Thursday, February 26, 2009

The Journey of Resistance Through Music in Palestine: Slingshot Hip Hop

"You want me to go to the law? What for? You're the Witness, the Lawyer, and the Judge!" says the Arab-Israeli hip hop band DAM, referring to the injustice Palestinians facing. Like the other hip hop bands in the region, DAM uses its melodies and lyrics as a form non-violent weapon. To get out the anger, to start a new form of resistance or simply to keep the youth away from extremism, hip hop seems to be the right way in the Palestinian journey.

In her film Slingshot Hiphop, Saloum tells us the story of hip hop bands in different regions of Palestine and Arab cities of Israel. All bands seen in the film live close to each other but most of them are not allowed to travel outside their city. Through music, they transcend the borders and get permission to perform concerts in other cities and get a chance to meet other hip hop bands. Even though the occupation leaves too little room for creative expressions of resistance, hip hop invents a new path by combining the history of the conflict, music and the daily life which is always affected by politics.

The documentary has a smooth but multidimensional narrative: One minute it feels like a Palestine- Israel introduction class with illustration of the map with the refugee camps, the other it is an MTV reality show revealing different music bands. Succesful on entertaining and educating at the same time, the film makes you feel what is it like to be there.

Slingshot Hophop is an eye opener to see what is going on behind the scenes and between the lines in Palestine while following the rappers, you will see collapse of stereotypes about Palestinian youth, family life and of course music. And it is going to remind you one more time: There is always hope for justice.

I was lucky to meet director Jackie Reem Saloum in Istanbul and had the privilege of spending one full day together. We toured Istanbul, discussed politics, talked about travelling and I asked her a few questions about the film.

Saloum shows us Palestine from a different angle with Slingshot Hip Hop. We talked about how music became a medium for resistance for the new Palestinian generation, and how to break the stereotypes of Arabs.

In Slingshot Hip Hop we see a portrait of Palestine and Palestinian youth that is different from what we are used to. Why did you choose this way to talk about a country which is usually only discussed in terms of its politics?

The Israeli occupation of Palestine, which has been going on for 60 years, is especially restrictive on the lives of young people, and kills their hopes. The rap groups that I discovered in 2002 are using music as a means of resistance. The way that the occupation and resistance affects the young generation’s life is usually ignored. Slingshot Hip Hop tries to show young people, music and resistance blended with the details of daily life.

One of the interesting points about the movie was the way it changed the perceived image of Arabs, and showed the meaning of women, family and hip hop in Palestinian society. How did you manage to capture these details?

The filming took 5 years, and we shot 700 hours of video. Since my mother is Palestinian, I am familiar with the social structure of Palestine and I wanted to show how different it is from how it is presented in the media. The fact that people of all ages come to the rap concerts, the support that musicians get from their families, the expressive force of the women - these things have usually been kept in the background of Palestine case. I tried to express these details, which actually form the basis of the resistance, together with the new medium of this resistance, the music.

Slingshot Hip Hop will be screened at AFM CEPA in Ankara (Eskişehir Road, across the street from METU) on 1 March, 2009 at 19h00

First photo, the band PR from Gaza (from sundance channel)

The other photos by M. Murat Kocaağa

Filistin'de Müzikle Direnişin Hikayesi: Sapan ve Hip Hop

Filistinli bir anne ve Suriyeli bir baba; Amerika’da başlayıp devam ederken, sık sık Filistin’le kesişen bir yaşam. 2005 !f Film Festivali’nde Planet of Arabs (Araplar Gezegeni) filmiyle Araplarla ilgili kalıpyargıları sorgulayan Jackie Reem Saloum, bu kez Sapan ve Hip Hop filmiyle yine !f film festivalinde.

Filistin’in farklı bölgelerinde eşzamanlı gelişen hip hop ve rap müziğin nasıl bir direniş aracına dönüştüğünü anlatan film, diyasetin gölgesinde kalan Filistin’de günlük hayatın detaylarını gözler önüne sererek izleyiciyi şaşırtmayı başarıyor.

İsrail işgali yüzünden birbirlerini yalnızca videolar ve internet aracılığıyla görebilen rap gruplarının tanışmalarına aracı olan yönetmen, hem Filistinli hem Amerikalı oluşu ve bu kimliğin ürettiği bakış açısıyla Ortadoğu ve Batı arasında da bir köprü işlevi üstleniyor.

