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
Just out of high school and not quite in college, Aylam Rosenthal is couch-surfing in Israel or perhaps working on a kibbutz right now. Although American, he spends time in Israel with his dad or grandparents, and he carries with him a family gift: his digital camera. His style of photography is highly colorful and light, and his images of peers convey romantic transformations from adolescence to adulthood equal to what you’ll see in GAP lifestyle advertising or Real Simple editorial. This could be a narrative of a young man traveling abroad leaving a trail of Instagram and Facebook photo journal images chronicling discovery of culture and heritage. However, he has ventured past Israeli security crossings into Palestinian territory, zone B, where he’s gained the trust of villagers, photographed them, and retold their stories. read more
Those lucky enough to be in London right now will enjoy a spectacular treasure trove of culture from the Middle East. Each year the city hosts the Nour Festival featuring visual art, literature, music, and performance — this year, from fifteen countries. Appropriately, the themes of this year’s festival focus on topics of displacement and conflicted identity as millions of people are driven from homelands by war forcing them into exile and causing them to face challenges that migration brings. read more