Capital of Culture project “The Smoking Chemnitzer:in” at the Professorship of Intercultural Communication at Chemnitz University of Technology researches the representation of women and queer people in Chemnitz and develops new smoking figures
The Schneeberg wood designer Markus Weber (r.) received members of the project group at the Seiffen Memorial. Photo: Professorship of Intercultural Communication
For over 200 years, small wooden figures have been smoking in different scents, especially during the Christmas season. They often represent figures from everyday rural, craftsmanship – in complete contrast to the nutcrackers, who usually embody the “authorities”, such as kings, hussars or masters. To date, little has been researched, but behind the traditional smokers (“Raachermanneln”) from the Erzgebirge there are numerous open questions: What stories do they tell? What perspectives do they represent? What stories and perspectives often go unnoticed in this folk art? And how can they be further developed to reflect the diversity of our everyday lives? These questions form the starting point for a project seminar in the master’s program “Intercultural Communication – Intercultural Competence” at Chemnitz University of Technology (TUC), in which students critically examine current transcultural and globalized social structures. The project “The Smoking Chemnitzer:in”, funded as part of the European Capital of Culture 2025, researches under the direction of Dr. Melanie Hühn, research assistant at the Professorship of Intercultural Communication (head: Prof. Dr. Heidrun Friese), the tradition of incense smokers from the Ore Mountains and at the same time – with the design of new incense figures – brings women and other marginalized groups from Chemnitz into focus.
Since April 2023, students have been theoretically dealing with the topics of “tradition”, “gender”, “stereotypes” and “representations”. At the same time, they visited museums and “women’s places” in Chemnitz, watched films about women in Chemnitz and visited workshops for folk art. Little by little, the students came up with ideas about which marginalized groups in our society that have so far been little in the public eye could be examined. With the help of interviews with Chemnitz women, the analysis of documents by and about Chemnitz women and queer people, research in the archives of the university library or participant observation in the urban space, four sub-projects are currently being worked on, which will later be made visible in the form of four incense figures: “Women in Science”, “Being Queer in Chemnitz”, “Women in the Music Industry” and “Migrants in Elderly Care”.
“Our goal is to make marginalized groups visible and to increase awareness of issues of representation and stereotypes in regional crafts,” explains Martin Liebau, one of the students in the project group. “In addition, the students should further combine theory and practice in the research project and contribute to the practical transfer of their findings. Furthermore, the students are actively involved in project management, project documentation and public relations and can gain a lot of experience for later professional activities,” adds Hühn.
From the April 12-14, 2024 The students will present the results of this research project during a three-day event Exhibition im Project house Brühl 71 a broad public. The self-designed incense figures made by Schneeberg wood designer Markus Weber can be seen here. The exhibition is also intended to serve as a public space that stimulates dialogue about traditions, folk art, representations and marginalized groups.
“The seminar project shows how new discourses of intercultural communication can be implemented in creative art forms. It offers space for reflection and dialogue and links regional traditions with raising awareness of gaps in social representation and thus social injustice,” says Hühn. With their commitment, the students are pursuing the goal of helping to shape the European Capital of Culture in 2025. The research excursions to the toy village of Seiffen and Dresden, the production of the self-designed incense figures and the costs of the exhibition are supported by the Capital of Culture Fund of Chemnitz University of Technology (TUCculture 2025).
Further information granted by Dr. Melanie Hühn, 0371 531-35975, email [email protected].
(Authors: Henrike Tietz and Dr. Melanie Hühn)