Review Bochum

Ever seen a man from the Middle East dancing Guinean style?


“In Bochum angekommen – aber unbekannt? (Arrived in Bochum, but still unknown?) is the title of a two days Specially Unknown festival in Bochum, taking place on 6 & 7 April 2019. A first day of entertainment on a city square to show the public the cultural expressions of different refugee communities and a second day of fairy tales, intercultural exchange and contemplation on the project Specially Unknown in the LWL-Industriemuseum Zeche Hannover / Bochum.

On Saturday morning the public assembles at the dr. Ruer-Platz, a square in the city centre of Bochum. On this day four refugee communities who, inspired by the oral history project Specially Unknown, have joined forces, will show the public their acts of dance, music and storytelling.


The first on stage is the duo Burgurcu with a medley of Kurdish, Turkish and Alawites songs. The male half of the duo has been interviewed by one of the Specially Unknown fieldworkers. During the interview, he talked about the special meaning of music and expressed the wish to be on stage more often. And so it happens…


After this kick-off and a short presentation of the project and its fieldworkers, a dynamic programme with different Syrian music and dance acts, sweeping music and dance form Guinea and a fairy tale and drum sessions from Congo unrolls itself. Dietmar Osses, director of the LWL- Industriemuseum in Bochum is the perfect host.


After the first performances suddenly there is a lot of noise in one of the streets leading to the square. What is happening? Are people coming to disturb this peaceful gathering? But no- it is the dynamic Syrian Union of youngsters of the Future, that plays the drums and marches and dances to the stage. The public, excited about this powerful drumming, soon joins the act. From this moment on, whether it is African, Syrian or Kurdish music, people from all communities clap and dance together exhibiting a strong feeling of mutual commitment and togetherness. This special atmosphere even reaches the people living along the square. Some are hanging from their windows, one even decides to film the whole event.


The next day the festival moves to the Museum. It is a lovely morning with lots of sunshine. The surroundings of the Museum (in a former mine shaft) are green, filled with dandelions. Approaching the place where the meeting will take place, you hear Syrian Ud music and lively singing form people who are waiting to get inside.

From inside you hear a loud Guinean rhythm section accompanied by song. But nobody bothers about this mixture of these two different styles.

Once the programme starts the circa 100 persons fitting in the room are sucked into a swirling show of the family based Joe Coka Band from Guinea. Once again people spontaneously start dancing. Ever seen a man from the Middle East dancing Guinean style? In the LWL-Museum it happens. Some wonder what the former miners would think of this, but come to the conclusion that they, often migrants themselves, just would join this celebration of existence.


After a break, the programme a more quiet programme follows: stories and testimonies of people involved in the Bochum section of the European refugees’ oral history project Specially Unknown. Dietmar Osses, who hosts the talk show, has two questions for each panel member.

Katarzyna Nogueira who has trained the four fieldworkers in the art and techniques of oral history, tells how she made connections with the different communities on behalf of the Museum and how all community leaders decided to become fieldworkers themselves, because they are convinced of the necessity to collect and safeguard the life stories of refugees for future generations.

Fieldworkers Agir Mustafa Birhîmeoglu and Zoubeida Khodr tell how important it is for them that the stories of refugees become part of the cultural heritage of the city and how their communities feel recognized by being part of the project and the warm welcome of the Museum. One of the results of their participation is a new platform of refugee organisations in Bochum.

Besides the fieldworkers, an interviewee, a historian and the coordinator of the European project, tell about the meaning of the project from their own perspective.


After the lunch break with delicious food from the Middle East and Africa, there is a special moment: a reading of the German version of the Italian fairy tale about Espérer (Island of Hope), a story by Antonio Damasco, director of the Italian Network of Folk Culture and partner of Specially Unknown, written as a comment on the refugee crisis. The author himself is on the spot. The story, wonderfully red by Dyana Krupezki, is about a group of people, refused and rejected by two countries, who start their own community, so warm and welcoming that the youth of both countries which rejected them, feel attracted to it. And then, the piece of land on which this community has developed, is cut off from the mainland and turns into a travelling island that sails away. Taking the good qualities of togetherness, compassion and altruism with it.


Heading towards the end of the festival the programme concludes with poems, speeches and music.
Bochum can look back at a warm and well-organised event.