Filmin hikayesi Jackie’nin 2002′de ilk kez bir radyoda duyduğu, İsrail’de yaşayan Filistinli rap grubu DAM’i keşfedişiyle başlıyor. DAM’in Filistinlilerin acılarını, umutlarını, direnişlerini müzik yoluyla anlatmasından çok etkilenerek, Gazze ve Batı Şeria’daki diğer hip hop gruplarını buluyor. 4.5 sene süren çekimler boyunca defalarca Filistin’e gidip geliyor ve bu süreçte kendi Filistinli kimliğiyle yeniden tanışıyor ve onu yeniden üretiyor.

Herşeye rağmen ayakta kalmaya çalışan Filistinliler gibi, Saloum da tüm olumsuzluklara rağmen pozitifliğini korumaya çabalıyor. Filistinlilerin bu yeni müzik tarzına tepkilerini ve gündelik hayatlarını 60 yıllık işgalin farklı alanlardaki yansımalarıyla harmanlyarak, alışık olmadığımız bir Filistin portresi ortaya koyuyor.

Filistin’deki zulmün dayanılmaz boyutlara ulaşmasıyla zaman zaman umutuzluğa düşen Saloum, herşeye rağmen birşeyler yapabilmenin gücünü ve umuda katkısını bir kez daha kanıtlıyor; Sapan ve Hip Hop’la hem güldürüp hem ağlatarak izleyicinin kalbini kazanıyor ve kendimize bir kez daha sormamıza yola çıyor: “Ben ne yapabilirim, nereden başlayabilirim?”

Slingshot Hip Hop (Sapan ve Hip Hop) Ankara’da 1 Mart Pazar saat 19:00’da AFM CEPA’da (Eskişehir Yolu 7. Km) izlenebilir.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Photographs from ‘Follow the Women’ bring message of hope

A collection of photographs focusing on daily life in the Middle East by Turkish photographers Ayşin Özer Başkır, Şirin Çizmeci, Serap Ertüzün, Selma Şevkli and Ela Esra Günad is now on display at İstanbul’s Cemal Reşit Rey Concert Hall.

The five photographers are members of Follow the Women (FTW), an international organization that has been conducting cultural and social youth exchange projects for more than 30 years. FTW was founded under the leadership of Detta Regan, who traveled to the Middle East as a teacher and drew attention to the situation of women and children in the region using her bicycle as a tool. The organization brings together women from all around the world and since 2004 around 500 women have cycled across the Middle East every year, hoping to contribute to peace efforts in the region, FTW Turkey coordinator Günad says in an interview with Today’s Zaman.

Starting from Lebanon, women from 30 different countries traverse the 300 kilometer road stretching across Syria and Jordan and into Palestine, Günad explains. “Our objective is to create public interest in the region for sustained peace. We observe that the group that is most affected by the conflicts in the region are women and children. We primarily want to emphasize this. In order to share the experiences of the people in these countries and support them, we organize this cycling event every year,” she adds. The women go to villages, refugee camps and bombed and decimated residential areas to see how daily life continues in these places.

Featuring 45 images from last year’s journey, the collection that is currently on display emphasizes the fact that life goes on in the Middle East in spite of the harsh conditions people must deal with in order to survive. “Their daily lives still continue in the places that include traces from the occupations, under the control of the armies and among the ruins. In every frame, you see a story showing you how to go on with life. Unfortunately, peace cannot be achieved [merely by] signing cease-fire arrangements,” she says, underlining that in addition to peace there must also be efforts to create better conditions in the region. “You will see people in this exhibition who do not lose their hope for peace.”

“Recently we learned from the press that the check points [in the Occupied Palestinian Territories] are being shut down, which means access to basic human needs, such as water, food and medicine, is blocked. Sometimes they wait four or more hours at the control doors to pass in order to go to school or to their jobs. If they are lucky that day, they can pass through, but they never know what will happen the next day. Sometimes after waiting many hours they go back to their homes,” Günad explains, pointing out that they wanted to share their experiences in the region with Turkish citizens this year.

FTW increases its membership numbers every year with new contributors from all around the world. It is not necessary to be a professional cyclist, Günad says, citing the example of a Turkish woman who joined them from Diyarbakır after learning how to ride a bicycle from an 11-year-old child. Whoever wants to contribute to efforts for peace in the Middle East can contact FTW at

The exhibition in the Cemal Reşit Rey Concert Hall foyer will run through Feb. 25.

11 February 2009, Wednesday