It is a late night, and Anand Kuchibotla, a.k.a. A.K., has left his friends after clubbing, a regular weekend ritual. The music wasn’t so great. He’s had one too many, and he should probably go directly home and into bed. But there is no one going home with him, nor is anyone there waiting there for him once he gets there. The night is kind of a bust.
He is hungry, and he decides to stop at a popular Middle Eastern shawarma cart in his East Village neighborhood. As he nears the cart run by a father-son team, his apprehension kicks in. They are wearing garments appropriate for praying in the nearby mosque and speaking Arabic. What will they think when a tipsy dark-skin guy stumbles up to them asking for food? They come from a culture that discourages drinking and encourages piety and clean living. Should he approach them? But his need for food overrides his concern, and he places his order. read more
The astonishing number of people fleeing war in the past half-decade has caused increased editorial attention toward the complex circumstances and dire conditions of refugees, and much of this coverage presents them in terms of how they impact destination countries. However, Reza, an internationally acclaimed photographer, has placed cameras and photography training in the hands of young refugees, who produce astonishing images that let us understand displacement through their eyes, and at the same time, help them cope with being outcast by war. read more
Helene Wecker’s first novel, The Golem and the Jinni, places two beings from very different, and at first glance, opposing cultural origins, in a turn-of-the-century Lower Manhattan arena. How they meet and who they become to each other are both impossibilities that can only happen in New York City. Chava, the golem, was created for an Eastern European Jew migrating to the United States by an isolated and mystical rabbi with a mastery of dark arts. She is transported in a wooden box by her new master, who she never really knows, because he dies halfway across the ocean. Ahmed, the jinni, finds his way to America in a copper container with a stopper. After centuries of imprisonment, he is chagrined to find himself unleashed in an unimpressive New York City. read more
And while we’re on the topic of refugees, let’s not forget about a four decade-plus ongoing refugee issue in Western Sahara that began following its 1975 independence from Spain and its subsequent struggle for nationhood against the Kingdom of Morocco. Aziza Brahim is a Sahrawi singer-songwriter who has spent most of her life exiled from her Western Sahara homeland, and she has not forgot. read more
Using performance art as a form of resistance is not new, and we need only a cursory look at theater and film to remind us how filmmakers and playwrights have used performance to call out unfair treatment of people by power and authority. Euripides’s The Trojan Women; Shakespeare’s Richard III; Arthur Miller’s The Crucible; and more recently, Francis Ford Coppola‘s Apocalypse Now; Steven Spielberg‘s Amistad; Ava DuVernay‘ Selma; and James Cameron’s Avatar all touch on powerful political and social issues that inspire audience response above and beyond mere entertainment. Even George Lucas’s Star Wars is often viewed as a post-colonialist critique warning against a dystopian fascist future.
Therefore it makes sense that Palestinians participating in The Freedom Theatre in the West Bank use theater and performance as a tactic of resistance, learning, and cultural expression. read more