Ethnic appearance, blah, blah!

By Mely Kiyak

I'm often invited to read from my columns. My first reaction is always: Noooo! Whenever I show up somewhere, the audience is disappointed. They're disappointed that I don't come bursting through the door, belching and telling a juicy joke. For those who have never seen me in the flesh, I have quite a frail, ethereal appearance. I am trapped in the gossamer body of an elf and have a fragile voice. When I belch, my whole body erupts in a tidal wave.

Recently I was left standing at the station because my host was expecting to meet a sultry oriental lady. I ran after him shouting: "Don't judge me! Years of eating German food have lightened my skin and hair. I arrived in the world the colour of an unpeeled potato, but now I look like a peeled King Edward. The German people have imposed their food on me. Now this is what you get!" So then he took me to the venue.

Sometimes I Google our ensemble at the Gorki Theatre. I look to see whether their agents have something new to tell us. Nothing is more embarrassing for theatre actors than a guest appearance on the latest cop or country doctor TV show. And even worse than appearing in a TV series is when actors accept an embarrassing role in an actual movie. Of course the classic thing is to be cast as a Turk.

In acting terms, this is about as demanding as carrying a glass of water across the room. Every actor hopes no-one will ever find out that they have played this part. Once I made the mistake of congratulating an actor on his appearance in a movie. He went rigid and gave me a cold stare. I thought: "Oh shit, he's going to beat me up!" The film really was a disaster, as bland as the Brandenburg landscape, which is dominated by its breathtaking nothingness.

On I noticed that they give the height, skin colour, hobbies and 'ethnic appearance' of the actors listed. This is obviously a casting platform, but it's hard to find out any more about this company. Mehmet Yilmaz and Thomas Wodianka are two of my favourite colleagues in the ensemble to be listed on filmmakers. Thomas looks a little like a grownup version of Oskar Matzerath from the film version of The Tin Drum. Mehmet looks like – I'm not sure how to describe him – well, the opposite of Thomas. Both are described as looking "Central European". What is the point of such a vague classification? No idea. In my opinion, both of these actors are the kings of craziness. Their agents don't promote their clients by saying they have a talent for silliness, a penchant for fun. I can confirm this is the case with both of these guys. They are the absolute grand seigneurs of absurdity and have a crazy appearance.

A few weeks ago, I travelled to Dresden with my little cabaret troupe, Hate Poetry, to counter the Pegida group's anti-Islam demonstrations. Hate Poetry is a group of journalists whose appearance could be described as Southeast European. We read out our readers' eloquent diatribes, which could be described as 'racist reprimands, German authoritarian posturing". I would like to officially announce that we have succeeded – we have beaten Pegida!

Just a few weeks after our performance, Pegida's former head Kathrin Oertel resigned and set up a new group. A group that will no longer have the word Islamization in its name and that aims to shed the Nazi element – so Pegida without an ideological foundation. 500 people came along to the launch of the new group. Mass movements that do not involve race hatred generally have little success in Eastern Germany. They need to get the word 'Islam' into their policy agenda as soon as possible, otherwise they will remain forever an esoteric sect. The right-wing party AfD only really began to grow after it began sneering at people who looked like they had a mixed ethnic background.

This week I have to do another reading. A message to the host: Please don't leave me standing on the station platform! I'm not an East European beggar but South Eastern Oriental bedtime reading with an ethnic appearance, blah, blah.

Europe: Closed Doors or Open Arms? Culture and Migration / EUNIC, ... (Hg.). – Göttingen: Steidl , 2015. – 300 pp. – (Kulturreport, EUNIC-Jahrbuch)

Europe: Closed Doors or Open Arms? Culture and Migration / EUNIC, ... (Hg.). – Göttingen: Steidl , 2015. – 300 pp. – (Kulturreport, EUNIC-Jahrbuch)
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Mely Kiyak is a journalist and political columnist. Her column 'Kiyaks Deutschstunde' appears regularly in Zeit Online and she writes 'Kiyaks Theater Kolumne' for the Maxim Gorki Theater Berlin. A winner of the Theodor-Wolff Prize, she has published a number of factual books on subjects as diverse as travel, gardening and death. She also writes for the theatre and appears on stage. With colleagues, she is the founder of Hate Poetry, an anti-racist show involving readings. She was named Germany’s Journalist of the Year 2014.