Monthly Archives: November 2015

Mahragan – Music as Revolution

While the political actors of the Tahrir generation seem to fade away, their revolutionary spirit still simmers within Egyptian society. The “Mahragan” with its often blasphemous but honest lyrics, remains a lasting symbol of the achievements made towards freedom of speech in 2011. Our 7th evening in the 2015 14km Film and Discussion Series was devoted to this phenomenon of Egyptian pop culture and its development in Cairo’s slums. With “Electro Chaabi,” director Hind Meddeb describes the rise of this eponymous musical style (its name, “Mahragan,” roughly translates to “festival”): from the slums of Cairo to the mainstream of Egyptian popular culture. The film features Mahragan’s pioneering artists (DJ Amr Haha, DJ Ramy, DJ Vigo, Figo, MC Alaa 50 Cent, MC Sadat, Oka & Ortega, Weza – the last three of whom perform together as Eight Percent), who took old PCs, keyboards, and downloaded remix tapes to reinvent traditional Chaabi music with an electronic spin. Often piercing rhythms mix with distorted melodies, whose sarcastic and provocative lyrics highlight the struggles of daily life in Cairo’s slums. The artists repeatedly suggest that their success lies in their ability to express what people on the street are thinking, often using banal examples and humorous exaggerations, but also without hesitating to take up controversial political issues. The artists are portrayed in multiple settings: while practising their songs, in interviews with friends and relatives, and, importantly, at four of their live wedding performances. The latter exemplify where Electro-Chaabi music first evolved and became known, before being spread through videos across Youtube and ending as an omnipresent vibe in the streets and on public transport. The film dives into this male dominated, youth sub-culture, fighting for freedom of speech in a society where artistic expression is often tightly constrained. Even the Mahragan performers uncritically accept strict rules of gender separation: men and women never dance together, but always separately. The film consistently offers rare glimpses into the social realities of the densely populated streets and yards in Cairo’s poorer areas, where countless Tuk-Tuks toot their way through an endless sea of houses, mountains of (occasionally burning) garbage, and minors looking for their chance to earn some cash as a taxi-driver. These suburbs operate decoupled, and largely marginalised, from the reach of Cairo’s formal public services. According to one song, drug consumption offers many residents a relief from the stress of these chaotic scenes. An every day occurrence, even children are often caught in the cycle of drugs. While the film mostly takes place in suburbs like Imbaba, Al-Matariyyah, El-Salam City, it moves into downtown Cairo by the end. Mahragan is becoming mainstream. Oka & Ortega sign their first contract with a record company, taking the chance to become national celebrities. We see them appearing in talk-shows, and soon learn they are touring Cairo’s clubs and playing at upper class weddings in five-star hotels. Having made the big time, the film’s director can no longer reach them for an interview. Meanwhile, the pair’s long-term partner, Weza, remains confined to suburbs after he fell out with the others and was excluded from the contract. A public discussion following the film welcomed Mohammed Abdelmageed M. Hussein and Ahmed Awadalla, who having witnessed the emergence of Electo Chaabi in Egypt, were both well placed to comment. Ahmed Awadalla noted that 30 per cent of Egyptians live in conditions similar to those experienced by Mahragam’s pioneers in the slums. Yet, not only does Mahragam directly represent this section of society, but also another 30 per cent of Egyptians can certainly relate to the phenomenon – youth make up almost 60 per cent of the population. Even before the 2011 revolution, this musical style was evolving. It dates to around 2007-8, when it grew out of the streets and weddings of Egypt’s under-represented working class. With revolution, came an opportunity to break down class barriers and expand into a new space. While previously ignored by the media, Mahragan was soon able to conquer not only the “streets,” but also the (mass) media. Mohammed Abdelmageed M. Hussein explained that Electro Chaabi was a fusion of electronic