Jerusalem Arts: Giving Voices to Marginalized Communities

Jerusalem Arts Giving Voices To Marginalized Communities 

 

Jerusalem Arts: Giving Voices to Marginalized Communities

 

The arts can be a powerful tool for social change by giving a voice to marginalized communities, and creating opportunities for members of different social groups to interact with each other and to find commonality through the creative process.  Art’s unique potential for bridging social divides was on display at two recent events that took place in Jerusalem: The performance of the Holot Legal Theater at Beit Masie, which serves as a home for numerous theater groups in the heart of the city, and receives support from the Jerusalem Foundation, and the performance of KGC: Hip-Hopi at the Yellow Submarine, a Jerusalem Foundation initiative  that’s become integral to the Jerusalem music scene.

 

The Holot Legislative Theater brings  together Israeli actors and  activists, and asylum seekers who have spent time in the Holot detention center. The group’s members use theater as a means for exploring asylum seekers’ stories and  Israeli refugee policy. After the play, which included  reenactments of some of the harrowing scenarios faced by the actors in their daily lives,  the group opened the stage up to the audience, inviting people to come onstage and act out solutions to some of the problems faced by asylum seekers. The theater provided a warm, safe space, in which all answers were accepted and all volunteers were vigorously applauded. The troupe provides opportunities for creative expression for former Holot residents, while also educating the Israeli public and giving them a first-hand perspective about the important issue of refugee policy. The performance took place in Hebrew, Amharic, and Arabic, in keeping with the theater’s goal of performing for a diverse audience; the crowd included religious and secular Jews, as well as members of Jerusalem’s Eritrean and Sudanese communities.

 

Jerusalem Arts Giving Voices To Marginalized Communities 1

 

This event  followed on the heels of Hullegeb, the sixth annual Israeli-Ethiopian arts festival, which took place throughout Jerusalem from December 16 to 22. The festival provides multiple platforms for different voices from the Israeli-Ethiopian community, ranging from traditional Ethiopian music and dance, to modern hip-hop and contemporary choreographic pieces inspired by Ethiopian heritage, and cultural collaboration with famous Israeli figures, such as the singer  Ehud Banai. The festival increases the Israeli-Ethiopian community’s visibility and raises awareness about its contributions to Israeli culture.

 

 One of the festival’s highlights was KGC: Hip Hopie’s performance at the Yellow Submarine. The group’s works combine 90’s hip-hop with classic  Amharic beats, leading to a unique and energizing sound. Their lyrics focus on some of the unique problems faced by the Ethiopian community, but also deal with more general themes, such as triumphing over challenges. The concert featured Ethiopian-Israeli hip hop artist  A.G., who set the tone for the evening with his  fun and lively performance. The concert drew a wide and varied audience, including religious and secular Jews, locals and international visitors, and members of the Israeli-Ethiopian community. Some members of the crowd knew all the lyrics and sang along, while others barely knew Hebrew, but all found themselves infected with the performer’s energy; not a single person could resist the urge to dance. The dancing continued long after KGC had left the stage, as the concert turned into a wild reggae party courtesy of DJ Rasta Zion.

 

Together, Hullegeb and the Holot Legislative Theater show how the arts can be a powerful instrument of social justice and  provide a platform for creative expression for members of marginalized communities, while raising awareness of the challenges faced by those communities, as well as the ability of music, dance, and theater to  bring  together people from different backgrounds.