Where we belong

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One of my favourite performers of all time – Marlene Dietrich, had a song in her repertoire entitled Ich weiss nicht zu wem ich gehore. In English, the title translates to say “I don’t know who I belong to”.

Lots of people have opinions about the pros and cons of migration, whether it is done by choice or not. Some folks I know from my teenage years have expressed contentious views about the choice that many of my peers have made, to move away from the location where we first met as youngsters. Points of view have been expressed in WhatsApp groups that have made it clear that people can share common heritages, yet they eventually take on values and world views that are vastly divergent.

The song sung by Dietrich was composed by Friedrich Hollaender – the creator of her best known song – Falling in Love Again. In my mind, the music is evocative of the fickleness of the person expressing the viewpoint, with regard to emotional allegiances. Even so, there is something sad, melancholic but also endearing about the atmosphere it creates.

In hindsight one can also think of a choice the performer made to turn her back on the Nazi establishment in her land of birth, to become a US citizen at a time when such a gesture made a significant impact on the global culture.

According to many reports, Dietrich paid a heavy price with regard to her public image amongst her fellow Germans at that point in time. There is no doubt in my mind however that she made the right choice for herself. As a public teller of stories she gained gravitas as a result. What lessons are there to be learnt from this?

Originally published on www.juwonogungbe.com on the 23rd of November 2019