5:07pm

Tue May 31, 2011
Life in Berlin

Berlin Carnival of Cultures has Ethnic City Flare

Stefanie Schatte belongs to the team that organizes the Carnival of Cultures. For the past 15 years, Berliners from all walks of life and different ethnic backgrounds take part in the Carnival.

50 decorated floats participated in the first street parade through Kreuzberg. The public was thrilled and the Carnival of Cultures became an annual highlight. The idea to celebrate Berlin's cultural richness on the streets of the city originated in the mid 90's, says Schatte:

"It was a time when a lot prejudice against immigration and immigrants heated up, because of that the idea was born. To make something positive and to show that variety is a big chance, and it's not to be seen as a problem. That there maybe differences, and difficulties, but if you overcome them, it's a big chance for everybody."

Over the years the numbers of street performers and visitors has risen. Last year, 1.3 million people celebrated the Carnival of Cultures. While most of the participants are still from Berlin; they represent 80 different nationalities. Some groups will spend half a year preparing for the big parade.

Stefanie reflects "there is a lady for instance, she is from the Caribbean. She has 80 people in the group and for every person, she makes a costume. So, they are about four hours on the street and then it's over. So, they invest a lot of energy, time and money to make this happen".

Money has become a problem in recent years. Stefanie Schatte says, the financial support the Carnival gets from the city of Berlin is all spent on logistics. The individual groups have to find their own sponsors. This year might be the last for Afoxé Loni, the group that usually starts the street parade.

Stefanie Schatte: "They do an Afro-Brazilian ceremony. They do a spiritual cleansing of the road, this year they said it costs us so much energy and money, we cannot do this anymore. Everybody profits from the Carnival, it's a big image thing for the city, but the groups don't. They have to invest."

Depending on the size of a group, costs can run from two to nine thousand Euros, money needed, to pay for costumes, music systems, and to rent vehicles. Stefanie Schatte says more and more groups can't afford it. Nevertheless the Carnival of Cultures will be just as large as last year's.

Almost 5000 street performers are preparing to turn the streets of Kreuzberg into a giant party. But it's more than a party. There are also floats addressing environmental and political issues.

Stefanie points out "we have a group this year called "Degage - Revolution Made In Tunisia", and this group wants to bring the atmosphere of the Tunisian Revolution to the streets of Berlin."

The Carnival of Cultures runs from the 10th to 13th of June. The big street parade starts at half past noon at Hermannplatz in Kreuzberg on Sunday the 12th of June.

Copyright 2011 National Public Radio. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.