Music and poetry as a means of self-empowerment

1st December 2020, 5 pm CET

Our next histoTALK is a conversation between the musicians Joram Bejarano and Kutlu Yurtseven from the band Bejarano & Microphone Mafia and the Rwandan musician and spoken word artist Kivumbi King. Their topic is the role of poetry and music in remembering and dealing with the past. Together with Valery Schuerpflug they will talk about their work, their music and how they use language. What does music mean to them, and what role can music play in dealing with a traumatic and violent past? What is the empowering element of music, and what messages do they want to convey during their performances? Last but not least, why is it still important for young people today to look to the past when it comes to shaping the present and future? The artists have put together music videos for histoCON which are central to the conversation during this histoTALK. 

This histoTALK was recorded before release and should be viewed in the context of the music videos of both artists. 

Music video: Music is my weapon

In this piece, Kivumbi King explores how music enables him to deal with his and his country’s past by embracing, and learning from it. He aims to share his message of empowerment with artists everywhere and encourages each audience member to cherish their history and find an outlet of their own. 

This video was created in preparation for the histoTALK “Music and poetry as a means of self-empowerment”. It should be viewed in the context of this histoTALK, which brings together different perspectives to discuss the role of music and language in remembering and dealing with the past.



If you want to learn more about the commemoration of the genocide in Rwanda, you will find here an article translated into English, published by the German Federal Agency for Civic Education on April 2, 2020.

Music video: Love this life

Joram Bejarano and his mother Esther Bejarano have shared the stage with the rap band Microphone Mafia for many years. When on stage, Esther Bejarano’s roots, history and self-image as a Jewess play an important role, as do the topics of exclusion, racism, violence and war. They perform in many different languages and see their musical, cultural and personal differences as a source of enrichment. This video gives an impression of their stage appearances and readings, all of which are directed against forgetting the past and support living together in a spirit of solidarity and mutual respect.

This video was created in preparation for the histoTALK “Music and poetry as a means of self-empowerment”. It should be viewed in the context of this histoTALK, which brings together different perspectives to discuss the role of music and language in remembering and dealing with the past.

If you want to learn more about this topic you can find here the web documentary “Auschwitz today” in English by the German Federal Agency for Civic Education.

Bejarano & Microphone Mafia, Germany

Kutlu Yurtseven founded the rap band Microphone Mafia almost 30 years ago. Since then they have been making music with changing line-ups and partners from the migrant music scene. Since 2007 they have been performing together with the Auschwitz survivor Esther Bejarano and her son Joram Bejarano. In the joint performances Esther Bejarano's roots, history and self-image as a Jewess play an important role. In 1941 she was interned in the forced labour camp in Neuendorf near Fürstenwalde/Spree from where she was deported to Auschwitz in 1943. She survived Auschwitz as a musician in the camp orchestra, the “Women’s Orchestra of Auschwitz”. She has been active in the struggle against the Nazis and right-wing extremism for decades, giving public speeches, making statements, visiting schools, and playing in various music ensembles. In their joint performances Bejarano & Microphone Mafia speak out against all forms of racism, anti-Semitism, exclusion and neo-Nazism.

Copyright Hartmut Schneider

Kivumbi King,

Kivumbi King was born in the Rwandan capital of Kigali in 1998. He grew up in Rwanda, Uganda, and Burundi, and has been active in music and poetry since 2016. From the start he aimed to contribute to a constructive and future-oriented culture of remembrance, and to use his art to promote dialogue among youngsters in Rwanda, and beyond. Works such as “Cyacyana”, which showcases the realities of living life as a youngster outside of traditional Rwandan values, set the stage for his involvement in multiple international projects. Topics such as culture, colonialism, and what we can learn from history are central in his determination to continue using his art to address the challenges connected to Rwanda’s violent past.

Copyright Valery Scheuerpflug

Valery Scheuerpflug,

Originally from Berlin, Valery Scheuerpflug spent much of his childhood in Rwanda, learning the culture and history from his perspective as the son of a German development worker. Returning to Berlin at 14, he started using music as an outlet, and as a tool to find like-minded people. After finishing high school he returned to Rwanda as a volunteer, aiming to strengthen his connection to the culture and learn the language. It was here that his love for history and art would intersect, and where he would find a great friend in Kivumbi King. The next years were spent studying sound and lighting technology in Berlin, as well as delving into videography. He is currently back in Rwanda collaborating with his friend and colleague, King.

Copyright Kivumbi King

This live format will be based on virtual encounters and discussions, live streams and panels of various experts, artists and many other exciting guests. Be there live, ask your questions and join the discussion on Facebook, Youtube and Twitter.  