influences with older Chaabi (Egyptian folk music), which is traditionally played at weddings in Upper Egypt – his home region. Originally, Chaabi was simply the music of ordinary people and their stories, neither particularly cultural nor political. An audience member pointed out that, in contrast, Electro Chaabi is clearly distinguishable from its traditional roots as a highly critical “voice of the poor”. In this, it seems to more closely represent the dynamics of contemporary Egyptian society. Asked whether Mahragan was comparable to gangsta rap in the US or baile funk in Brazil, and whether it formed part of a global movement, Mohammed could only partially agree. Indeed, all three have grown out of repressive histories and share many common themes, such as drugs, violence, sex, and to some extent politics. However, in Egypt, there is an additional revolutionary element. In this sense, Mahragan is more accurately analogised with hip hop and blues, which share a comparable, emancipatory connection to the American civil rights movement. When questioned on how Mahragan had reacted to the military coup in 2013, Ahmed Awadalla argued that the music has retained its presence. However, the genre now faces a debate over whether it promotes drug abuse and violence (similar to the challenges faced by the popular Sobky movies). As a result, it is increasingly battles bans and censorship. Yet, songs about drugs are nothing new in Egypt, according to one audience member, who pointed out that Egyptian lyrics had been making drug references as early as the 1920s. For Chaabi, this tradition has been particularly present since the 1970s, a time of political and economic transformation. Another interesting perspective from the audience pointed out the paradox in Chaabi’s reference to drug culture, given that it emerged from the same slums where strong conservative and Islamist movements have spread. Mohamed Abdelmageed M. Hussein explained this by suggesting the slums were dynamic spaces, constantly reshaping themselves and their identities. Correspondingly, such seemingly contradictory developments are not impossible. In line with the theme of 14km’s upcoming Film and Discussion Series evening on 8 December, the current discussion brought up issues of gender and tackled the question of why women had such a weak presence in the film: “Why are the men and women always split into separate groups? Is there not also newfound freedom for women?” One audience member suggested that across the MENA region, “everything is divided” along gender lines. It is socially accepted that women and men do not mix, rather keeping a distance from one another. That, however, does not in and of itself mean women are oppressed. Instead, it only highlights that women have their own sphere – one which is not portrayed in this film. While we see a dominant male culture here, that is not representative of all society. Another commentator argued it could even be dangerous to challenge these invisible boundaries; bringing women and girls into the picture could make them subjects of harassment or worse. Further, it was pointed out that in Egypt’s upper classes, including at the popular music festivals they attend, both sexes dance together without such strict separation. In the slums, however, it remained striking how only the men were able to seize the opportunity to express themselves freely. Lastly, we learned that there are indeed public Mahragan shows by and for women, but that these are neither large nor famous. For example: Our guest Ahmed Awadalla blogs. Biography of director Hind Meddeb Music tips from the audience Film review on norient Event coordination and presentation: Andreas Fricke Coordination of the Film Series: Andreas Fricke Text: Steffen Benzler Translation: Alex Odlum Photos: Jana Vietze Organisation: The 14km Volunteer Film Crew The 14km Film and Discussion Series 2015 gets sponsorship by budgetary funds of the Federal State of Berlin – Office for Development Cooperation. Further events are scheduled as followed: 9 December The events are dedicatet to a single country or specific topic, in order to give an artistic-documentary impression. The ensuing audience discussion aims to include further informations by an affected person living in Berlin and by an scientific expert, always aiming to make links to North-South relationships. We express thanks for the support:

