‘Babylon Bern,’ an arts event inspired by Swiss author and dramatist Friedrich Dürrenmatt’s play ‘An Angel Comes to Babylon,’ will host concerts, exhibitions, film screenings, text and poetry readings in German and Kurmanci, dramas and DJ performances on the 4th and 5th September in Bern, Switzerland.
The event is organised by the arts association Mesela, which promotes exchanges and networking of artists in Switzerland and the Middle East, and Maison du Futur, a centre of innovation for arts in Switzerland.
‘We Are Visible’
The event will start, after an opening ceremony, with an exhibition of the ‘We Are Visible’ project: a project undertaken mostly in Sulaymaniyah (Iraqi Kurdistan) by residents and refugees from Rojava and Afrin in north and east Syria, Shengal (Sinjar) in Iraqi Kurdistan and Iran.
The ‘We Are Visible’ project, which intends to encourage the creativity of project participants, also aims to demonstrate a visible, lively sign of community spirit, engagement and solidarity with peoples who have been shaken by destructive acts and by expulsion. The project group developed community sculptures through a process which was essentially identical to that of traditional clay construction, still practiced in villages and towns in rural Mesopotamia. The process has not only enabled cooperation, but also created an atmosphere in which people can cook, eat, make music, dance and celebrate together.
Özlem Yaşar, one of the co-founders of Mesela, working on issues of social reconstruction in war zones, and Werner Neuhaus, another Mesela co-founder and a visual artist, will use bricks for the exhibit.
Concerts and exhibitions
One of the concerts on 4 September will start at 16:30, with Bager Şen and Ensemble VA from Geneva. Another other concert is scheduled for 22:00, featuring Farzan Darabi and Bager Şen.
There will be a showcase event, ‘Babylon Kunst,’ at 20:00, exhibiting art works by Zehra Doğan, Serdar Mutlu, Werner Neuhaus and Johannes Lortz.
Zehra Doğan, a co-founder of the first news agency in Turkey to work exclusively for women, JinHa, is both a journalist and painter, who, while covering civil wars in Syria and Iraq didn’t only report but also reflected her experiences through watercolour images.
Doğan also made a series of drawings while she was imprisoned in Diyarbakır (Amed) and Mardin in Turkey. She was sentenced to a prison term in 2017 for “spreading propaganda for a terrorist oganisation” after she’d reported on the situations in Cizre and Nusaybin during the siege and curfews when clashes between Kurdish militants and the Turkish military started in 2015. On 16 March 2018, street artist Banksy unveiled a 20-metre-long mural in New York that featured a tally sheet representing the days of Doğan’s imprisonment.
Serdar Mutlu is a socio-political conceptual artist who emigrated to Switzerland in 2017 due to the political situation in Turkey. He documented the stories of refugees that he witnessed in Greece and Switzerland as “records of social memory,” using photography and drawings in which he projected people into their stories.
On 4 September, there will be two film screenings. ’73,’ a film about the genocide of Yazidis by Nazım Daştan will be screened at 19:30 with English subtitles. Daştan, another co-founder of Mesela, is a journalist who worked as a Dicle News Agency reporter during 2010s in Turkey, Iraq and Syria. He was arrested in Turkey for reporting and spent one year in prison, but has since continued to report, both on the civil war in Syria and on the attacks of the Islamic State in Shengal in 2014.
‘Neighbours,’ a feature film by Kurdish-Swiss film director Mano Khalil, released in July 2021, will be screened at 20:30. It is the third feature film by Khalil, after ‘Bunte Träume’ in 2004 and ‘Die Schwalbe’ in 2016.
Schedule for 5 September
The second day of the event will start at 11:00 with a performance by Swiss musician Andreas Urweider.
The exhibition of the ‘We Are Visible’ project will continue at 13:00, after a service of snacks and drinks at 12:00, to be accompanied by a screening of Nazım Daştan’s film ‘Meju’ (with German subtitles), a poetry reading by poet Ferhan Mordeniz and a photography exhibition of Daştan on Kobane, Rojava.
There will be a live link with Kobane at 14:00.
A presentation of Zehra Doğan’s graphic novel ‘The Hidden Drawings’ (‘Xêzên Dizî’ in Kurdish) at 15:00 will follow.
‘Babylon Bern’ will close with a drama performance at 19:00 by actress Ntando, featuring the work of Swiss writer and playwright Lukas Bärfuss.
The address for the event: Reichenbachstrasse 112, Bern.
Contact details: [email protected]
Online viewing: https://m.mixcloud.com/live/Maison_du_Futur/