In honour of France’s triumph, winning their second star at the FIFA World Cup Football championship, I thought I’d take a look at knitting in my neighbour country! But then the Trevor Noah thing happened. And then the Mesut Özil thing happened here in Germany. So I went from “Yay!” to “Yeah!” to “Whaaaat?!”
Apparently, Trevor made a joke on his New York based comedy show, The Daily Show, about the win being a win for Africa. The French Ambassador took offence, and wrote him a strict letter, which Noah read on-air and replied to.
At that point, I wasn’t sure I would post here, even though I believe Trevor hit the nail on the head about immigration and the fundamental question each immigrant faces: assimilation vs integration, and what that really means in practical terms. It is not only France, that feels more comfortable if an immigrant sloughs off his/her previous identity to adopt that of the new homeland. Germany does too. And now, that balloon has popped: Mesut Özil.
Of course, I could be cynical and point out the famous Summer news hole (Sommerloch – slow news cycle), where there’s not much going on, so strange topics fill the news in late July-early August, but it’s an important point.
While most folks think Özil shouldn’t have been hanging out with Turkish Prime Minister Erdogan, his scapegoating for Germany’s poor World Cup showing was uncalled for. And he’s thrown in the towel. He feels discriminated against, as is clear from his Twitter statement.
Which brings me back to a film about the same topic: life for immigrants in Europe, “The African Doctor”/ Bienvenue à Marly-Gomont. The film is about a medical student from Zaïre, who tries to open up a practice in northern France in the 1970s and the difficulties of integration he and his family faces. The happy ending is ONLY secured because the villagers don’t want to lose their most talented footballer.
The film is based on a true experiences of French-Congolese musician Kamini. It’s billed as a comedy and was fairly popular in both France and Germany. Although the film probably won’t be released in UK or US cinemas (please correct me if I’m wrong) due to racial sensibilities, it has been reviewed positively.
What struck me, was what the family, especially the wife (played by Aïssa Maïga) had to give up to follow her husband to France. This of course was glossed over and left uncommented on in the movie: she left her family behind, her comfortable upper middle class existence in Zaïre only to be confronted with people’s backward stereotypes.
On the upside, the 1970s was full of brightly coloured knits and crochets. Emmanuelle Youchnovski did a lovely job capturing the vibrancy of the cosmopolitan world citizens of the 1970s and telling the story of the clash of two worlds through the textiles.
Now, thanks to the Sommerloch, we now have a #Metwo tag and moment, where people with diverse backgrounds can talk about racism and discrimination in Germany. Things won’t change overnight, but it’s a start in the right direction.