Africa

Young Arab artists dream of freedom in a unique talent show – Africa News – Report by AFR

Young musicians, dancers, actors and comedians from across the Arab world took the stage in Tunisia to express their visions of freedom more than a decade after the Arab Spring uprisings.

The show, performed under the stars at a seaside theater in the resort of Hammamet and broadcast across the region, featured the winners of an online video competition to complete the sentence, “I’ll only be free if…”

It was the latest in a series of talent and debate programs organized by media action group Munathara (“Debate”) which, according to founder Belabbas, aim to “stimulate much-needed conversations about rights, freedoms and social change in the Arab world”. Bencreda.

“Public debates about fundamental rights can be very polarizing, especially on social media,” says the 43-year-old Algerian-German.

Munathara was born in 2012, a year after the Arab Spring revolts sparked by the ouster of Tunisian dictator Zine El Abidine Ben Ali, which sparked high hopes for democracy in a region with a predominantly young population.

But ironically, as Munathara celebrated its 10th anniversary with the show in Hammamet on Saturday, Munathara was overshadowed by President Kais Saied, who cemented a power grab that has stoked fears about Tunisia’s democratic gains.

Other countries in the region have seen the rise of even more repressive systems than before, while others have experienced devastating civil wars.

– “Assaulted Freedoms” –

Munathara was founded in “a time of great hope and aspiration – but optimism has given way to cynicism, even among the youth,” said Benkredda.

“Generation Z of the Arab world came of age politically amid rising desperation and social divisions.”

Syrian refugee and stand-up comedian Mohamed al-Kurdi, one of the performers on Saturday’s show, said that today “the freedom of young people is restricted, and not just in the Arab world.”

“Freedoms are being attacked all over the world,” added the 23-year-old, who sat on the edge of a stage bathed in spotlights during a break from rehearsals.

Kurdi, whose TikTok account “MidoKrdi” has over 2.3 million followers, said he didn’t want to engage in politics but “discuss the limits that we put on ourselves: fear of failure, fear of success. These things curb our freedom.”

For Saturday’s event, he teamed up with comedian and actress Dana Ali Makki, 22, in a comedy act about an overbearing husband and wife.

Makki, from southern Lebanon’s Nabatiyeh region, said she believes young Arabs have a little more freedom than they did a few years ago.

“People can be a little different from their parents and from the society and culture they grew up in,” she said.

“There is more subversion against customs, traditions, religion and society.”

When asked how she defines her own freedom, she said: “I am free when I can say whatever I want out loud without being afraid of anyone. Free from all the restrictions that society imposes, especially on women.”

– ‘Learn to resist!’ –

The show, the fourth of its kind, also served as a showcase for emerging talent like Ahmed al-Qrinawi from Gaza, a Palestinian enclave that has been under an Israeli blockade for the past 15 years.

He was a poet who was published twice when, at the age of 22, he was teaching himself the oud – a type of lute widely used in the Middle East.

He would sit under a shelter he built on the family rooftop in Gaza City to avoid the disapproving ears of his conservative family.

To learn music theory, he used copies of music books borrowed from friends at a music school he couldn’t afford.

Last weekend, three years later, he took the stage and played an unusual seven-string oud that he built himself with the help of a carpenter friend.

He said he only heard about the contest shortly after the deadline and composed, recorded and submitted his song in just an hour.

Luckily, the judges accepted the entry and he became one of the winners, performing with a professional band.

“I won’t be free until I have a normal country where death doesn’t keep an eye on me,” is the first line of his song.

“There is no freedom in Gaza,” Qrinawi said.

“Freedom is not just about eating and drinking. You can take a bird and put it in a cage and feed it, but it’s still in captivity.”

For Lebanese actress and comedian Makki, who has a tattoo that reads “Resistance” on her forearm, the show was a chance to deliver another message.

“You can’t stay in your house with your hands tied or be silent,” she said.

“Learn to say no to oppression and oppression.”

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