Sprachen lehren, Welten eröffnen

Zwischenbericht von Felix bei Social Voluntary Services in Casablanca

"Good morning Feliiiiix" - sobald ich es 20-mal gehört habe, weiß ich mit Sicherheit, dass mein Arbeitstag nun startet.  Um 08:30 Uhr beginne ich, Felix (18) aus Brandenburg, an der "Ecole ESSALAH privée" in Casablanca den Unterricht, zusammen mit meiner marokkanischen Kollegin Fatima.  3 Stunden Unterrichtszeit haben wir jeden Vormittag, um die 5jährigen der "Grand Section de la Maternelle" auf die kommenden Jahre in der Schule vorzubereiten. Fatima ist Französischlehrerin und damit steht auch fest, welche Sprache im Klassenraum gesprochen wird.  Französisch ist die erste Fremdsprache für die Kinder und extrem wichtig für eine erfolgreiche Zukunft in Marokko.  Da zu Hause arabisch gesprochen wird, schicken die Eltern ihre Kinder in die Vorschule, um ihnen den Einstieg in die Schule später so einfach wie nur möglich zu machen. So üben wir jeden Morgen alles, was wichtig ist - die Zahlen, das Schreiben der lateinischen Buchstaben, die Farben, kurze Dialoge und jede Menge Substantive.  Eine ganze Menge für 5jährige, aber jeder erfolgreiche Satz zu uns Lehrern oder den anderen Kindern macht Spaß.  Dass Französisch wichtig ist merkt man schnell - da ich kein Arabisch spreche, bleibt den Kindern auch gar nichts anderes übrig, als sich auszuprobieren. Doch seit vier Wochen haben Sie noch eine weitere Option: Neben dem Französischunterricht bekomme ich jeden Tag 30 Minuten für Englischunterricht.  Für jeden, der davon träumt die Welt zu entdecken, absolut notwendig! Und so versuche ich jeden Tag 20 Fünfjährigen durch gemeinsames Wiederholen, singen von Liedern und Ratespielen die englische Sprache nahe zu bringen. Wohnen tue ich in Sbata, einem noch sehr traditionell geprägtem Viertel der Acht-Millionenstadt Casablanca.  Für mich Europäer ist das öffentliche Leben hier ein einziges Chaos, doch wie mein 19-jähriger Gastbruder lieben die meisten Einwohner ihre Stadt.  Und auch mir gefallen die verrückten Leute in den kleinen Gassen und auf dem riesigen Markt vor meiner Haustür mehr und mehr.  Und falls doch mal alles zu viel wird, bleibt auch immer noch das Wochenende, an dem ich stets durch das Land reise.  In den ersten Wochen noch stark unterstützt von meiner Aufnahmeorganisation SVS, fühle ich mich mittlerweile in der Lage, auch alleine zu reisen.  Mit meinem noch ausbaufähigen Französisch ist jedes Wochenende ein Abenteuer - Spaß macht es aber immer :)

Women’s Rights in Northern Africa

14km Film and Discussion Series

“The Source” (feature, Belgium/Italy/France, original version with German subtitles, 125 min) by Radu Mihaileanu on Wednesday, 09th December 2015 at 6:00 p.m. (1800) at Filmrauschpalast, Lehrter Straße 35, 10557 Berlin-Moabit presents the eighth evening screening of the 2015 “14km Film and Discussion Series”: The film, “The Source” (Arabic with German subtitles), is set in a village in North Africa. Director Radu Mihaileanu demonstrates the traditional female duty of hauling water from its mountain source along trails into the village. However, when the women begin to protest and call for an aqueduct, a conflict develops over issues of power, tradition and religion – and above all over gender roles. Following the film screening, special guests and the audience will discuss the role of women and the struggle for women’s rights in the countries and societies of North Africa. Attendance is free, donations are welcome. Facebook-Event The event takes place at Filmrauschpalast cinema, on the 1st floor of the Kulturfabrik's backyard building in Berlin Moabit: Lehrter Straße 35, 10557 Berlin. Films distribution page The 14km Film and Discussion Series 2015 gets sponsorship by budgetary funds of the Federal State of Berlin – Office for Development Cooperation. This is the last of eight 14km Film and Discussion eventsin 2015. The events are dedicatet to a single country or specific topic, in order to give an artistic-documentary impression . The ensuing audience discussion aims to include further informations by an affected person living in Berlin and by an scientific expert, always aiming to make links to North-South relationships. We express thanks for the support:

“Die Zeit vergeht wie im Fluge”

