Amphibious Trilogies

Research Banat

Pondering on field work in the Rumanian Banat region, late May early June 2017, as seen through the guise of a social scientist and historian.

Banat was in the old the time of the old Austrian Hungarian Empire a border area towards the hostile Kingdom of Serbia.  Some of the first shots and military action of the First World War was fired along the border between in Banat was the Danube river. The river being a transport artery of crucial importance for the empire, however further down river under control of Serbia and Rumania and before their independence under the control of the Ottoman Empire. Up-river Roman Catholic and down river Greek-Orthodox, Rumanian-Orthodox, Serbian – Orthodox with small enclaves of Roman Catholics. Protestants and even some Muslim communities. Scattered among them small communities of Roma, Jews, Germans, Czech, Slovaks, traders and travellers of all nations. The fault lines of Europe and some will claim the detonators of war and conflicts in the past and possibly even in the future.

Being a social scientist and historian and working with choreographers, we came to the small Czech community of St. Helena situated in the hills above the Danube on the Rumanian side of the Danube.  We were studying what metaphorically is a pond of populations living in close proximity to the majority population, but still independent and very much in their own world.  The Czech speak their own language, maintain their own traditions and are either Baptists, other protestant denominations or Roman Catholics while the surrounding population is either Rumanian or Roma and Rumanian Orthodox. Other Czech and even German minorities exist close by but mostly accessible by tracks through the forest and a rugged terrain filled with crevices and isolated farms. Scattered here and there up in the mountains farms of Roma and people living a life they have for centuries. Horse pulled wagons with horses with feathers and decorations to scare away wolves and bears.  Huge pigs on the outlying farm serve as protection against wolves and bears as well as a source of food and lubrication.

In the middle of it all the new inventions of windmills putting the wind blowing down-river and sometimes up- river and across the ridges into electricity.  Part of my study is historical connections and part how a small minority culture maintain their traditions is part of my study. Part of the latter includes the maintenance of old farming practices, crops, breed of animals, plants and a traditional landscape.  Then I study how those cultures interact with outsiders.  The latter meaning that I study the choreographers and what they do and how the locals relate to them.  I am one of the team of three, the two others Amanda Steggell and Brynjar Bandlien.  Having another identity I feel different, but the locals understand as all as one category.  We are all outsiders, coming for a visit and staying for a few days. We all come from far-away places and speak together in an alien language neither Czech nor Rumanian.  Luckily, Brynjar can speak Rumanian and thus is the interpreter.

The common humanity, what we share as humans, the meals we have together. Both the locals and we coming as visitors appreciate the beauty of flowers, the taste of the home baked bread, the vegetables from the garden, the meat from the farm animals. Art is another common ground – dance and movements – the choreographed recorded movements. We use new technology and we communicate through new technology. We have audiences in Banat, living up in the hills, members of a small Czech community connected to us by Facebook.

Myself, I have similar experiences from other parts of the world. Some of them living in the extreme northern communities of Inuit in Nunavut in Canada. Suddenly, through Facebook they are in contact with people in another community living under completely different conditions. The Amphibious project, thus does connect and interact with people in far different places and I with questions of movement, music and dance and choreography.

Mobile telephones, horse drawn carts, huge pigs and computers. Windmills and hand pumped water. Limestone country with caves and bats.  The impressions are numerous and contradictory.


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