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Semih Yavsaner introduces himself and his stage character.
59 s
Dès 1945, Gabrielle Chanel a vécu une dizaine d’années sur les bords du lac Léman. C’est à Lausanne qu’est enterrée Coco Chanel, décédée il y a tout juste 50 ans. Révolutionnaire de la mode, mais très conservatrice politiquement, Gabrielle Chanel a vécu une dizaine d’années sur les bords du lac Léman pour échapper aux éventuelles conséquences de sa collaboration avec les nazis.
59 s
SWI swissinfo.ch travelled to Montreux to find out why the rock group Queen has such a lasting appeal in the sleepy lakeside town. There's one thing that gives Montreux in western Switzerland an edge over other lakeside towns: it's connection to the rock band Queen. The group’s flamboyant lead singer Freddie Mercury, who died in 1991 due to complications from AIDS, made it his home and Queen recorded seven albums here in studios that they owned from 1979 to 1996. A statue of Freddie, erected here in his honour in 1996, is a place of pilgrimage for fans across the world. Since 2003, special homage has been paid to Freddie on his birthday in September, with international tribute groups drawing large crowds to a free night of concerts on the lake shore. This was cancelled in 2020 due to the pandemic, but a new Freddie walking tour following in the star’s footsteps proved popular in the summer. The 2018 movie “Bohemian Rhapsody” also helped to rekindle interest in the band. swissinfo.ch travelled to Montreux to find out why one of the most famous rock bands of all has such a lasting appeal in a sleepy lakeside town.
5 min
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55 s
Koyo Kouoh speaks about Switzerland and her upbringing in the Zurich of the 1980s and 1990s.
4 min
Switzerland was once a hot destination for stolen cultural artefacts. But now it’s trying hard to secure the return of treasures. It's working closely with the Italian authorities. The latest handover was in October: the Swiss gave the Italian embassy in Bern 27 objects of huge historic and artistic value. These included 26 Etruscan artefacts from a private collection and a 2,000-year-old marble bust, found at the Geneva free port. The illicit trafficking of cultural artefacts is the world’s third-largest illegal market, after drugs and weapons. Countries such as Italy, which has a rich cultural heritage, have been working hard for decades to stop it. As the Lugano lawyer and expert in art law Dario Jucker explains, stolen cultural property represents a vast illegal market.
2 min
The Swiss have a reputation for being rather humourless. But are they just misunderstood? The Swiss have a reputation for being rather humourless – a stereotype many say is unfounded. How much is comedy linked to culture, politics and language that perhaps isn’t understood by outsiders? "Witzerland", an exhibition at the Swiss National Museum in the central canton of Schwyz, runs until the end of January 2021 and sheds light on what tickles Swiss ribs. ("Witz" means "joke" in German.) It features TV clips, artwork and cartoons from humorists such as Patrick Chappette, a cartoonist for the International Herald Tribune and the New York Times for 20 years, and performances from stage giants such as the clown Grock, at one time the highest-paid music hall and variety star. Historical jokes and puns about Swiss society and neutrality feature alongside blonde gags and cracks about the foibles of wives and husbands, as can be found in any culture. Curator Pia Schubiger says that if some people find them offensive, it’s a chance to talk about where the boundaries of humour lie.
4 min
Peter Preisig demonstrates the rich tones of his 'singing bowls' (Klanggshalen).
1 min
After being refined by the unique firing technique, the cowbells made by Peter Preisig are able to produce a beautiful harmonious sound.
58 s
How the pharma industry grew out of the textile trade, commoners seized power from the aristocracy, and how Basel became a city of culture.  Historians have tried to define what has shaped the northern Swiss city of Basel in a new book that takes the reader on a journey through the centuries. ‘Leaps in Time’ was inspired by an exhibition at the city’s Historical Museum  in 2019, marking its 125th anniversary.  From the first settlement at the time of the Celts, it grew into Switzerland’s third most populous city. It’s sometimes referred to as the cultural capital and is known for its many museums, its art collections, and its annual carnival parade, which is included on UNESCO’s list of Intangible Cultural Heritage.The presence of printing presses and the founding of a university in the Middle Ages attracted famous writers and reformers. Basel played an important role as a trading city on the Rhine. Textile industries developed into chemical and pharmaceutical giants over the centuries. The city underwent political upheavals. ‘Leaps in Time’ charts how the secular and spiritual rule of the bishops was ended by powerful tradesmen. A co-author of the book, Gudrun Piller, explains why these moments in Basel’s past made it the place it is today.  
