(by Kees Broos, Frankfurt – Deutsche Übersetzung)
The Museumsuferfest in Frankfurt am Main – Impressions of a Dutch Kiwi trying to root in Frankfurt since 2009
On Saturday 25 August 2012 the “Blitz tip zum Wochenende” dropped in our letterbox, a free small weekly newspaper for Frankfurt Nord. The tip: ‘Kultureller Genuss am Museumsufer’. A quick browse on the quoted link informed me, that Aotearoa, the land of the long white cloud, New Zealand was this years’ host nation, occupying a strip of 100 meters along the riverbanks of the Main. The program showed a variety of entertainment on the ‘Kiwi’ stage. My taste buds were wetted. A curiosity for what else my fellow Kiwi’s had to offer from a country where I had lived from 1983 till 2009, before rooting in Frankfurt am Main did the rest.
I was particularly interested in the performance of a Kapa Haka group ‘Te Matarae I Orehu’. The performers hail from the shores of Lake Rotoiti, a lake in the Tasman region of New Zealand at the top of the South Island. They take their name from the sacred headland (Matarae) of Orehu.
There are many Kapa Haka groups in New Zealand. In 2004 I witnessed a performance by 3 Kapa Haka groups in Gisborne, whilst I was living there for 9 months, a city with a population of more than 50 % Maori. This experience carved a deep impression and positive scar in my memory. The dedication and authenticity with which the performances were carried out that night made the hairs in my neck stand up. What would this performance be like?
On the Sunday morning around 10.30 I got in the car, accompanied by Uta, my lovely German wife. She had been to the festival in the past, before we knew of each other’s existence. For me it was the first time, but I got the basic information in our drive towards CBD Frankfurt. An ‘eat and drink’ burger filled with observing the back of other people, trying to make some form of progress along stalls of merchants and artists selling their ware, listen to performances at the different stages spread along the riverbanks and drift in and out of museums lining the Main. By coming early we were trying to come away with a fairly bland burger.
The Saturday had been a lovely summers day, come Sunday the temperature barely reached 17 degrees and there was a long cloud hanging over the riverbank, not white, but rather grey with a tendency towards black.
We arrived well ahead of the scheduled performance time. The group would perform on the ‘Kiwi’ stage at 12.00 hrs. It gave us a chance to meander around the New Zealand stalls prior to the performance. The area and stage were easily spotted, a big banner ‘Kia Ora’ across the footpath could not be overlooked.
You could taste wine and beer from New Zealand, albeit the choice was limited, definitely not displaying the wider range of products as available in New Zealand. One beer from DB (Dominion Breweries), yes in New Zealand there is DB as well, sounded very attractive, it was labelled ‘Flame’. Today it was available for 2 Euro, per 33 cl bottle, a bargain, considering it had come from 20.000 km away. What was missing was a stall next to it selling Hell Pizza. Believe it or not there is a brand name in New Zealand, called Hell Pizza; they come in a black take away box with red flames printed on it. The people behind the brand are very successful I have to add. They are always walking this fine line in their advertising campaigns. Once they handed out condoms with the purchase of a pizza, sales went through the roof. Good or bad you be the judge.
In a country with 47 million sheep, wool cannot be overlooked, so one of the stalls was selling wool products under the brand name ‘Icebreaker’. The name alone made you shiver on this cold Sunday morning, but touching the product gave you a warm fuzzy feeling and the poster was funny too.
If you are interested in studying on line, several institutes were trying to sign you up for one of their many courses or as an exchange student. The education institutes in New Zealand are very active in online student sign up promotion. The government financial support is depending on student numbers, including on line students, no matter where they are sleeping in the world.
Tourism forms a big chunk of income for many New Zealanders; no wonder that Kea Campers were on display to introduce the German public to a way of exploring New Zealand in luxury.
At the end of the 100 m display there were traditional Maori carvers, displaying their skills carving in wood and greenstone. A small model of a Wharenui, a Maori meeting house, no shoes please, could be entered and experienced close up.
Here my first real feel of New Zealand on German soil hit home. I spotted a big Maori bloke, Rastafarian hairdo ,black singlet, loosely fitting trainer shorts, flattened flip flops, tattoos from top to bottom and a big greenstone ear piece; that would make any European wearing it, to walk lop-sided,. He probably would tip the scales somewhere passed the 130 kg. In summary a monster of a guy, you would want to walk around in a very big circle any time of the day. Nothing is further from the truth. With a friendly ‘hey Bro’ (short for brother), he would display his tattoos to anyone, who showed an interest, pictures no problem. He was just a big teddy bear proudly talking about his heritage.
Doesn’t time fly when you are having fun, early arriving well in time for the Kapa Haka performance at the festival, we had to join the big audience way from the back, because it was already well past 12 when we returned to the ‘Kiwi’ stage.
It was a very good performance, which I really enjoyed and caused my eyes to water. Emotions, memories, it all bubbled up. The female and male group leaders explained very well the different items used by the group during their different Haka performances. All in Newzealandish, it is a very fast spoken form of English. I wonder how many in the audience got the part, explaining a weapon used in one of the dances to kill the enemy by a blow on the head and eat the content. It sadly may have re-affirmed the belief of the majority that the Haka is only a scary war dance, it is not. Any Maori dance is referred to as a Haka. When you enter a Marae, the ground around the Wharenui, which you are only allowed to enter upon invitation and led by a female Maori elder, you will be greeted with a welcome Haka.
Not many performers were wearing real tattoos, permanent markers to paint the tattoos on the body were fading in places, but the performance was real, great passion.
After the performance finished everyone was given an opportunity to take pictures of the group. A very nice gesture, not to just rush of the stage as if it were another day at the office and very much appreciated by the public.
Time to leave our footprint in the New Zealand area on German soil and have a look at some of the other stalls, crossing the Main to the south side with the Frankfurt skyline in full view on the northern side, it became clear why Frankfurt is also known as ‘Mainhattan’ and the festival as ‘Museumsufer’. Museum after museum is lined up next to each other on this side of the Main. A 4 Euro museum button, in hot demand gave you access to the participating musea during the festival.
The majority of the stalls along this side of the Main are artists offering their ware, but also food merchants a plenty. Almost a fifty- fifty split; food-artist-food-artist-food-artist……. Since the festival attracts many tourists, it is reflected in the prices for food and artist ware. We gave it all a pass knowing that within the not too distant future there will be a different festival, market, and whatever else one can invent to highlight their creativity and food products.
The sky darkened dangerously. A sign, we should try to get back to our car without having to open our umbrella in an ever increasing wind, reminiscent of the four seasons in one day in Auckland.
The car wipers kept up with the rain. As told in Maori mythology, the tears of the Gods gave their blessing.
I agree; it was an enjoyable experience. I look forward to the next New Zealand experience in Frankfurt, when New Zealand is the guest of honour at the Frankfurt Book Fair from 10-14 October 2012 with the theme:
Kia kaha (Maori for stay strong)
Cornelis (Kees) Broos