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A culture clash as musical

By Martin Pütter, picture: Florian Beck

The Basel Mission celebrates its 200th anniversary with a musical: “The White man’s Grave” allows a small insight into hopes, either fulfilled or dashed, of people from two different continents.

Anybody who has ever lived in a foreign country knows that even tiny cultural differences can make life just slightly harder than expected. Add to that factors like religious belief, traditions and a completely different climate, then personal hopes, expectations and defined goals are under severe pressure. Not everybody can handle that. Some of the members of the Basel Mission, that was founded 200 years ago, experienced just this on their journeys to fulfil their missionary goal.

Founded in 1815, the Basel Mission – officially named “Basel Evangelical Missionary Society” – now celebrates its 200th anniversary with the musical “The White Man’s Grave”, which is set in Ghana. The dramatis personae skilfully demonstrate how during missionary activities cultures clashed (which they still can do today). The main character, Liesel, a teacher and trusting country lass, on the one hand expresses doubts about her work, while on the other hand she is open towards traditions and culture of a foreign country. Other characters, in contrast, are rigidly set within the boundaries of their beliefs. These contrasts are also mirrored in the music by French composer Jean-Jacques Futterer – moving from contemporary classical songs for the European characters to African rhythms and drums for the local characters – and in the language: The European speak High-German, the locals various Swiss-German dialects. Expats, please note: even with little knowledge of either you should be able to follow the musical.

The audience at the world premiere which took place at the Oekolampad at Allschwilerplatz on 29 March loved these contrasts: the cast received standing ovations. “The White Man’s Grave” has five more performances.


The White Man’s Grave

Oekolampad, Allschwilerplatz, 4055 Basel

Music: Jean-Jacques Futterer

Script: Hans Kaspar Hort


Performances :

Friday 3 April 6pm

Monday 6 April 4pm

Friday 10 April 7pm

Saturday 11 April 8pm

Sunday 12 April 4pm

Prices: CHF 49.00/45.00

Further Information (in German only): www.basel-musical.ch

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