Global Perceptions of WWII:


While the German Reich surrendered on May 8, 1945, thus ending World War II in Europe, the war in the Pacific was not yet over. It only ended after the atomic bombs were dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki in early August 1945, forcing Japan to surrender in September of the same year. In Europe little is known about this war in the Pacific. In recent years, global historians have repeatedly pointed out that World War II began in 1937 with the Japanese invasion of China. In this issue of histoTALK, historians Yukiko Koshiro (Nihon University, Tokyo) and Torsten Weber (German Institute for Japanese Studies, Tokyo) will talk about the history of the war in the Pacific and how Japan deals with this history.

Yukiko Koshiro, Japan

Yukiko Koshiro (Ph.D., Columbia University) is Professor of History at Nihon University College of International Relations, Japan. Her publications include: Trans-Pacific Racisms and the U.S. Occupation of Japan (Columbia University Press, 1999), which received the 2001 Masayoshi Ohira Memorial Award, and Imperial Eclipse: Japan’s Strategic Thinking about Continental Asia before August 1945 (Cornell University Press, 2013), which has been translated into Chinese (2014) and Japanese (2016). Her upcoming book explores race and technology in U.S.-Japanese relations with a focus on television and discusses how the two nations almost created the universal television culture and lifestyle that transcended the traditional East-versus-West divide.

Torsten Weber, Japan

Torsten Weber is a historian of modern East Asia and principal researcher at the German Institute for Japanese Studies in Tokyo. He specializes in the relations and interactions between China and Japan from the late 19th century onwards, including war memory and the politics of history. He is the author of Embracing ‘Asia’ in China and Japan. Asianism Discourse and the Contest for Hegemony, a study of how East Asians have challenged the global political and epistemological order during the 20th century. His current research project focuses on John Rabe’s war diaries and their politicization in Japan and China (rabediaries.hypotheses.org).

Reading & Talk

How can literature (re)write history?

Look back, think ahead - What relevance and significance do the past wars and conflicts have for our present life today? And how can writers rewrite history and thus create new approaches to remembrance? In our next histoTALK, Priya Basil will talk about this with the Canadian authors Madeleine Thien and Rawi Hage. In their works, they both deal with the topics of war, trauma, migration and reminiscence. In this talk, they will read parts from their works and discuss the role that literature and literary writing can play in terms of remembrance and dealing with the past. How can remembrance be established and be maintained through language and literature? What forms of writing about war and trauma can be found? What role does both history and remembrance play in the immigration society?

Madeleine Thien,

Madeleine Thien is the author of four books and a story collection. In "Dogs at the Perimeter" she tells the story of two neuroscientists born in Cambodia under the Khmer Rouge regime and now living in Canada, who are caught up in the present by their past. Her most recent novel, "Do Not Say We Have Nothing", which tells the life of a family of musicians against the backdrop of Chinese history, was shortlisted for the 2016 Man Booker Prize and won Canada's most prestigious literary prizes the Scotiabank Giller Prize and the Governor-General’s Literary Award for Fiction in the same year. Madeleine Thien lives in Montreal and is a Professor of English at Brooklyn College.

(c) Rawi Hage

Rawi Hage,

Rawi Hage was born in Beirut, Lebanon. His debut novel "De Niro’s Game" already won the prestigious IMPAC Dublin Literary Award. In it, he tells the story of two friends in Beirut in the 1980s, who end up on different sides of the war front in the Lebanese civil war. His second novel, “Cockroach”, won the Hugh MacLennan Prize for Fiction. Infused with black humor, it tells the story of a young man, homeless and traumatized by war and violence, who imagines himself as a cockroach in a Canadian winter cold city. His most recent work, the novel "Beirut Hellfire Society" was published in 2018 and again focuses on overcoming the trauma of war. Rawi Hage lives in Montreal.

(c) Babak Salari

Priya Basil,
UK/ Germany

Priya Basil is a writer and activist. Her most recent book is "Be My Guest", in which she combines stories about her family's Indian-Kenyan traditions, her British heritage and her life in Germany into a passionate plea for hospitality in Europe. Her essays have been published in "Lettre International", "Die Zeit" and "The Guardian". She is co-founder of the organization "Authors for Peace" and co-founder and editor of the literary-political journal "Rhinoceros". Priya Basil is part of the Advisory Board of the European Centre for Constitutional and Human Rights and is the initiator of the campaign for a European holiday across the continent.

Global perceptions of WWII: Eastern Europe

The 22nd of June marks the anniversary of the invasion of the Soviet Union by Nazi Germany. Against this background, the latest edition of our histoTALK will deal with the memory of the Second World War in Eastern Europe.
How did civilians experience the war, what consequences did it have for them? and what influence does WWII still have in the region today? How has memory developed over time? Join our guests Stefan Creuzberger (Germany), Dmytro Hainetdinov (Ukraine) and Aliaksei Lastouski (Belarus) for our histoTALK today, 22 June, 3 to 4 pm (CEST).
This edition of the histoTALK will take place in coordination with bpb:connect and the international sister network EENCE.

