In the beginning was the word:
– Almanya’ya means “to Germany”. (Background: Germany was the first and best/ (only) known European country name, when the first guest workers from Turkey went to Germany to work in the the late 1960ies) Thus it should be no surprize where the name for immigrant in Turkish derives from. “Almanci” means guest worker/immigrant who went to Europe to work in the 60ies to the 80ies. As people going to Europe to work or study from Turkey today will never be named “almanci” as that was a time specific phenomenon. As the endings cı, ci, cu, cü, çı, çi, çu, çü are endings for words indicating professions. The ending ‘-ci’ in the word “almanci” changes the word “alman” (meaning= German) to a person specifically working in Germany or in Europe. The profession thus becomes the country these Turks have taken work in. To elaborate on this: for instance the professions simit-ci (a person who sells simit, the Turkish bagelly bread), fırın-cı (a baker), çöp-cü (refuse collector/garbage man), süt-çü (milk man) et.c.
My tiny self-invented word/terminology is “Almanya’ya”(to Germany) / “Alman yaya” (German pedestrian).. And although I am not sure how to present or where to even put the apostrophes or the splitting of the word/words my aim is to re-make the word “almanci” in a dynamic and self emancipatory way. And I am not sure what the word fully means yet.. Coming from the inside of the “almanci” community: namely from me!! Instead of being named as an ‘almanci’ by people who stayed in Turkey, therefore it is not a word the migrant uses to name himself.
This word was accidentially ‘coined’ while writing another of my countless pieces on migration. And I suddenly saw the word “Almanya’ya” screeming that it was walking. It was endlessly walking and running away from the paper. Its unstoppable. “Almanya’ya” indicates a dynamism, a decision albeit due to societal/economical/(political) reasoning the “Almanci” word is mostly used derogatively by Turks from Turkey no matter any social class. Almanya’ya (could be explained as embodying a strong skill to decide for one’s own life and future. It can liberate the negative connotation of the stereotypized villager from Anatolia who was never schooled or learned any manners). As if the ‘almanyaya’ has a direction, even going to Germany by foot. I might be all wrong and the word definitely needs more help and elaboration to be able to walk steadily and to be proud on its own, naming himself! The migrant names herself as “gurbetci” meaning a person who has taken work somewhere far away from his place of origin. For a person who has money such an initiative would lead to moving. as moving is then the right word, but being a “gurbetci” normally starts alone. Its usually the man who goes away to work and then he sends money back to his family. (he usually ends up with a Danish/German wife..and forgets his wife. meantime he actively makes half Turkish babies..) Im not sure if this word really is anything special, but to me it definitely speaks of something yet unveiled. It has a spark.
Den allersidste dans = The very last dance.
Before moving to London I didnt pay much attention to my nostalgia for the Danish culture, my belonging there/to it/ feeling of being a bit outsiderish to the culture I grew up in. The culture of my schooling, the language I still 6 years away from Denmark shift over too sooo easily that even I am amazed by it. all words, all cultural codes, every conversation starts so easily, there are no rules, no cunningness, no politeness (at least that I am very aware of!) its an easier culture in my opinion. You can fart and it wouldnt be the end of the world really.
Maybe it was because I didnt marry early as my Danish and Turkish friends.. I kept feeling outside of any culture. “Being only one culture (monocultural) must be a calm lifestyle, no wuthering heights, no ups and downs, no doubts, no crying, no identity crisis or maybe its good at least there are more layers that you can indulge yourself in to find meaning and spend time within. I dont belong anywhere! Im not a village Turkish, Im not Danish, Im not a Turksih person who is fully integrated into Danish culture who feels at ease and feels accepted in Denmark (accept by the people I know and that know me), Im not a ‘modern/”city”/”Istanbul” Turkish. Im just me. I tried to belong and become at least the last category for a while as I felt forced into that here, but that was never me. I was so many other things. But no one wanted that. You had to belong!
I want to be all parts of me again instead of just one category.
Nostalgi handler om at vaere et andet sted end det man gerne lige ville have vaere pa et givet tidspunkt. In my case there are more nostalgies, more layers, more categories that I partially belong to..