Zwischenbericht von Dayala bei CSM

Seit dem 12. Oktober bin ich nun in Rabat, wo ich für anderthalb Monate in einem Projekt der NGO Chantiers Sociaux Marocains (CSM) arbeite. CSM ist eine gemeinnützige Organisation mit Hauptsitz in Rabat, die verschiedene Projekte in ganz Marokko organisiert beziehungsweise Freiwillige in bestehende Projekte vermittelt, so wie es bei mir der Fall ist. Ich arbeite hier für sieben Wochen im Centre Lalla Meriem, einem Heim für Kinder- und Jugendliche mit und ohne Behinderungen. Mit den anderen marokkanischen Praktikantinen Die meiste Zeit arbeite ich auf der Station mit den Allerkleinsten, den Babys bis circa 2 Jahre. Der Jüngste war zu Beginn meiner Arbeit erst zwei Wochen alt! Die Pflegekräfte sind alle sehr freundlich und die Atmosphäre ist sehr angenehm. Mein Arbeitsalltag besteht meistens aus Flasche geben, wickeln, kuscheln, spielen, ... bei knapp 20 Babys gibt es immer was zu tun. Neben den festen Pflegekräften und Ärztinnen arbeiten dort auch noch andere Praktikantinnen und Freiwillige, die meisten aus Marokko. Neben der Arbeit im Centre Lalla Meriem bin ich häufig im Büro von CSM, das - genauso wie der Centre - sehr zentral in Rabat gelegen ist. Centre Lalla Meriem Die Mitarbeiter sind alle sehr nett und ich habe von ihnen schon viel über die marokkanische Kultur lernen können. Manche der Mitarbeiter wohnen auch im Büro und von daher ist das Büro ein beliebter Treffpunkt für Gemeinschaftsaktionen. Häufig wird zusammen gekocht und gegessen - meistens Tajine, das marokkanische Nationalgericht. Neben mir sind zur Zeit auch noch weitere Freiwillige aus Frankreich, Italien und Deutschland da und eine spanische Mitarbeiterin, die nach einem Freiwilligendienst mit CSM nun fest für die Organisation arbeitet. Manche bleiben so wie ich nur ein paar Monate in Marokko, andere ein ganzes Jahr. Vor zwei Wochen sind wir alle gemeinsam übers Wochenende in den Norden Marokkos verreist - nach Chefchaouen, Tetouan und Fnideq. Im Kandora - das marokkanische Gewand für Zuhause Gemeinsam mit einer anderen deutschen Freiwilligen wohne ich in einer Gastfamilie in der Nachbarschaft Youssoufia. Die Gastfamilie ist sehr lieb und ich fühle mich sehr wohl. Mit dem Petit oder Grand Taxi ist man jederzeit auch schnell in der Innenstadt. Die Taxis fahren von den Taxistationen aus feste Strecken in die anderen Teile von Rabat und funktionieren wie eine Art Shuttlebus - eine Fahrt kostet im geteilten Taxi 5 Dirham (~50 Cent). Die blauen Petit Taxis nehmen im Shuttleverkehr immer drei Fahrgäste mit und sind deshalb wesentlich komfortabler, allerdings fahren sie weniger Strecken ab. Die weißen Grand Taxis, die zwar so heißen, aber eigentlich kaum größer sind, nehmen dafür immer 6 Passagiere mit und fahren auch mehr Strecken ab. Zwei Personen teilen sich den Beifahrersitz vorne, vier weitere quetschen sich hinten auf die Rückbank. Natürlich kann man, wenn man es ganz bequem möchte, sich auch jeder Zeit ein blaues Petit Taxi an der Straße heranwinken und an jedes beliebige Ziel fahren lassen, aber alleine zahlt man dann eben auch den vollen Fahrpreis - und verpasst jede Menge lustige und interessante Begegnungen, die eine Fahrt im Grand Taxi mit sich bringt. Ich bin schon gespannt, was meine restliche Zeit in Marokko noch für Erlebnisse bereithält und bin sehr froh und dankbar dafür, dass ich die Chance hatte, hierher zu kommen. Vielen Dank 14 km e.V. für die Vermittlung dieses Aufenthalts! Tajine zum islamischen Neujahr bei CSM

