On Wednesday, 20 February 2013, hundreds of people came out to the Ballhaus Naunynstrasse to hear essays, talks, and music from seven invited guests on the highly emotional and polemic debate on language in children’s books currently taking place in the German media. The doors opened 15 minutes late and due to the overwhelming turnout, some hundred guests unfortunately had to be turned away at the door to this admissions-free event. However, a live stream could be found on the venue’s website. The audience was quite diverse with people of many different backgrounds and ethnicities, however women were in the majority.
The cross-media program was well-organized and lasted approximately 75 minutes. Questions were not accepted from the audience, rather each of the invited guests presented their work in their desired format. Some highlights included: Mekonnen Mesghena, who put the ball in motion, read an essay that explained what moved him to write a letter to the children’s book author, Otfried Preussler, and depicted the onslaught of personal threats, accusations, and defamation campaigns that have ensued since. Philipp Khabo Köpsell presented some of his newest work and reminded the audience that other topics such as black-facing in German theaters as well as racial profiling should not be forgotten and represent other forms of racism in Germany. Noah Sow ended the evening with a video of her hands working her music mixing board. The attentive listener might have caught a few original quotes from the previous presenters’ works.
Ballhaus Naunynstrasse achieved an evening of intellectual stimulation and exchange with guests who argued cogently and objectively discussing a topic that has been plagued by affective rants in mainstream media.