domenica 27 ottobre 2013

‘No Woman, No Drive’: Saudi women battle to take the wheel

Several Saudi women risked arrest by taking part in a protest against a ban on females driving on October

26. They got behind the wheel and posted videos online of themselves doing so. Others who had planned to take part, however, stayed home after the government warned of prosecutions and punishments. Several activists said they received threatening phone calls telling them not to participate. Saudi Arabia is the only country in the world where women are not allowed to drive. The ban is informal, rather than enshrined in law.


 Activist and writer Tamador Alyami said clarification was needed from the authorities: “They are giving us confusing messages. There’s nothing clear about it, no clear law, no clear punishment, so the message is not clear and that’s why we’re fighting for it.”

 The campaign has sparked a wider debate in Saudi society over how women are treated. Social activist and comedian Hisham Fageeh recorded an ironic video, entitled ‘No Woman, No Drive’ and posted it on YouTube on the day of the protest. Fageeh’s unique twist on Bob Marley’s ‘No Woman, No Cry’ had been viewed more than 140,000 times within hours of being posted online.


mercoledì 16 ottobre 2013

Le Mélomane and Georges Méliès

Le Mélomane (The Music Lover) 1903 - It's a short movie film of the French illusionist and filmmaker Marie-Georges-Jean Méliès (8 December 1861 – 21 January 1938). Know as the  "Cinemagician", he was famous for leading many technical and narrative developments in the earliest days of cinema.

In this short movie a marching band appears, and the band-leader prepares to give them the music for the song he wants them to play. He has prepared a large staff above their heads, and he now creates notes by making duplicates of his own head, placing them on the staff, and completing the notes with sticks and other implements taken from the band members. When he has finished, the players attempt to perform the music that has been written in such an unusual fashion.

Naima Akef, Egypt belly dance legend

Naima Akef (7 October 1929 - 23 April 1966) was a famous Egyptian belly dancer during the Egyptian cinema's golden age and starred in many films of the time. Born in the Nile Delta to the Akef Circus family, whom her grandfather, Ismail Akef was the founder, after retiring from his work as a gym teacher and trainer in the Egyptian Police Academy. He opened his small circus in Bab El Khalq district in Cairo, where he built it into a famous animal training and acrobatic extravaganza, and helped build the foundation for Naima's future stardom.

Ismail took Naima under his wings when she was just a toddler, training her in various arts of Circus performance. Her parents were a popular acrobatic act and by the age of 4, Naima was travelling and performing with the family. In fact, she was reportedly the best trapeze artist in the family.

Her first cousin was a renowned dance trainer and choreographer and it has been said that he trained dancers from Casino Badia all the way to modern-day superstar Dina. Together, the Akef family travelled across the country and around the world.
In 1943, at the age of 14, Naima's parents separated and the Akef Circus disbanded. The only life Naima had known had come to an end but her grandfather used his connections to get her an audition with Badia Masabni. Needless to say, Naima was hired on the spot and quickly became Badia’s clear favorite.

At the time, Naima Akef was the only performer who could sing and dance. Further to that, Naima’s suppleness in dance seamlessly combined the strength and flexibility she developed as a young acrobat with a grounded Balady energy. According to the Belly Dance Museum website Naima Akef’s graceful performance was never vulgar.

As a result of Circus upbringing, Naima understood elements of creating a successful show. She had her own chorus line that she trained and choreographed, in addition to creating her own dance steps for maximum effect. Naima is rumored to be the first to dance completely choreographed numbers, at the time her contemporaries such as Samia and Tahia, did mostly improvisational dance even if the chorus line was choreographed.

In 1949, around the age of 20 she had starred in her first film and because of her quick rise to fame and her increasing popularity, the other girls at Casino Badia ganged up on her in an attempt to get rid of her. Having been raised in the circus, Naima was probably no shrinking flower. She took them on and won, but the ongoing tension from the situation led Badia to make the hard decision to let Naima go for the sake of peace with the majority of her dancers.

Once Naima left Casino Badia she worked for Badia’s rival Beba Azzadine. She also joined one of the first professional Egyptian folkloric groups, Leil Ya Ain Group, which went on to find success internationally. It was on one of the Groups tours to Moscow that Naima participated in the Youth Festival’s folklore dance contest and won first place. Her name and picture is still listed in the Bolshoi Theatre’s Hall of Fame today.

She then went on to dance at the Kit Kat Club. It was here that Naima met Hessein Fawzy, a famous musical film director. It was soon discovered that Naima had a natural talent for the screen to add to her seemingly unending list of talents. Her life would be changed forever by this fateful meeting. 

