Nataša is a prize-winning novelist and a literary activist who besides her life as a writer and journalist advocates for the many stories of rural life. Her literary origin is deeply rooted to her upbringing in a small village in Slovenia. She promotes rural life by literature and literary activism derived from oral storystelling, by manufacturing things that are sustainable, that tell a story. She combines literature and ecology.
As almost everyone else I am not from Berlin. Nataša and I met in the canteen of a theater in Berlin which reminded me with its dark and heavy interieur and its round tables of my hometown Munich known for Oktoberfest. And as if mocking me, on that very day they even served Schweinshaxe, a famous Bavarian dish. And that prepared our conversation just right, too, as we were talking about home and home stories and marketing and literature.
Once upon a time Nataša’s mother wanted to throw away all the old clothes from her parents which were already out of fashion or more or less torn or worn out. Not with-standing the sight of all the unique clothes, Nataša when seeing the abandoned garments cried out to stop it. When she looked at all the nicely manufactured things she was eager to put a new purpose to them. So she decided to recycle them by sewing bags out of these clothes. And she wanted to share the stories of the clothes with the people. There is a story included in every bag.
The idea was winning and soon enough other products followed and participants increased. Nataša would go to people and ask for old clothes and would listen to their narratives which she finally puts into a story for the respective bag. “The interviews are very important and I listen to every persons story”, says Nataša.
There may be an objection to this. Is it still literature or is it already a marketing strategy? As I asked Nataša, she answered: “Of course it is a marketing strategy, but, you know, the purpose is quite different. Am I not doing good to the people living in rural areas? You know people would rarely accept change there. They would not accept to change to organic farming that easily.”
It is not only the DIY-story-telling-bag she works on. Since this idea was so successful in Slovenia, she began to work on other projects, too. One of that is Green Central, a farm run by artists who grow sustainable and antique sorts of vegetables and fruits. They also teach farming methods to anyone who wants to get back in touch with the basics of nutrition. “The workshops are free of costs and we want to keep it like that because we think that it is of common interest. One should know where the food comes from – and how hard it is to grow it!”
But how would you guarantee the quality of the literary production, I asked her. “We would only choose the best story-teller from rural areas and have them conduct walks and workshops to tell and teach about farming and rural life. You know the culture of oral story-telling is still very alive in rural Slovenia. Me too, I learned my craftsmanship from my grandmother listening to the hundreds of stories she told me.”
Nataša is not only bringing back into consciousness what the basics of every day life are but is also preserving all the knowledge from old times. At the same time she brings to the farmer ecological and organic techniques of farming. Now the farmers too gain consciousness of how important they are to modern civil society.
Dinner time was over and so the canteen had emptied out. No more Schweinshaxe. Back in Berlin. Alexanderplatz. Bad rainy weather. People being unfriendly in groceries stores underground. Some old crazy lady screaming out loud on the way home. Back home, in some way.
Nataša Kramberger (* 1983, Maribor) won the Slovenian young authors prize in 2006 and her book Nebesa v robidah was nominated for the Kresnik Prize as Slovenia’s best novel of the year in 2008. In the same year, Kramberger won the international short story competition, A Sea of Words, which is sponsored by the Anna Lindh Foundation, and in 2009 she won the Young Euro Connect prize. 2010 she won the European Prize for Literature. 2011 she published her second novel Kaki vojaki. Nataša Kramberger works as a freelance writer and journalist. In 2009, she founded the eco-art collective Green Central, where she promotes ecology and art. She lives in Berlin and is founder of the association Periskop who promotes cultural exchange between Slovenia and Germany.
Photo: Daniele Croci