Remember the river: using art to connect students to the Danube

Remember the river: using art to connect students to the Danube

Students on both sides of the Danube in Hungary and Slovakia have compiled their memories of the river into a paper chain, linking their recollections together to explore how the Danube crosses borders and unifies people

The Mária Valéria Bridge between Slovakia and Hungary has been destroyed twice. After it was last rebuilt in 2001, Karol Frühauf conceived of the Bridge Guard Residency to invite artists from around the world to ‘guard’ the bridge by using art to strengthen the connection between people on both sides of it I came to Štúrovo, Slovakia, as the 33rd bridge guard to develop a creative writing project about how the Danube River connects 83 million people in 19 countries in the Danube River Basin.

The Remember the River project began with visiting high schools in Štúrovo (Slovakia) and Esztergom (Hungary), guiding students in writing down their memories of the Danube River on slips of paper. Each student had a personal story about the river, whether feeding ducks, boating, or falling in as a kid. These slips of paper were combined into a chain of memories.

Using these memories, I created a simple children’s story/poem imagining what the Danube River would remember about us: the quiet before people arrived, wars, floods and pollution being dumped into its waters. The story was translated into Slovakian, Hungarian, and German, and students from a Štúrovo art class illustrated the text, which we laid out on one long piece of paper as if the text were the river itself.

Our effect on the river. When reading the story with groups of students, we discussed how the river’s ‘memories’ of people may be different from what we remember about the river. We explored our memories of the river, what the river would remember about us, and the research and threats to the Danube presented by the ICPDR.Looking at the environmental impact of the river from a different perspective allowed us to commit to its protection with renewed enthusiasm.

The chain of memories and illustrated story was presented at the annual AquaPhone performance. When Mária Valéria Bridge was destroyed, people would go down to the river to talk to each other on the other bank half a kilometre away. The AquaPhone performance combines written text in German, Slovakian, and Hungarian and is accompanied by improvised music to represent the people who communicated by calling to each other. The AquaPhone performance and Bridge Guard Residency inspired me to rethink how to engage students in thinking about the environmental challenges facing the Danube River.

Future goals. I’m working to expand the Remember the River project by translating the story into all the languages spoken along the Danube River Basin. I’d like to collaborate with organisations working on Danube River Education and find ways to use art and storytelling to remember the river and build bridges between young learners.

 

You call me different names,
but I am one river. I remember
how quiet it was before people.

I remember when I flowed blue.
I remember when I flowed brown.
And I remember the times I flowed red.

I watched you build your cities and bridges.
And I watched you tear them down.
You have swam in me, fished in me, and drunk me.

You have sailed on me, thrown stones in me,
and harnessed me for power. As you used me, I watched every one of you.

You have passed by me like a river.
I remember you before you knew my name.
And I will remember you when you are old and forget my name again.

I will remember you always.
Will you remember me?
You call me different names,
but I am one river. Danube

 

Anmerkung: Die deutsche Version, die hier angeführt ist, weist gegenüber der gedruckten Version und PDF in Danube Watch 3/15 einige grammatikalische Korrekturen auf.

Ihr nennt mich mit unterschiedlichen Namen, aber ich bin ein Fluss. Ich erinnere mich, wie ruhig es war, in den Zeiten vor den Menschen.

Ich erinnere mich daran, dass ich blau geflossen bin. Ich erinnere mich daran, dass ich braun geflossen bin. Und ich erinnere mich an die Zeiten, als ich rot geflossen bin.

Ich sah Euch Städte und Brücken bauen. Und ich sah Euch, wie ihr sie wieder abgerissen habt. Ihr seid in mir geschwommen, ihr habt in mir gefischt, und ihr habt mich getrunken.

Ihr habt auf mir gesegelt, habt Steine in mich geworfen, und habt mich für Stromerzeugung gebraucht. Während ihr mich genutzt habt, habe ich jeden von euch einzeln beobachtet.

Ihr seid an mir vorbeigegangen wie ein Fluss. Ich erinnere mich an euch in Zeiten, als ihr mich noch nicht beim Namen nanntet. Und ich werde mich erinnern, wenn ihr alt sein werdet und meinen Namen wieder vergesst.

Ich werde mich immer an euch erinnern.
Werdet ihr euch an mich erinnern?
Ihr nennt mich mit unterschiedlichen Namen, aber ich bin ein Fluss. Donau

 

Voláte ma rôznymi menami, ale ja som jedna rieka. Pamätám sa na to, aký bol kľud, než prišli ľudia.

Pamätám sa, ako som tiekol modrý.
Pamätám sa, ako som tiekol hnedý.
A pamätám sa na časy, keď som tiekol červený.

Videl som vás stavať mestá a mosty.
A ja som vás videl ich aj búrať.
Plávali ste vo mne, chytali ste ryby vo mne, pili ste ma.

Plachtili ste na mne, hádzali ste kamene do mňa, a použili ste ma na výrobu prúdu.
Počas toho, čo ste ma používali, som pozoroval každého z vás.

Šli ste okolo mňa ako rieka. Pamätam sa na vás v časoch, keď ste ma ešte nemenovali.
A budem sa na vás pamätať, keď budete starí, abudete na moje meno zabúdať.

Ja sa na vás budem vždy pamätať.
Budete sa vy na mňa pamätať?
Voláte ma rôznymi menami, ale ja som jedna rieka. Dunaj

 

Különböző neveken hívtok, de ugyanaz a folyó vagyok.
Emlékszem, milyen nyugodtak voltak az idők az emberek előtt.

Emlékszem arra, amikor kéken folytam.
Pamätám sa, ako som tiekol hnedý.
És emlékszem azokra az időkre, amikor vörösen folytam.

Láttalak benneteket városokat és hidakat építeni. És láttalak benneteket megint lebontani őket. Úsztatok bennem, halásztatok bennem, ittatok engem.

Hajóztatok rajtam, köveket dobáltatok belém és erőműveket építettetek rám.
Figyeltem minden embert, aki használt engem.

Folyóként mentetek el mellettem. Emlékszem rátok azokból az időkből, amikor még nem neveztetek meg engem. És emlékezni fogok rátok, amikor öregek lesztek és megintelfelejtitek a nevemet.

Mindig emlékezni fogok rátok.
Fogtok ti rám emlékezni?
Különböző neveken hívtok, de ugyanaz a folyó vagyok. Duna

 

For more about the project visit www.bridgeguard.org and to watch the presentation of the chain of memories and illustrated story, visit
www.youtube.com/watch?v=Eoy-ijTru28.

Torran Anderson is an environmental educator/writer at torrananderson.com.

 

Next: The road to environmentally sustainable inland waterway navigation

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