University of Minnesota
University of Minnesota

Cracks in the Walls: 25 Years After Berlin, organized by Sonja Kuftinec, Nov. 6, 2014

Cracks in the Walls: 25 Years After Berlin

Thursday, November 6, 2014, at 4:00pm
Crosby Seminar Room, Northrop

On November 9th, 1989 the Berlin Wall cracked open and unleashed a problematic ahistorical narrative of celebratory “re-unification”. This narrative makes less visible contradictions around the wall’s pre-Cold War history as “anti-fascist protection”. Thus, while walls can materialize ideological separation, their presence and absence often elides complex historical formations and political contestations. Twenty-five years after the fall of the Berlin Wall, this symposium asks how performance can animate representational ruptures in three walled (or previously walled) sites: Berlin, Israel/Palestine, and along the US/Mexico border. Participants will include members of the IAS Collaborative on Brecht, the Department of Theater Arts, and Combatants for Peace—an alliance of Israeli and Palestinian ex-combatants who use theater as a tactic for resisting the Israeli Occupation. The symposium will additionally invite Dakota multimedia artist, Mona Smith, to complicate the creation of state walls and borders from a Dakota perspective.

Dr. Chen Alon, Combatants for Peace
Sulaiman Khatib, Combatants for Peace
Prof. Matthias Rothe, German, Scandinavian & Dutch, University of Minnesota
Mona Smith, Dakota Multi-media artist (Mona Smith’s presentation was not recorded, but included an exerpt from her documentary Between Fences)

Moderated by Prof. Sonja Kuftinec, Theatre Arts & Dance.

Download: small video or original.


Download: small video or original.

1989. People on top of the Berlin Wall at Brandenburg Gate, in front of border guards. On the night of November 9, 1989, following weeks of pro-democracy protests, the Stalinist state’s authorities suddenly opened the East German border. After 28 years as prisoners of their own country, euphoric East Germans streamed to checkpoints and rushed past bewildered guards, many falling tearfully into the arms of West Germans welcoming them on the other side.
Combatants for Peace, a group of Israelis and Palestinians who have been trained to fight either in the Israeli Defence Force (IDF) or as Palestine’s Fatah paramilitaries, have now put down their guns and together taken to the stage. The group, formed in 2005, perform sketches based on their own experiences of war to promote a “non-violent” resolution to the conflict.
“Art Conquers All”. This photo was taken on November 9, 2009, showing artwork on a mock-up of the Berlin Wall symbolically torn down at an event commemorating the 20th anniversary of the fall of the Wall on Wilshire Blvd in Los Angeles.
Combatants for Peace members Dr. Chen Alon and Sulaiman Khatib demonstrate against the Israeli separation wall in Beit Jala with assistance from the U.S.-based Bread and Puppet Theater company.

Chen Alon, Ph.D. is a lecturer at Theatre Department at Tel-Aviv University and a theatre activist. As a Major (res.) he co-founded “Courage to Refuse”, a movement of officers and combatant soldiers who refuse to serve in the occupied Palestinian territories, an action for which he was sentenced to prison. Alon is also a co-founder of “Combatants for Peace”, a movement of Palestinian and Israeli combatants who have abandoned the way of violence and struggle together non-violently against the occupation. Activism in the complicated reality in Israel/Palestine led him as a professional actor and director, from the formal theatre, to search and create new forms of political activism, in the Israeli-Palestinian theatre against the occupation.

Sulaiman Khatib is a co-founder of several non-violent activist organizations including Combatants for Peace and the Al Quds Center for Democracy and Dialogue where he currently serves as Vice President. In early 2008 he worked with an Israeli partner to found Wounded Xrossing Borders project, which brings together wounded casualties of the conflict from both sides. The participants of this long dialogue come from the mainstream in both Palestine and Israel – ex Palestinian prisoners as well as an ex Israeli Chief Warden of a jail. In August 2009 Sulaiman and his Israeli colleague, Gadi Kenny, hosted the Global Majority seminar Promoting Peace Through Dialog, with participants and professors coming from USA, Bosnia, Nigeria, Palestine, Israel, India, Holland, Japan, and Northern Ireland. In the same month they also organized the Minds of Peace negotiations for peace exercises. Sulaiman learned the basic philosophy of non-violent political struggle while serving over a decade as a political prisoner in the first Intifada.

Sonja Kuftinec is a Professor in the Department of Theatre Arts and Dance at the University of Minnesota, Twin Cities. Her areas of specialization include performance and social change, community-based theater, theatrical facilitation: Middle East, Balkans, 19th- and 20th-century American theater, history and literature, women in theater, performance studies, Balkan theater, and Cornerstone Theater Company. She is the author of Theatre, Facilitation, and Nation Formation in the Balkans and Middle East (2009) and Staging America: Cornerstone and Community-Based Theater (2003).

Matthias Rothe is Assistant Professor in the department of German, Scandinavian & Dutch. He received his education at University of Rostock (DDR) and at University of Hamburg in German Literature and Language and Philosophy. His PhD thesis “Reading and Spectatorship in the 18th Century” was published with Königshausen & Neumann in 2005. He currently works on Stoicism in 18th century political philosophy and Brecht’s drama fragments. His most recent publication is: Kant and Epictetus. Transformations of Imperial Stoicism”: Rochester Institute of Technology Press, in: Epictetus: His Continuing Influences and Contemporary Relevance, Dane R. Gordon, David B. Suits (eds.).

Mona Smith, Sisseton-Wahpeton Dakota, is a multi-media artist, educator and co-founder of Allies: media/art. A former University-level educator, Smith has produced work broadcast through PBS, and shown at festivals, conferences and museums in Europe and North and South America. Her work has received awards from Native and Non-Native film and video festivals; her new media work includes art projects for the web, sites for web distribution of Native focused media, and multimedia installation work, most notably, Cloudy Waters; Dakota Reflections on the River (Minnesota History Center, 2004-2005), City Indians (Ancient Traders Art Gallery, Minneapolis, 2006-2007), and the Bdote Memory Map (in partnership with the Minnesota Humanities Center). Her artistic and educational practice uses image, sound and place to reinhabit the imaginations and the experience of the audience/participant, and to work between the place of healing, of relationship, of meaning, where spirit and physical, life and death, fear and strength, night and day intersect. Allies: media/art is an award-winning Dakota owned media production company, incorporated in 1996.

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