Stefan Creuzberger,

is currently Professor of Contemporary History, University of Rostock and Director of the Research and Documentation Centre of the Dictatorships in Germany at the University of Rostock. He focuses on German History after 1945, 20th Century History of the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe, History of Dictatorships, International Relations in the 20th Century.

Aliaksei Lastouski,

is currently associated Professor at the Institute of Political Studies “Political Sphere” at the Polotsk State University and deputy editor in chief of the Belarusian Political Science Review. Furthermore, he is conducting a research project on “Religion in post-Soviet nation-building: Official mediations and grassroots’ accounts in Belarus” (2018-2020, Södertörn University, Stockholm, Sweden).

Dmytro Hainetdinov,

is the Head of the Educational Department at National Museum of the History of Ukraine in the Second World War / Memorial Complex managing of the educational process and focusing on commemoration.
Before that he studied history at the Taras Shevchenko National University of Kyiv, Ukraine.

Comic & Talk

Representation of War and the Holocaust in Comics

In recent years, more and more comics have been created that address serious historical and political topics. This has also led to such comics increasingly being referred to as graphic novels. Not later than with Art Spiegelman’s Maus it became clear that comics can make an important contribution even to dealing with the Holocaust. In this live stream Jakob Hoffmann talks to the renowned comic artists Barbara Yelin and Tobias Dahmen about their works and about the biographies of ordinary people during the war. The two artists present their works and give insight into the genesis and sketches of their current works. They discuss fundamental decisions which they have to make when producing their books: about the approach, about the depiction of violence and suffering, but also about fiction. They discuss whether comics are capable of making an important contribution to an educational process that promotes something like learning from history.

Jakob Hoffman, Germany

organizes comic events and publishes the children's comic magazine “Polle”. In 2017 he founded "Yippie", the first children's comic festival in Germany. With "Stories & Strips", a series of events in Frankfurt, he invites comic artists from all over the world to discuss their comics. He curated several exhibitions of contemporary and outsider art as well as the exhibition "Holocaust in Comic" at the Anne Frank Educational Center in Frankfurt am Main.

Tobias Dahmen, Netherlands

had his breakthrough with "Fahrradmod", a comprehensive graphic novel about his own youth as a mod. The book was a huge success in Germany. Tobi Dahmen works mainly as an illustrator and is currently working on his second big comic "Columbusstraße". In this project he reconstructs the biographies of his grandparents and parents from   World War I to the time after World War II.

Barbara Yelin, Germany

is one of the most acknowledged comic artists in Europe. With Irmina (2014) she published one of the first German graphic novels about the Second World War. In 2016 she won the most important German comic prize (Max and Moritz Prize). With David Polonsky (Waltz with Bashir) she published a book about the Israeli actress Channa Maron. She is currently working on a graphic novel about a Holocaust survivor.

Opening: International Live Panel

Look back, think ahead - What does 8 May 1945 mean to us today?

An international renowned panel marks the opening of histoCON:LINE. Wangûi Wa Goro (Kenya/UK), Dimitrij Kapitelmann (Germany) and Karolina Wigura (Poland) discuss the perception of 8 May 1945 for present and future. The panel will be chaired by Cosima Gill. During the discussion the experts will address various key questions: What are the impacts of narratives and commemoration practices? What does global memory mean – what does it require? What lessons are to be learnt by dealing with history and commemoration? What does it mean for us today, what is our individual access to the topic and what are our hopes for the future?

After an initial discussion round, the panel will respond to your questions on Facebook. Post your questions in the Facebook Live-Chat and share your perspectives with us.

Our international guests are:

Wangûi wa Goro, Kenya/UK

(International Scholar and Public Intellectual) has served as a translator, an academic, critic, translator, editor, writer, social and cultural catalyst, advocate, activist and campaigner for human and cultural rights for four decades. An interdisciplinary person, she is best known for her work in literary translation, including theory, practice, promotion and teaching.

Dmitrij Kapitelman, Germany

is an Author and Journalist. He was born 1986 in Kyiv, studied Political Science and Sociology in Leipzig and is publishing mostly in Die ZEIT und DER SPIEGEL. His first Novel: „Das Lächeln meines unsichtbaren Vaters“ (My Invisible Father's Smile) was published in 2016.

Karolina Wigura, Poland

is a sociologist, historian of ideas and journalist. She is the head of the Observatory of Public Debate of Kultura Liberalna (Liberal Culture), one of Poland’s leading centrist think tanks. Karolina Wigura is also an assistant professor at Warsaw University’s Institute of Sociology.

Cosima Gill, Germany

is a journalist, TV writer and Instagram host for among others Westdeutscher Rundfunk ("Aktuelle Stunde"). Her focus is to ask uncomfortable questions when necessary; to tell stories that otherwise wouldn´t be told and to expand her own perspective every day.