Approaching the Other and redefining multiculturalism

Approaching the Other and redefining multiculturalism

More than 30 immigrants were recently washed up dead on their way to Greece, a young Pakistani was murdered in Athens simply because of his skin color, Hassan Mekki -one of the hundreds immigrants who have come across with racist violence- has still fresh the scars and the wounds on his body when he was attacked by black-shirted men holding Greek flags. Can we close our eyes towards this pain? Can we remain silent towards these screams? And moreover, what is the role of art in a society in which the demand for tolerance and solidarity is more important than any time before?

This question became even more urgent with the debut of the theatrical play “Hecuba, Hekábē, Hecabe, Hécube, Εκάβη Project” directed by the Albanian actor and director Enke Fezollari in Athens as part of the Festival of Cultures, supported by the European Integration Fund for Third Country Nationals. Euripide’s classic masterpiece is being presented in an outstandingly innovative way and is a contemplation on existence and especially co-existence. “The play is about people from different countries who talk about the issue of the Stranger,” claims the director. Actors from three different countries (Albania, Greece and Uganda) integrate and create on the stage a mosaic of different cultures that are united in a strangely natural way. The fact that Enke Fezollari himself grew up between two countries, between two cultures offered him a more wide-ranging view of reality. He “belongs just to his art and audience,” he likes to say. After all, we would be naïve if we believed that there could be such a thing as a solid identity. We are the outcome of our multiple, constructed identities.

It seems that there are more similarities than differences as people mourn, grieve, love and ask for justice with the same intensity and need. Traditional Albanian songs for funerals and weddings, poems, as well as a traditional African story and a song “about a child who dreams of traveling to the moon” are mixed together with the tragic Hecuba’s monologue and the Greek language. A white mother mourns in Albanian the dead body of her son, which was washed up by the sea. Surprisingly, he is not white. Does this remind us of something? This could look surrealistic elsewhere. However, it does not in our modern society that faces a social crisis and alienation. Hecuba or Hécube or Εκάβη is a mother. She is a ruined country. She is an immigrant from Bangladesh, a Syrian refugee, a Greek from Eleusis. She is all of us, the foreigners and “us,” the director points out. The thing is that now, it’s difficult to distinguish who is the foreigner.

Hecuba suffered the death of her husband and son during the Trojan War and she is confronted with further excruciating losses as her daughter is sacrificed. All these facts turn her into the role of vindictive aggressor. The victim becomes an avenger. Who is the enemy then? “We are living in a time when you cannot tell who are the victims and who the perpetrators. There are so many things going on and in this play the question about who is the Greek and who the Barbarian remains open and unacknowledged,” says Fezollari. One’s identity and all the other things that consist and construct the “Self” are always have the possibility of undertaking change. We progress and redefine ourselves through the necessary interaction that ensues when we come in contact with the body, the language and the existence of the Other.

In this chaotic social reality the figure of the Other appears more precarious than ever. But who is really the Other? Who is hiding behind the mask? The play brings out the fact that we should not search for the Other out of our own selves. It is the fear towards the Strange that gives birth to never-ending battles with windmills. In addition, the endless rhetoric about the glorious past and nation create conflicts and tensions between the different ethnic fantasies. The subject of racism either is a Jew, a Muslim, an African-American, gay or lesbian, and is a fantasy figure, someone who embodies the void of the Other.

So, rather than creating scapegoats, rather than trapping ourselves in Kafka’s tower, let’s try instead and defeat the Stranger that lies inside us.

The article was originally written in English.
Photo credit: Sotiria Psarou