Presented in partnership with the National Capital Commission, the exhibition Canada and Germany: Partners from Immigration to Innovation, was officially launched Monday night at the International Pavilion, 7 Clarence Street, in the heart of Ottawa’s ByWard Market.
The exhibition is part of Celebrate! Germany@Canada 2017, a joint pan-Canadian initiative by the Embassy of the Federal Republic of Germany and the Goethe-Institut, which commenced in January to highlight the two countries’ longtime friendship and celebrate Canada’s sesquicentennial year.
A series of cultural events have already taken place throughout the country, with the Ottawa month-long exhibition being “the focal point of the year,” says Peter Finger, Counsellor at the Foreign Office of the Federal Republic of Germany.
Canada and Germany: Partners from Immigration to Innovation “explores 400 years of German-Canadian history and highlights the many ongoing partnerships that form the basis of an extraordinary strong German-Canadian relationship.” It is the first of a series of exhibitions by diplomatic missions to be presented at the newly built International Pavilion.
Among other things, the exhibition features uplifting stories of German immigrants, history snapshots on the Hessian soldiers and the rich musical legacy of the Moravian mission in Labrador, which, according to Finger, “had quite a particular impact on the Inuit culture, most notably their music.”
Other highlights include the famed painting “2 plus 4” by German-born artist Horst Maria Guilhauman, an ARGO lunar rover used by the Canadian Space Agency, fuel cell technology by Mercedes-Benz Canada, interactive displays by Siemens Canada, and McMaster University’s hitchBOT, the chatty robot that hitchhiked across Canada, and parts of Europe and the U.S. a few years ago.
Among the inaugural guests present were outgoing German Ambassador to Canada Werner Wnendt, Dr. Mark Kristmanson, Chief Executive Officer of the National Capital Commission (NCC), German-born artist Horst Maria Guilhauman, General Jonathan H. Vance, Chief of the Defence Staff of the Canadian Armed Forces, and Dr. Wolfgang G. Müller, Mayor of Lahr, Germany. The mayor was in Belleville, Ontario – Lahr’s sister city – with a delegation of approximately 22 visitors a few days prior to the launch.
Ambassador Wnendt was the first one to address the crowd that had gathered for the occasion.
“You might ask: Why are you doing this [exhibition]?” He prompted jestingly. “Because it is 2017, and we want to congratulate Canada! He added, on a more serious note: “Without innovation, we cannot confront all the challenges we ought to confront. I must remind you there’s climate change.”
He also spoke briefly about the need to recognize Canada’s Indigenous peoples for their contribution to the country, noting that a special flag raising ceremony was hosted last week at the Ambassador’s residence in Rockcliffe in a bid to acknowledge the traditional territory of the Algonquins on which it sits.
This gesture, Ambassador Wnendt said, was “to express our gratitude to these people that we like very much.”
NCC Chief Executive Officer Kristmanson took the stage next to talk about the recently built International Pavilion and how the initiative was made possible in part through local support. “We had an extensive consultation with the local communities who helped with this project,” he said, adding that the building was “one of the least known and least used of the Confederation Pavilions.”
The International Pavilion is part of a larger initiative to restore ten “historically significant” buildings dating from the mid to the late 1800s, five of which are located in and around the Tin House Court. This initiative, reads one of the exhibition’s didactic panels, is “a model of sustainability, universal accessibility and contemporary design in a heritage setting.”
In an attempt to preserve the aura of the old stone warehouse that once stood on the site, the limestone from the original structure was salvaged and reused to build the front facade. The new building also boasts similar footprint and height.
Dr. Kristmanson then briefly spoke about the ongoing Lebreton Flats national Holocaust Memorial project for which The Coalition of Progressive Canadian Muslim Organizations, among other partners, conducted a fundraiser back in 2013 to help finance it. The memorial is set to open to the public in the fall.
Last but not least, Mayor of Lahr Wolfgang G. Müller recounted how Canada had contributed many things to the small, western town of Baden-Württemberg State, including the NATO headquarters, which were maintained by the Canadian Forces Base until the fall of the Berlin Wall.
“Lahr,” he said, “had the best parties, the best inner city commerce – a gift from the Canadians [who] left after the wall was taken down; they left behind a lot: an airport, a recently renovated hospital, and a sense of humour.”
Müller, who was awarded the “World Mayor Commendation for services to integration” has garnered national and international recognition for having successfully integrated German-Russians immigrants (Spätaussiedler) who were allowed into Germany following the collapse of the Soviet Union.
The town of Lahr currently has 47 500 inhabitants, including 1 500 refugees, and fifty per cent of the population is made up of immigrants. “The fact that we overcame this issue is because of Canadians being in the city,” said Müller. “It gave us a sense of internationality – Germans, French, English, Russians; we have learned to live together.”
The evening was crowned by Juno-award winning Michael Kaeshammer and his band, who gave a dazzling performance at the Horticulture Building at Lansdowne Park.
Michael Kaeshammer is a German-Canadian jazz composer-singer-songwriter who came to Canada when he was 19.
Canada and Germany: Partners from Immigration to Innovation runs until July 26. The exhibition is open Monday to Saturday, 10 am to 8 pm, and Sunday, 10 am to 6 pm. Admission is free.