Kemal Demir - "My perspective has changed!"

Kemal Demir

„It’s very important to always be active in life – with or without a disability. I have already experienced this with my wife, who has been paraplegic for 26 years. Our philosophy was and is to live as we did before.“ Kemal Demir, a qualified theatre educator and director, knows what he is talking about. „When I started running the KiT integrative theatre group at the International Youth and Cultural Centre Kiebitz e.V. 15 years ago, I never thought that I would have to live with a disability later on,“ he recalls.

„Ten years ago, I noticed how my body had changed,“ says Kemal Demir, who was born in Ankara, Turkey, in 1957. „I had no more strength, hardly any reflexes and just felt old.“ Two years passed before he was diagnosed with myositis. „That was a shock for me,“ admits the theatre educator. „Now I knew that I had a rare disease that could not be cured.“

In his case, this inflammatory muscle disease manifests itself particularly in a loss of strength in his arms and legs. The increasing weakness has also changed his everyday life: He has difficulties gripping cutlery, lifting his arms or using his fingers for fine motor skills, for example. He can get up from a chair more easily if it is slightly raised. A walking aid helps him to move around safely. Problems with swallowing and pain are also part of his everyday life. Kemal Demir has learned to live with it.

He has adapted his everyday life to the disease, for example by wearing clothes that he can easily put on and take off. „ It hurts me because I used to attach great importance to unusual items of clothing – but I can deal with it.“

In 2008, the passionate director was awarded a prize in the nationwide „Active for Democracy and Tolerance“ competition for the project of the Schalke fan initiative „RepuBlick auf Schalke“. With the play, which the participants worked on for months, the initiators inspired young people from different cultural and social backgrounds just as much as the jury.

Kemal Demir continues to work in this spirit. He now knows from his own experience how important acting is for people with disabilities, for example. Where can you help? Where do problems arise? „Now I can also see the other side. My perspective has changed, which is very, very important and helpful!“ explains the passionate Schalker.

Despite his illness, the director is still able to fulfil his role at KiT. For him, this inclusive theatre work is also important educationally: „I notice how I can help others – and myself – to lead a happier life, with lots of wonderful moments.“ Many friendships have developed within the group – between people with and without disabilities, of all ages and from different cultural backgrounds. Group excursions, visits to the theatre and restaurants and celebrations also contribute to this. Kemal Demir is always there, keeps an eye on everyone’s well-being, provides support – and is happy to be involved: „This wonderful community is important for everyone.“

Regular KiT performances of the self-staged plays also take place in the AWO facilities in Gelsenkirchen. They are an essential part of the AWO calendar – the large number of visitors is an expressive sign of the popularity of this theatre work. Kemal Demir has also been a volunteer at the AWO in Gelsenkirchen for many years.

Kemal Demir’s goal is to improve the quality of life of all participants through theatre, to give them and themselves more joy in life. Everyone acts as a cultural creator on stage and is allowed to contribute their own thoughts and feelings to the productions.

„It’s very important for me to continue working and being active,“ explains the theatre lecturer. „Retiring and giving up is not an alternative. I want to continue to work for an inclusive society with professionalism and heart.“

„Retiring and giving up is not an alternative“