The problem with nostalgia is that it doesnt really exist besides in my mind. It’s the grouping of nice things from a given cultural segment, its my grouping, its my longing , its my sehnsucht a la Nazim. Maybe the beauty of nostalgia is that it is only something that belongs to me. The sadness of never being able to share it more than in fragments is mine, its mine alone, mi poder para siempre!
En rigtig expat-sang og en rigtig udenlandsdansker dyrker sfoli Kim Larsen:)
This is “NOT my last dance” with nostalgia.
This song breaks my heart and heals it simultaneously as it brings about my nostalgia:
“Den allersidste dans..” (the very last dance before we go home, before the sun breaks and a new day begins)
Endnu er du mig naer (you are still close to me)
The night is still young
A ‘meeting’ with your mouth before we go home is all that I want before we go home.
An evening is over. you whisper me goodbye. I kiss you ‘so long’.
“Stereotyped” (A performance research fully in progress. Therefore this should not be seen as a finished work.)
Two video-loops of a performance carried out in Aarhus 3 times.
The title “Stereo-typed” is a remixed hybrid-born word, ‘stereotyping and the inbuilt wording ‘typing’ indicating. stereotyping is something that actively happens to you, while you are trying to live your life as an ordinary average Dane. In Denmark you are a target that is only visible in the papers.they let you out of your categorized box when its again time to recreate and refresh what society needs you to be and look like.not your real nose picking self of course!Maybe one should thus actively participate in stereotyping. But when that happens, the ‘stereotypers’ dont even see themselves being mocked for their wrong deeds.
This work has been carried out as a ‘research performance’, as to find out whether being an ethnic minority bride could actually attract the same Danish media created stereotyping and racializing hatred and eurocentrism, that I so often meet when I come to Denmark.
Doing this performance in Aarhus and not in Copenhagen has made a totally positive outcome for the whole process of walking down from Aarhus Banegard (train station) together with a crowd of people leaving the station and down to the first set of traffic lights on Stroget.
Attempting to do the walk in Aarhus was far much easier than in Copenhagen I felt, as Aarhus is smaller with a local feel and to me less discriminating (at least on the surface). Copenhagen has stopped me in doing this performance and other performances along the years. Its always easier to do brave things when we are away from home.
I did the walk/stroll 3 times and my experience changed each time. I found that rather tan being seen as an ethnic minority woman mainly exoticized/orientalized I ended up becoming ‘just a bride without her husband’.
In fact the bridal gown gave a sort of protection from the eurocentric gaze that I am often prone to in my home country Denmark.
Realizing that people are always happy to see a bride and that of course the event of marriage is a happy one. Although some people thought I was modeling for the Bruun’s Galleri Shopping Centre, while others tried to avoid eye contact with me even feeling a bit intimidated by the situation, as formally and normally a wedding is something you are personally invited to, but I deliberately invited all of Aarhus city to take part in my ‘bridal stroll’. Some just liked the dress, no one looked at the colour of my hair as I had expected them to (or maybe a few people did?). Maybe I am prejudiced as well?!
The only ones who saw and questioned the red writing ‘victim?’ on my back decolte, were in fact the young teenagers of multicultural backgrounds, that I am very acquainted with from my teaching years in Denmark. They were the most brave and honest of all.
My negative expectations, which had scared me, due to racist reactions that I might receive realizing this performance didn’t really happen. My overall idea was to underline the nuances of the everyday stereotypes of ethnic minority women and how they are not all being forcedly married by their families, nor do they have to wear veils, be covered or always have a husband by their sides. In fact they can walk independently alone as a bride even. More than anything that day I felt alone, as a woman. That was a general feeling that goes beyond the colours of our skins, whether Danish or New Danish. In my opinion this is a feeling that is enmeshed in Danish culture and its gender relations. At the end I remembered the loneliness that I had felt for years in Denmark. Being a woman in Denmark is not an easy task.
