Sri Lanka at Carnival of Cultures in Berlin
By Lalith Ganhewa in Berlin
June 12, 2014

Every year the City of Berlin is proud to show its Multicultural flair of the City with a 3 day celebration of “Karneval der Kulturen” (Carnival of Cultures).

The street parade of Karneval der Kulturen is being loved by both the capital's residents and tourists. It has established itself as the “Summer Celebration of Berlin”. This year was the 19th year with around 800, 000 spectators witnessing the spectacular parade last Sunday the 8th June, moving through the streets of Kreuzberg district in Berlin.

Over 85 groups, associations, initiatives mainly from Berlin take to the streets of Kreuzberg to a world stage on the 2nd day of the celebrations to present their items. The best three presentations are awarded with prizes.

The Sri Lanka Association Berlin e.V. represented Sri Lanka at this year’s Karneval der Kulturen (Carnival of Cultures). With the support of their members and the Sri Lankan community in Berlin they staged a impressive presentation parading also life like imitations of elephants, colourful traditional dancers and drummers.

Many weeks of dedicated training had gone into the presentation, in order to present Sri Lanka at the Karneval der Kulturen. The hard work paid off when Sri Lanka Association won the 2nd place this year, while in 2012 they bagged the 1st place.

Leading the Sri Lanka presentation through the streets was a 12ft. truck, decorated with a Peacock form. The entire decor of the truck was designed to depict various aspects of Sri Lanka, designed by Kawshal Huladduwa and Roy Pathirana. The truck was followed by the “Berlin Sri” - Dancing troup with their leader Anjalie Dissanayake. Then followed the children’s dance troupe with their trainer, Anusha Weerathunga. The music was a mixture of traditional dance tunes under layed with modern dance beats blaring from the truck, provided by well known composer and musician Aruna Lian and DJ Prabath.

The first Sri Lankan participation at Karneval der Kulturen (Carnival of Cultures) was in 1999 by Sinhala Veera Vidahanaya Berlin branch, withstanding a huge resistance from the Eelam Tamil Association who was a pioneering participant at the time.

Every year the visitors to the Carnival of Cultures tank up on Caipirinha and Beer to keep alive the carnival mood and as a deterrant to hot sunny weather. Snack bars and roadside restaurants between Hermann Platz and Mehring Damm make sizeable profits, on this day.

With temperatures reaching upto 35 degrees Celcius, this year, the paramedics from the fire brigade and St. John Ambulance were responding to around 400 emergency calls to treat dehydrated people. Many cases were a result of too little water or too much alcohol consumption.

The combination of heat and heavy alcohol consumption by spectators forced the German police to intervene in more than 500 cases of unruly behaviour. Over 70 incidents were reported of causing damage to public property, affronting the police and resisting arrest, all of which are punishable offences under German legislation.

The end of the street parade was marred by an ungly incident caused by some hard core LTTE supporters who had deliberately used derogatory language on the Sri Lankans who took part in the parade. However, the police moved in swiftly and arrested 4 Tamil youths, who were responsible for this stir. On the advice of the public prosecutor they will be charged for disturbing public order, insulting the police and resisting arrest .

Participation in the Street Pageant is an expensive fun game to some groups, with costs going into thousands of Euros, if sponsorships are not found. Also this year some groups had cancelled their entry, due to financial constraints.

The organizers of the Karneval der Kulturen have again requested the Berlin Senate to agree to fund the event with 100,000 Euros, so that with this funding around 15 needy groups could be supported each year. "The Carnival of Cultures is not a party but a political event and an important economic factor for the city of Berlin," says Juana Awad, member of the organising team. But Berlin politicians have rejected this request.