Omar Rajeh

Just as single projects tend to always refer back to their historical predecessors, the concrete political meaning of history’s complexity also emerges in a project realized by HELLERAU ­– European Center for the Arts Dresden. Cultural and social transformation processes are examined, with emphasis on a currently and intensely debated field within the debate on identity politics in Dresden: the city as a space of memory.

In his new project “#minaret,” the Lebanese director and choreographer Omar Rajeh deals with the destruction of the city of Aleppo and mirrors it through the discourse on memory and identity that has shaped Dresden’s urban society. What does it mean when a city or parts of it are completely destroyed? What do we do when the values, ideals, principles, the history and culture that shaped it vanish with this destruction? What happens with the memories of these places? What happens to the people who once brought them to life?

For almost 1000 years, the minaret of the Omajjaden mosque could be seen over the roofs of Aleppo. In 2013 the tower of the minaret could no longer withstand the heavy bombings and collapsed. Large parts of the historical center of the city, a UNESCO world cultural heritage site, now lie in ruins. At the same time, these bombings in Syria are responsible for the influx of refugees that have recently also shaken Europe to its foundations. in “#minaret,” Omar Rajeh connects contemporary dance with visual art and live music, a combination inspired by Aleppo’s musical traditions. It is the abstract formal language of dance that Rajeh finds particularly fascinating. Movements that are disconnected from spoken language and become universally accessible in their independence from words. Movements that at the same time belong to the customs and traditions of a culture.

In May 2018, “#minaret” was part of the B-Europe festival, which dealt with the diversity, visions, and a plan b for Europe: what does Europe mean, how do we perceive this community of states today? Is Europe just a giant institution, governed in Brussels and Strasbourg – or does it still amount to much more?