4 min
An expert on urban transformation walks us through the three phases of Swiss spatial planning, with examples in Zurich. Swiss cities and the growing areas around them are increasingly being developed. An expert on urban transformation walks us through the three phases of Swiss spatial planning, with examples in Zurich. Spatial planning has undergone major changes in the course of history. At first, before the 1960s, hardly any distinction was made between building and non-building areas. From then onwards, Switzerland was surveyed and areas were assigned a use, that is, building land, agricultural land or protected areas. In the 1980s, the second generation of Swiss spatial planning came to be. In this phase, residential and office buildings were built over former industrial areas. In this period many companies relocated their production facilities abroad. Freed industrial wasteland that had once been on the outskirts became part of city centres due to the cities growing and were now in attractive locations. But this led to disputes, with the city authorities wanting apartments and developers preferring office spaces. These disagreements resulted in an important planning principle of the first generation to be surpassed, namely that the state specifies the rules and the private stakeholders implement them operationally. Instead, negotiations had to take place. Authorities had to sit down with the builders, investors and owners. The third generation has been implemented in connection with a revised Spatial Planning Act, in force since 2014. Being a recent development, there are not yet many examples of this. The most recent implementation of spatial planning is about making changes in neighbourhoods that have already been built. The new spatial planning law requires inner development before exterior development, with the aim of protecting the landscape, reducing urban sprawl and making better use of the available space.
4 min
Switzerland-based illustrator John Howe, who drew the universe for the Lord of the Rings movies, been working on a new series for Amazon Prime. Canadian illustrator John Howe, who drew the universe for the Lord of the Rings movies, lives and works in Switzerland. Lately, he has been working on a new Lord of the Rings series for the Amazon Prime streaming service. Howe says that illustration offers him great versatility - he has worked on books, films, design, graphics, posters, architectural and urban planning projects over the course of his career. Cinematic projects in particular, he says, allow him to develop mental agility and transversal thinking. "Things that are unknown are the most interesting," he says of his work. "They are full of decisions to be made, challenges that have to be mastered." Howe has been fascinated by J.R.R. Tolkien, the author of Lord of the Rings, since he was 14 years old. "He is one of those authors whose visual evocation is extremely strong: what he describes triggers visions," says the illustrator. "Heroic fantasy, when written well, answers questions every generation is asking." Amazon Prime bought the rights to Lord of the Rings in 2017. Although the Covid-19 pandemic halted production in New Zealand for a time, the streaming service has not announced any change to its plans to release the series based on the tales by Tolkien sometime next year. Adapted from French by Veronica DeVore and Michele Andina, swissinfo.ch
59 s
An Iraqi journalist who fled to Switzerland speaks about her former life in Baghdad and why her current life is sometimes isolating. Thikra Mohammed Nader knows war. She has lived through three in Iraq and one in Lebanon. Now exiled in Switzerland, the award-winning Iraqi writer met us in a park in Geneva to discuss new life here and how it is different from the past. Nader, a Baghdad native who worked there as a journalist for a quarter century, fled to Switzerland in 2006. Decades ago, she was honoured by the Iraqi government for her work and was one of the first journalists on the ground of the Iran-Iraq war in 1980. But throughout her career and especially following the arrival of American troops in Iraq in 2003, she was targeted and threatened for her writing which contained ideas that ran counter to the agenda of the ruling regime and various powerful fundamentalist groups. In Switzerland, she says she has found a place where she can live "as a human being." She