“Kaert barn har mange navne” is a Danish saying meaning the one you have dear has many names. Used mainly for sarcastic situations; here too it is meant in a sarcastic manner. Migrants and their descendants have many names in Denmark; names, nick names and very derogative names. The series of work “Kaert barn har mange navne” is a compilation of these. Collected in my memory since I was a child and mainly from the 1990’ies and up until today.
The making of the golden necklaces have occurred out of a personal urge to question the stereotyping, that is often being made towards ordinary immigrants and their descendants in Denmark.
Wearing these names on a necklace should normally check the typical boxes of the stereotyping of migrant names. These types of necklaces are the ones we recognise on the necks of young New Danes (nydanskere (new Danes) after each summer holiday in their mother countries. Mainly from Turkey and the Middle East. They are normally displaying the names of the one who bears the necklace; a form of identity creation for young ethnic minority youth, especially girls.
When looked at from a distance these necklaces are expected to complete the idea of the stereotyped migrant. Usually spelling out unpronounceable names in ‘yellow golden’ letters. (being the bearer of the “Yellow golden” necklaces, is even a Turkish stereotyping of Turkish immigrants to Europe.)
The words here are carefully chosen (read: plucked out) from the horrific media hetz towards migrants since the mid 1990s. These mostly negative nicknames are displayed in the golden necklaces.
Although the stereotype of the migrant is one who usually ‘cannot speak’ (Gayatri Spivak’s term ‘the subaltern’) and who is always labeled by different groups in society, here in this work the migrant itself finally gets a voice talking back to the stereotyping name-makers for immigrants in Denmark via these necklaces.
As well as simultaneously being a surprise and shock to the Danish viewers on intend, who are part of constantly creating and re-creating negative discourses on migrant issues. The necklaces are deliberately made to keep the language, visual form of discrimination and discourse of the person who consciously and unconsciously stereotypes migrants and other marginal groups. The other.
I want these necklaces to be a mirror of those everyday conflicts taking place in Denmark, not just in the newspapers, but also in public spaces and especially in public transportation, where I happen to write most of my ideas, reflections and anticipations on this pressuring issue on Denmark and its ethnic minority groups.
Although this work is from 2013, the recent discussions and rhetoric on “Danishness” http://nyheder.tv2.dk/samfund/2016-09-23-martin-henriksen-man-er-ikke-noedvendigvis-dansk-fordi-man-er-foedt-i-danmark shows us that these issues are never being dealt with or developed on.
Performance in wooden box, as part of Muslimah Arts and Voices Exhibition at Kvindemuseet in Aarhus in Denmark.
Duration: 15 minutes.
The unspoken gaze, that I felt on my body for years, that was classified as “me being too aggressive” by Danish friends. Telling me I was seeing ghosts. (Although I was mainly known to be a good and quiet girl.)
‘…it wasn’t till I moved to London to study Arts and Cultural Studies that I found the root to all the unspoken and invisible in Danish society towards migrants.
Eurocentrism was taking a big part in the migrant psychology that I felt prone to in Denmark, but which strangely disappeared outside of Denmark.
Placing myself in the centre of uncomfortability and gazes.
Being partly a shy person, I have wanted to put myself in a situation of Danish “glosuppe” (soup of stares) for many years. As I want to be looked at/stared at from many angles (read: any angles) to make sure that it might end the eurocentric gaze of ‘othering me’, for being different due to historic traces of colonialism and now neo-colonialism.
Could Danes get full and contend, by being allowed to look at me and orientalize me for as much as 15 minutes at a time in performances standing in a box just being me, many times during today.
Reading on the theory of theorist Homi Bhaba an Edward Said I have indeed realized that the “eurocentric gaze” of Europeans and especially the very homogenic and mainly monocultural Danish culture is not intended. This gave me a certain relief and a huge urge to write and talk about “eurocentrism” in general when in Denmark.
The box calls for others who feel different to put themselves inside the box.
As “eurocentrism” is not per se the only problem in Danish society, simultaneously London life and culture taught me that the Danish Jante Law, that we see as long forgotten, unfortunately gives an ever-extending feeling of “small town mentality”, that regulates what we do and who we are via another gaze.