Naima Akef changed the dance into something completely free of sexual innuendoes and it became about flexibility, beautiful execution and elegance on the stage plus her sense of humor She could work in one place, and she could also use a large area- she was fundamentally trained in the circus.

mercoledì 9 ottobre 2013

Zaghroutah : L’inno della gioia

Scommetto che pochi di voi sanno cosa significa letteralmente questa parola, anche se sono sicura che foneticamente tanti di vuoi l’avranno sentita almeno una volta nei vari film americani ambientati in Medio Oriente. Spesso questo suono è stato associato alla esoticità dei luoghi e, assieme ad altri elementi come il velo, gli harem, i beduini e lo stesso deserto, ha contribuito a disegnare da parte degli occidentali questa  regione e a creare i classici stereotipi riguardanti il medio oriente, che, purtroppo si sono rivelati sfalsati dalla vera realtà dei posti e soprattutto della gente del luogo.
Con questo mio piccolo articolo voglio portarvi all'interno del mondo femminile e alle tante tradizioni che fieramente tuttora vengono rispettate e tramandate da madre in figlia: La zaghroutah.

Cos’è la zaghroutah?
La zaghroutah è una forma di suono vocale, tra il canto e l’ululato, che viene praticata dalle donne in tutto il Medio Oriente ed in vari paesi del sub-continente africano. La zaghroutah è il suono che per eccellenza rappresenta l’immensa gioia, e viene di solito eseguita in occasione di matrimoni, la sera del henna, per celebrare una nascita, durante le feste folkloristiche, la dabka ed altre celebrazioni. E’ un suono che rappresenta la felicità e la gioia.

La storia di questo suono “zaghroutah” risale ai tempi dell'antica Grecia, dove questa pratica sonora veniva già utilizzata dalla popolazione come espressione di gioia, di festeggiamento o di sacrificio .
Omero cita spesso queste espressioni sonore (ululati) in numerose sue opere, così come Erodoto, citando la pratica dell’ ululato eseguita nel Nord Africa descrive:

Da parte mia penso che i forti lamenti pronunciati nei nostri riti sacri derivino proprio da lì. Per i libici, Le donne sono particolaremente dotate a tali generi di suoni e riescono a pronucniarli molto dolcemente.

Come viene eseguita?
Di solito quando una donna vuole eseguire una zaghroutah il primo passo è quello di portare la mano davanti alla bocca, come se la si volesse coprire. Successivamente Il suono viene generato facendo oscillare velocemente la lingua ai lati della bocca o dei denti con una sequenza rapida; questa combinazione di movimento crea un suono caratterizzato dal timbro vocale alto e vibrato. L’effetto finale del suono deve risultare una suono simile a “Lolololoolololoeeeey” o “Lolololoolololoeeeesh”.

La zaghroutah in Palestina
Il matrimonio, oltre alla notte del henna (vedere articoli precedenti) e la zaffa, è uno degli eventi più importanti nel mondo arabo, dove la zaghroutah gioca un ruolo importante nella tradizione folcloristica, specialmente quella palestinese e dei paesi del levante. Assieme alla zaghroutah vengono solitamente associate delle canzoni tradizionali, cantate dalle donne (tramandate da madre in figlia da generazioni) nelle quali la semplice zaghroutah si trasforma in zaghreet, trasformandola in un'altra importante forma musicale/sonora eseguita solamente dalle donne. Durante il matrimonio solitamente una donna inizia con questo sonoro "Heeey Hee ..." o "Aweeha ...", poi si prosegue con una piccola poesia o poche brevi parole in rima e infine in conclusione viene eseguita assieme a tutte le donne una zaghroutah ad alta voce "Lolololoolololoeeeey". Può risultare per un udito occidentale come un insieme di suoni indecifrabili o urla insensate, ma questa forma antica di suono e di canto popolari palestinese è la testimonianza di un popolo che ha una storia e una radice che risalgono ai tempi dei tempi, una civiltà che non è stata creata solo 'ieri' e dal nulla, ed è la conferma che la cultura e le tradizioni sono vive e radicate alla terra madre.

Esempi di zaghreet:

Canto tradizionale:

giovedì 3 ottobre 2013

Remembering An Arab Portrait Photographer Zaida Ben-Yusuf

On the 21st of November 1869 Zaida Ben-Yusuf was born in London to a German mother and an Algerian father, but became a naturalised American citizen later in life. She operated – for ten years beginning in 1897 – arguably the most fashionable portrait studio on Fifth Avenue, New York, while at the same time contributing work to numerous publications and the period’s most important photography exhibitions. 
Despite her young age and her recent arrival in America, she attracted to her studio many of the era’s most prominent artistic, literary, theatrical, and political figures. In 1901 the Ladies Home Journal featured her in a group of six photographers that it dubbed, "The Foremost Women Photographers in America.
Zaida Ben-Yusuf died on 27 September 1933 in Brooklyn.