PHILADELPHIA, PA (January 25, 2023) – In response to the unimaginable levels of human suffering, destruction, and displacement in Gaza, artists and experts from the Middle East and North Africa Region will come together for Arts for Social Action: Artistic Responses to Gaza, an online event that will take place on January 30 at 8am (ET) and 3pm (Jerusalem). The event coincides with the release of a report on art and culture as a tool for organizing in the region, as well as Assembly, a limited-edition podcast series featuring many of the contributors. Register for the event here.
Presenters will include artists and organizers from the Middle East, including Saja Kilani, spoken word artist; Nasir Al Bashir, producer, and songwriter; Zeyne, singer and songwriter; and Cathy Khattar, Arab Fund for Arts and Culture. The panel will be hosted by Jude Sajdi from Sama Consulting and Khaled Elkhouz, Regional Director, Middle East at AFSC. They will discuss important cultural interventions that are mobilizing communities to support humanitarian aid for Palestinians in Gaza. Some of the speakers will be available for interviews after the event.
Independent arts consultant Moukhtar Kocache said in the report, “there has never been a separation between issues of social justice and the arts... Human expression has always been about analyzing the social, political, and cultural dynamics of our lives... If we break down what we do on a daily basis and how we respond to the world, it comes down to storytelling. That is what we do in the arts and culture world.”
There is an ongoing movement in the MENA (Middle East and North Africa) region about the use of art as a medium of expression to mobilize communities for social action. In addition to discussing this movement, presenters will discuss a new report released by the American Friends Service Committee (AFSC) called Arts, Cultural Organizing and Social Change.
“As artists and activists, we also face our own real fears and the risks that we take as we find diverse ways to engage our communities in important interventions related to justice, equality, and human rights, "said Jason Drucker, Associate General Secretary of Advancement for AFSC. “Because of the AFSC’s long-standing presence in the Middle East over almost 80 years, we have continued to reinvent ourselves and approach our work with an innovative spirit while remaining steadfast in our goal to end the occupation of Palestine and support humanitarian needs of communities in Gaza and throughout the region, including in Lebanon, Jordan, Turkey, and Palestine.”
The research report is based on work done over two years, during which AFSC held two convenings, in Casablanca, Morocco (June 2022), and in Amman, Jordan (January 2023) focusing on the power of cultural organizing in the MENA Region.
Since the bombing of Gaza began in October 2023, AFSC staff have also been working tirelessly to deliver and distribute desperately needed humanitarian aid. AFSC and partners have provided emergency relief to displaced people in the Khan Yunis and Rafah regions of Gaza, reaching more than 49,000 people. Since late December, our staff have begun serving hot meals from an open-air kitchen to displaced people living outside of shelters, reaching around 2,000 people a day. You can read more about AFSC’s relief work in Gaza here.
The American Friends Service Committee (AFSC) promotes a world free of violence, inequality, and oppression. Guided by the Quaker belief in the divine light within each person, we nurture the seeds of change and the respect for human life to fundamentally transform our societies and institutions. We work with people and partners worldwide, of all faiths and backgrounds, to meet urgent community needs, challenge injustice, and build peace.