praises the country's "breathtaking nature, its security and safety and everything it offers". But she doesn’t shy away from addressing the hardships of a life in exile. She hasn't been able to re-establish herself as a journalist due to the difficulties of learning a Swiss language. As a result, she has felt a more profound sense of isolation. She expresses these feelings in the poems she writes about her life in Geneva. In them, there is much nostalgia for her former life in Baghdad and the alienation she experiences today in Switzerland as a foreigner. "A normal day" by Thikra Mohammed Nader It doesn't seem to be a bad idea If I wasted my life waiting for you Searching for whoever resembles you The café is full of them Those who don't know you The café is full of them I'm not here you're not there You're not just a piece of the past So how come you're here now? But living in my past, and now? Something awakens in me rises from my memories but drowns again like pearls meeting the depth of the sea and so do my sorrows my dearest stories so does my normal day She refuses to call herself a poet, but says "I feel the situation and write about it in my own way". In addition to her work for Iraqi television stations and newspapers, Nader has written a book on the history of Iraq as well as a collection of short stories. Looking back at her previous life, Nader said what she missed most were the evenings spent meeting fellow journalists, writers and poets. She lamented being far from "my source of inspiration: the issues of my homeland and community". One thing hasn't changed: Even after 14 years in exile in Switzerland, the journalist remains a target of online attacks that include threats to her life. They relate to her active presence on Twitter, where she comments freely on Iraq’s turbulent politics. Nader is one of thousands of Iraqis who have sought asylum in Switzerland. Currently, some 3,000 Iraqi citizens are in the asylum process in the Alpine country, with another 2,500 having received refugee status, according to the Federal Office for Migration. That makes Iraqis the fifth-largest population of asylum seekers in Switzerland, after Afghans, Eritreans, Syrians and Somalis. A journalist with decades of experience, Nader’s insights and analysis can be sharp. The online threats in reaction to her writing serve as a reminder that she cannot go back to her home country. "Iraq is what remains of it in my memories," she said. "My memories and dreams have melted with its history and my aspirations for its future."
5 min
The director of O Fim do Mundo talks about his upbringing in Switzerland, dual nationality, and the fate of Reboleira district.
4 min
Special times require special measures: because of the pandemic the drive-in concept is being resurrected to allow cultural events to take place. Special times require special measures: because of the pandemic, the drive-in concept is being resurrected to allow cultural events to take place. Because of social distancing measures to prevent the spread of Covid-19, many big events have been cancelled in Switzerland. Several tourism offices have been seduced by the drive-in concept, which allows people to have fun while avoiding close contact. More than 100 cinema drive-ins are scheduled throughout the country. But the big screen isn’t the only thing people can enjoy from the relative safety of their cars. Last weekend in Härkingen, canton Solothurn, the first drive-in music festival took place in an industrial parking lot. During the lockdown, the drive-in concept was also used for Covid-19 testing booths, and by farms and small businesses who organised food pick-up spots.
58 s
Acting on stage while keeping social distance can seem impossible, but playwrights’ creativity also needs to be taken into account. The black, empty box that the theatre became during recent months inspired Swiss artist Stefan Kaegi to write a new play, reflecting on what the theatre is, and what’s left of it after the show’s over. “Boîte noire – théâtre fantôme pour une personne” (Black box – ghost theatre for one person) premieres Tuesday evening at the Théâtre de Vidy in Lausanne. During the play, which lasts one hour and 20 minutes, the gloved spectator is taken through the theatre’s premises, accompanied by the voice of a guide introducing testimonies from a range of people who make a theatre, and its shows, what it is.
