union und SPD in einem Interview der Deutschen Presse-Agentur auf, „rein politische Themen“ nicht auf dem Rücken der Unternehmen auszutragen. (Because of the stop of armaments export to Saudia-Arabia the industry threatens the government with claim for compensation. Chief executive of the federation of German Industries for defense and security, Hans Christoph Atzpodien, demands the Coalition of CDU and SPD, not to apportion political issues at the expense of the companies.) This means in easy words, that profit ranks first. Regardless of the fact, that this profit causes death, pain, destruction and traumas of humans and societies. This means secondly a clear blackmail. If you, government, think about humanity you have to pay us money. In this simpleness I haven’t heard it before.

The German government is very talkative but not everything was realised as explained. When we started with the preparation of our play „On the Run“ in September 2015 we read newspapers about Kenya and Germany like every day to substantiate our scenes and we learned that political talking and political acting can be two complete different things. The more we read the more we realised that the real decisions are not done by the politicians but by the big global companies, managements and brokers and that the politicians mainly try to balance, to obscure or to exert. Honestly, I have started to commiserate the politician coz they are more the henchmen of the business than their decider. They can misuse their position for their own benefit but they cannot really have an effect on it. Merkel some weeks ago said that we shouldn’t be too tough with the car-industry, because we need it. This was maybe one of her most true and honest sentences in her career. Since 3 years Germany tries the balancing act between being a role model and the market leader and discloses the simple reality: greed rules the world. And us, we are chanceless as well, because we can deselect a politician, but not a lobbyist.

So, what can we do? Maybe this is the basic question in life since humans can reflect and decide: do I want to grab as much as possible for myself not caring of any consequences or do I try to follow personal qualities. Is my aim to care for the human worth or to benefit myself? No one else can answer this question for myself than me. As a human I can misuse everything, religion, politics, love, intelligence, skills. Or I can use it for my fellow human beeings. It is my decision. As an artist I can use my skills mainly to earn money or to develop society. But we shouldn’t be naive: theatre will not change the world, as well as not even the most serious politicians will stop war. But is this the authority to give up? Members and partners of Hope Theatre Nairobi will not change the world, not Kenya or Germany, not even Nairobi. But we all go for an idea which cannot be wrong, even though many people will smile about it: peace and human rights. It is like being a doctor: many people will die and maybe never reach the hospital. But is this the authority to stop being a doctor? We all, all humans on this planet are responsible for our world, our society and our community. What we as artist can do is, not to accept, not to be quiet, not to look the other way – but to act for the future of the human rights, of peace and understanding, of global respect and acceptance. And this we do.

I want to say thank you to all who supported us in the last 10 years and I want to take my head off to all members of Hope Theatre Nairobi who decided against the easy way and worked continuously hard for their project, for their aims and for value ethics. Hope Theatre Nairobi has proved that people from African slums can be role models even for Germany and Austria and they have demonstrated that reliability is the only secure basement a big house can stand on…

Thank you for your power, believe and energy – Happy New Year 2019

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