Art in Activism

In the Netherlands it is often considered bad form to include politics in art. Such a view often creates a tension between the art establishment and immigrant artists from countries where the simple creation of art often is an act of political rebellion. A few weeks ago I had the pleasure to interview Jun and Mitchy Saturay about the use of art in political actions. The interview was is part of a series we’re making for Arseh Sevom, an organisation that aims to foster civil society in Iran. Though they’re not up yet, you should definitely check out their site, it’s a treasure trove for social activists and anyone else interested in free societies.

Jun and Mitchy are from the Philippines and have always used theater to educate their audience politically, starting from the time of the Marcos dictatorship until they fled the country a few years ago. Some nights ago we organised a night about the rights of Philippine garment workers and were visited by Jun, Mitchy and their daughter Marakit. In the train over to Amsterdam they had prepared a short performance which was very moving to see and hear from up close. The recording does no justice to what we experienced, but you might still enjoy it:

Song about 3 Filipino workers from Julie Rosebud on Vimeo.

I like how Jun and Mitchy continue their work in the Netherlands, and I also like how they involve their daughters who even after living in the Netherlands for some years are not a bit less dedicated to social justice than their parents.

For my own mom the single act of singing had political and social significance. People who visit the Mezrab regularly know how well she does it but have also heard how she was forbidden by her own mother to sing. I have finally made a professional recording of her voice. Accompanying her are Stefanos Sekeroglou on violin and myself on Tar. The song itself is not political, it’s a sad lullaby by the Iranian singer Vigen, quite popular when my mother was a young girl. However, while my mother sings the song together with me, her son, she thinks of the tens of thousands of mothers in Iran who are separated from their children.

We’ve recorded the song a year ago and all this time it was on a shelve waiting for us to make a clip for it before sharing it with you. It doesn’t look like the clip will come any time soon, so until then you’re very welcome to share it with your friends.

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4 thoughts on “Art in Activism

  1. Very beautiful, Sahand.
    When you say this, “she thinks of the tens of thousands of mothers in Iran who are separated from their children.” why are they separated? :S

    1. Dear Niam,

      That sentence needs a bit more of elaboration, but I didn’t want to make it too heavy in the original post. In our family alone two teenage boys (cousins of my mother) were executed for their political beliefs. Living in the Netherlands means my mother saw her relatives only twice in the past 28 years. A few people in our extended family have simply “disappeared” leaving us to guess their fate. Multiply these experiences by tens of thousands (or maybe more) and you get the story for a whole nation.

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