One central element of your festival experience will be the workshops. But who are the people offering them and what inspires them to do so? Meet Elisabeth Desta, who will be offering the workshop “Propaganda : Civic Education”. She told us why she thinks it is important to keep the memory of historic events like WW1 alive, how she came up with the idea of offering this workshop, and why comics play a big role in her job.
Q: From your point of view, why is it important for today’s generation to engage with historic events like WWI ?
A: Without engaging with history one doesn´t know how the (national or regional) narratives originated. As well I think it is really important to deal with history to understand the society we are living in. There are often continuities leading from historic events to present political attitudes. For example in WWI colonial soldiers were employed by all sides. They were not only thought to be inferior but there were racist campaigns against them, when the French deployed colonial soldiers during the occupation in the Rhineland, known as “Schwarze Schmach”. The same racist stereotypes occur nowadays – so one can ask why there are always the same images and stereotypes and what their function is.
Q: What inspired you to offer the workshop “Propaganda : Civic Education”? Which aspect of WWI do you find particularly interesting?
A: As you already noticed the colonial soldiers are of specific interest to me. The perspective of the colonial soldiers is mentioned very rarely. They fought during both World Wars – forced and voluntary – and for sure some sought in this commitment a better life for them and their families in European countries… With the workshop I want to make this topic a little bit more known.
Q: How is the topic of your workshop related to your job?
A: I am a freelance cultural manager with a focus on political and historical education. Right now I am working in several comic projects with young comic artists from all over Europe. One of the projects is called Redrawing Stories from the Past which is dealing with the topic of migration and escape during National Socialism. We try to retell forgotten stories of people who migrated and escaped due to discrimination and persecution. With the format of the comic we want to make these forgotten stories visible to a broader audience and show how complex, difficult and full of deprivation migration and escape are. Even though they were the “lucky” ones who survived, it is important to keep in mind that they were the exception not the rule. The comics will be published by the Latvian comic publisher kuš! and the exhibition at the gallery Neurotitan in Berlin will open on 16 March 2019 and run through 6 April 2019. So stay tuned.
Q: What, in your opinion, are good strategies to maintain and foster interest in historic events like WWI?
A: I think projects and workshops where youngsters deal with historic events like the Great Wars are essential. It is important that they are not only told in a teacher-centred approach about these incidents but that they deal with the topic in their way. For example if you draw a comic about this time, for sure you have to ask yourself a lot of questions and this really lets you dive into the topic. In 2014 I organised a workshop for the History Campus, where I worked with comic artists as well. You can have a look at the outcome in this recently published book. I hope that also the topics of propaganda and civic education will strike a chord with the participants. In 2014, we had a brilliant time and fruitful discussion, so I am really looking forward to WAR OR PEACE!