The writer interviewed the director of Goethe-Institute Aegypten, Heiko Sievers, and asked him about his future plan to promote cultural dialogue between Europe and Egypt and the Middle East in general.
The Goethe-Institute Aegypten in Cairo and Alexandria has succeeded in encouraging a cultural exchange between Germany and Egypt in particular and between the Middle East in general. Following the events of September 11, 2001, it also promotes intercultural dialogue with the Islamic world, and encourages exchanging experiences. The new director of the institute is Heiko Sievers, who took over from Johannes Ebert [Reviewer: for more information see: http://weekly.ahram.org.eg/2007/835/profile.htm]. Sievers studied Social Sciences in Germany, and worked as a professor in Berlin for five years. He then worked as a teacher for Goethe in India, then in Kabul and moved to New Delhi to be the director of the Goethe-Institute in India and North Asia region.
Q: How can you encourage and promote dialogue between the East and West without any bias judgments?
A: The conflict appears when each side misunderstands the other. Intercultural dialogue between the East and West can not be fruitful unless it is not conducted via cultural institutes such as Goethe or sponsored by the media.
Q: What is your future plan?
A: At this time I do not intend to enforce my plans; I will study the previous director’s achievements. The work, here, includes Egypt and the Middle East; interests in this region are increased in the aftermath of incident of September 11 to promote dialogue. I need further information on the activities of the preparatory meeting of the Euro-Mediterranean Youth Parliament and the ’ME-You’ program [see: http://www.goethe.de/ges/eur/prj/ejp/enindex.htm]. Furthermore, I will hold meetings with the media and intellectuals from Germany and Egypt to have a clear vision of the activities. The problem in countries like Egypt and India is that they are interested in their local cultural; hence like the Germans, large numbers of Egyptians do not pay attention to our international cultural efforts. I will work on enhancing the intercivilization and inter-religion dialogues, encouraging meetings between the Egyptian and German artists and intellectuals to exchange personal experiences.
Q: Does Goethe’s future agenda relate to Germany’s directing of the European Union [EU]?
A: Germany did not prepare any cultural programs to serve it politically while heading the EU. The Goethe Institute has effective cultural contributions and does not have a political agenda
Q: What about the translation plans?
A: For years, the Institute has supported translation from German to Arabic via leading projects such as Litrix [For more information see: http://www.qantara.de/webcom/show_article.php/_c-310/_nr-25/i.html]. I will work on increasing the translation process.
Q: In your opinion, is the Goethe-Institute able to convey a positive image of the Arabs and Muslims and assure that terrorism is not related to a certain religion or nationality?
A:My colleaguesare working on this all over the worldvia organizing international cultural activities. Beside this, the German intellectuals, youths, and artists visiting Egypt and the Arab countries reflect their experiences and their dialogue with their Arabic friends to Germany.
Q: What do you think of Cairo as this is your first visit to it?
A:It is a very sophisticated city. I still cannot comprehend how the Cairenes are able to live in this very expensive life in peace and harmony.