The long ignored prelude to the European migration crisis

Thousands of refugees are crossing the border daily into Germany in search of a more secure future. Unlike Germany, in Europe this situation is well-known. The 6th evening in our Film and Discussion Series for 2015 featured Gerardo Olivares’ Film “14 Kilometers – The Pursuit of Happiness” as well as Harald Glöde from Borderline Europe in a panel discussion. As the evening unfolded, we saw that the latest developments filling the news today have long been foreseeable, and could have been far earlier addressed by policies. The film, “14 Kilometers – The Pursuit of Happiness,” accompanies three refugees – Violeta from Mali, along with the two brothers, Buba and Mukela from Niger – on their difficult journey to Europe. From the outset, it is clear that all three have put everything on the table for this journey. The challenges of life as a refugee are clear from the very beginning in Agadez. To get from here to the Algerian border, passengers load into a truck headed for Algeria, constantly harassed at arbitrary checkpoints by corrupt border officials. Those who run out of cash are left to be exploited, working the worst jobs to survive and keep their hopes of onward travel alive. Having fled the prospect of a forced marriage, Violeta ultimately finds herself faced with sexual exploitation on her travels. Explotiation, danger, and an irrepressible will The truck halts in Ténéré desert, northern Niger. The three travellers are facing a walk through the desert (“heading northwest”), aiming for the Algerian Tamanrasset, while the truck continues onwards in a different direction. Violeta, Buba and Mukela become lost. Unable to find the border town between Niger and Algeria, they run circles before falling exhausted under the shade of some acacias. At the last minute, passing Tuaregs are able to save Violeta and Buba. For Mukela, the help arrives too late. On the unforgiving route to Europe, one of only sources of solace is the unconditional hospitality of the traditional, nomadic tribes. Onwards, towards the Algerian-Moroccan border, Violeta and Buba manage to cross the frontier after several attempts, taking advantage of the chaotic bureaucracy. In Morocco, we find the first state authority who does not exploit the refugees, even going so far as to help them. Once in Tangiers, Violeta and Buba give the last of their money to a well-dressed people smuggler who offers to transport them across the Straits of Gibraltar. But after a successful crossing, there is not much time to celebrate. With police in hot pursuit, Violeta and Buba seek cover in the woods, before noticing the Civil Guard officials have turned a blind eye. While they can now travel undisturbed, the refugees realise an uncertain future awaits them. Shot back in 2008, the film shows the long ignored prelude to the present European migration crisis – particularly in this last scene, which aptly highlights the current state of Europe’s external borders. Different escape routes, similar reasons to escape According to Harald Glöde (Borderline Europe) in the post-film audience discussion, the film closely reflects current realities. However, this particular route from Morocco is rarely taken today, with Frontex ships and strict controls blocking passages through the Straits of Gibraltar or to the Canary Islands. Yet, unperturbed by the high, NATO-enforced fences surrounding Ceuta and Melilla, thousands of refugees remain poised in the mountains ready to cross en masse, even if only a few make it across at a time. But as state structures weaken in Mali and Algeria and insecurity grows in the face of Islamist threats, fewer refugees are venturing down such dangerous paths today. Nowadays, the main migration route from Sub-Saharan Africa goes through Agadez, directly towards Libya, where militias finance vast smuggling operations. According to Sea-Watch, there are two well-known transit points where Europe could be directing humanitarian aid. The first is in Libya, from where around 150,000 have journeyed to Italy this year. The other is Greece, which has served as a contact point to the EU for over 450,000 people – not only because the EU’s Dublin regulations have been de facto overruled and refugees are being allowed to travel onwards through Europe, but also due to the simple proximity of Greece to Turkey, where millions of Syrians are already seeking refuge. New Syrian refugees in Europe do not have many other alternatives. In North Africa, Morocco alone is the only country where Syrian refugees can live legally, supported by UNHCR. Algeria, Tunisia and Egypt offer no asylum procedures that would open new perspectives. Here, Syrian refugees face disenfranchisement and discrimination, with few informal labour opportunities. Even richer Arab states show little interest in welcoming large numbers of Syrian refugees. Unlike Syrians, however, those leaving sub-Saharan African may be differently