Palestine 2011: Winds of Revolution Break Isolation | Al Akhbar English

Director Juliano Mer Khamis was murdered last April in Jenin camp. (Photo: Al-Akhbar)
Rasha Hilwi | Wednesday, January 4, 2012 | Al Akhbar

Despite decades of occupation, the cultural scene in Palestine has never been totally isolated from what happens around it.

This was particularly the case this year, as its interaction with its regional neighbors increased with the outbreak of the Arab Spring. The wave of revolt has produced a new generation of young artists, who are gaining prominence in the cultural scene.

In the first few months of the year, numerous new Palestinian songs emerged in support of the Tunisian and Egyptian revolutions.

Among the favorites was “al-Thawra al-Khadra” (The Green Revolution), composed by a collaboration of young Palestinian musicians.

A number of Palestinian visual artists, including Amer Shomali, Amal Kaawash, Nidal Elkhairy, Hafiz Omar, Diaa al-Izza, and Basel Nasser also produced works related to the Arab uprisings. The municipality of Ramallah displayed these productions during its annual summer art festival, “Wein A Ramallah” (Where?…To Ramallah) in July.

Also at the Ramallah festival, two nights were designated for young writers and poets in Palestine and the diaspora, who participated via Skype.

The West Bank city was filled with music during the 2011 Palestine International Festival organized by Popular Art Center.

The center insisted on youth and revolution as the two main themes. Egyptian Wust al-Balad and Iman al-Bahr Darwish, Jordanian Macadi Nahhas, and Algerian Souad Massi all performed at the festival.

Al-Quds 2011 Festival, which is affiliated with Yabous Productions, also celebrated the Arab revolutions.

On the other hand, the Palestinian cultural scene lost some important artists.

The Palestinian theater was shocked at the murder of director Juliano Mer Khamis in Jenin camp last April.

Investigations have thus far failed to reveal the identity of the perpetrator. The artist’s body was transferred from Haifa to Jenin through an occupation checkpoint.

In September, artist Sami Matar passed away, leaving behind a gap in the musical scene in Jaffa, Haifa, and Ramallah. Matar was one of the contributors to “al-Thawra al-Khadra.”

Another shock recently struck the arts community when Francois Abu Salem, founder of the influential Palestinian National Theater, committed suicide, followed the next day by the death of prominent Saffuri poet and writer, Taha Mohammad Ali.

The most controversial issue in historical Palestine in general is related to the cultural and academic boycotts of Israel. The past few months witnessed a wider discussion of the subject. Several lectures were dedicated to it, including a series of lectures organized by al-Midan Theater and Qadita cultural website.

The debate raged with the participation of some Palestinian artists and groups in the Israel Oud Festival, causing a huge media uproar. The only artist who pulled out of the festival was Palestinian artist Husam Hayek.

The year 2011 was full of productions and publications as well as artistic, cultural, and literary festivals that were organized by individuals as well as institutions.

For Palestinians, ever since the nakba of 1948, culture has always been both the mirror and window for Palestinian self-expression, wherever they may be.

It is only appropriate that 2011 ended with Palestine’s full membership at the UNESCO.

This article is an edited translation from the Arabic Edition.

Source and more at Al Akhbar English.

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