59 s
As cultural events move online, some are looking for different ways of sharing their content. Today, nearly all cultural offers in the world have migrated to the virtual realm. But some cultural giants, such as the Locarno Film Festival, are looking for other ways to make a mark in their field besides putting their content online. Museums, art galleries, theatres, music and film festivals, and even cinemas, have made their shows, collections and premieres available on the web. This new way of consuming and appreciating arts and culture may have broken boundaries – you can visit museums all over the world without leaving your sofa, for instance – but the direct experience, the immediate contact and the collective experience have all been lacking. Some museums in Switzerland plan to re-open their doors in the third phase of easing Covid-19 restrictions (June 8), but the public is still a bit wary of resuming life as it was before the pandemic. The summer festivals, including the dozens of open-air music events, have all been cancelled, including some planned for early autumn, such as Zurich’s Theaterspektakel. So far, the only major event still holding on to its original schedule is the Zurich Film Festival, slated to start on September 24. But it’s still too early to predict the state of affairs even for next month. If going virtual became the most obvious solution for everyone, the Locarno Film Festival has recently announced an original alternative. The organisers are still studying other ways to compensate for the cancellation of this year’s festival, but they have already announced that they will be streaming the short-film competition (Pardo di Domani) online. The main novelty, however, is “The Films After Tomorrow” initiative, which aims to support independent films. Productions that were halted because of the pandemic are eligible to compete: ten films from Switzerland and ten from abroad, with two winners to be awarded a CHF70,000 prize ($72,000) “to make sure those films can be completed and reach their intended target: the audience”. More information on how to apply or take part in the screenings is available on the Locarno Film Festival website.
2 min
Thanks to a shipwreck, this man was born in Louisiana rather than Switzerland. As a child, John Geiser III was surrounded by Swiss people in his grandfather’s adopted city of New Orleans. After the Second World War had ended, John was a young adult when his father took him to Switzerland for the first time. We met John in June 2019, when he gave us a tour of New Orleans. Over the course of a hot and humid morning – mainly on foot – he energetically showed us the traces of Swissness dotted throughout this city famous for its music and mardi gras. John has served as the Honorary Swiss Consul in the US state of Louisiana, and he is still an active member of the Swiss American Society of New Orleans. In fact, nobody in the club has been a member for as long as he has. Swiss in New Orleans Even as far back as 1718, there were Swiss citizens living in New Orleans, Louisiana. Many were workers and mercenary soldiers, such as the 210 lumberjacks sent to clear forest land to make way for the new city. According to the historical records of the Swiss American Society of New Orleans, Swiss soldiers were so well respected that France’s Governor Kerelec wrote, “The Swiss behave exceedingly well… I would prefer reducing the French troops and augmenting the Swiss, such is the superiority of the latter over the former”. In 1829, Switzerland opened its third US consulate in New Orleans.
5 min
Filmmakers in Kosovo are helping to inspire and empower people, and that’s why Switzerland is supporting them. Independent filmmaker Ilir Hasanaj is the son of a political activist who fled from Kosovo to Switzerland. Ilir grew up in Winterthur, attended film school in Zurich, then went back to Kosovo to make a movie. He decided to stay because he felt he could really make a difference there. He's now in charge of screenings at an independent cinema in Pristina. He is part of a wave of new filmmakers in Kosovo who are addressing social and environmental issues. The annual Dokufest in Prizren in the southwest also provides a platform for young engaged filmmakers. Dokufest received €30,000 (CHF32,000) from Switzerland in 2019. In the same year, Switzerland doubled its funding (to €25,000/CHF26,000) for the Anibar International Animation Festival in the northern city of Peja. A Swiss government spokesman said the festival, geared towards young filmmakers, had transformed animation into an important medium in Kosovo.
58 s
While most businesses have temporarily shut down, others are starting up or finding new ways to reach the public in their homes. Some Swiss farm shops, like Thierry Miauton's in Oleyres, canton Vaud, are delivering local produce to people’s doorsteps, so the clients don’t have to risk possible contact with virus-contaminated shoppers in supermarkets. The well-stocked farm shop can hardly keep up with demand and has taken on volunteers to help pack the produce. Sales have quadrupled since the government recommended that all citizens stay at home. Home food deliveries have been around for a while, but there are some new cultural services that can also be enjoyed by the public in their front rooms. For instance, now you can tap into a rich archive of films from different eras, thanks to the “Lichstspiel”cinematheque association in Bern. The association maintains a unique collection of cinematographic material, which it is sharing with the public via livestream. The programme also includes live presentations from cultural experts. But if you’re more of a radio than a film buff, there’s a new online service called Radio 40, set up by two artists from Lausanne whose performances were cancelled because of the virus. Agathe Raboud and Semion Sidorenko wanted to create a platform for DJs and music performers. Listeners are invited to contribute to the featured artists, who are finding it hard to make a living in the current climate.
2 min