motivated, and are more often on the move due to the lack of future prospects in their homelands. Europe cannot be absolved of responsibility for this state of affairs: fisheries agreements, milk powder and meat exports have all impacted on the African economies. Climate change further impacts on livelihoods. As a result, refugees are fleeing despair not only in Syria, Eritrea, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iraq and Somalia, but also in countries such as Nigeria, Chad, Ghana and Kenya. Military, humanitarian and political measures Asked whether it was possible to improve the safety of current migration routes, Harald Glöde rejected the idea that improvements could be made under current policies. Symbolic polices will continue, but will have little positive effect. Suggested solutions like asylum centres in Greece and Italy will not solve the problem. The audience clearly agreed that refugees could not simply be sent “between camps as packages!” The EU’s plan to resettle 100,000 refugees across Europe was, for Glöde, not sufficient given the current number of refugee arrivals. In any case, having been resettled to countries that persist in marginalising them, refugees would move on to safe third-countries at any cost. Moreover, he pointed out that, despite the EU border countries’ pleas, Germany refused to reform the Dublin system for many years. As Spain, Greece, Hungary and Italy were left to fend for themselves, Germany sat contentedly behind its buffer states. It is only now, when Germany finally feels the pinch herself, that she is pushing for reform. It seems that the only sustainable long-term solution to the crisis is to foster legal migration routes for refugees. Renaming the European Union Naval Force (EU NAVFOR Med) as “Opeation Sofia” represented another symbolic gesture for Glöde, after a young girl was rescued by a military ship off the Libyan coast on 22 August 2015. Giving the military operation such a name serves as a mere attempt to give it a human face. The Libya operation is geared around three goals (1) Education (2) Redirection (3) Destruction of the smuggling boats. By October 2015, phase 2 was underway, but with no date for the third phase in sight. Indeed, navy operations by Frontex and coastguards were being matched by civil society: Sea-Watch, MSF (two ships), and a Maltese millionaire’s own private rescue ship! Motivations behind the refugee policies Asked whether arson attacks on refugee settlements and groups such as Pegida negatively impact on efforts to help refugees in Germany, Glöde argued that “Pegida is a Saxon problem.” One should not forget the positive energies set free. The politicians were “light years away from the a welcoming culture expressed in civil society.” In that sense, Angela Merkel’s commitment to welcoming hundreds of thousands of refugees into Germany should be seen in the light of foreign policy, where it boosts Europe’s international prestige and Germany’s role as a leading nation in Europe rather than a well thought through policy on how to best accommodate and integrate a mass influx of refugees.   Press review about the film (German) Films about MIGRATION in the 14km Film Database   Event coordination and presentation: Andreas Fricke Coordination of the Film Series: Andreas Fricke Text: Steffen Benzler Translation: Alex Odlum Photos: Jana Vietze Organisation: The Volunteer 14km Film Crew At 11 and 12 July 2014 14km e.V. was hosting a symposium on “Displacement // Migration // Development" to discuss facets of migration between North Africa and Europe with human rights activists, scientists, fellows of diaspora organizations and interested participants. The report can be found here in German language. Additional informations: Nahrain Al-Mousawi (EUME) works currently on her book about migrant stories about the geographical borders Mediterranian Sean and Sahara. Both natural divides are analised as dividing as well as uniting for the affected humans. Reiner Klingholz and Stephan Sievert analyse factors steering the migration to Europe: "Crisis on Europe's Southern Borders" (Berlin Institute for Population and Development 2014) Paul Collier (2013): "Exodus" Ralph A. Austen (2010): "Trans-Saharan Africa in World History" The 14km Film and Discussion Series 2015 gets sponsorship by budgetary funds of the Federal State of Berlin – Office for Development Cooperation. The upcoming Film- and Discussion night will be about political pop music in Cairo. On November 18th we will screen the documentary "Electro Chaabi". Read more. Further events are scheduled as followed: 18 November / 9 December The events are dedicatet to a single country or specific topic, in order to give an artistic-documentary impression . The ensuing audience discussion aims to include further informations by an affected person living in Berlin and by an scientific expert, always aiming to make links to North-South relationships. We express thanks for the support: