1. I have been writing and writing and transcribing and transcribing all my notes, recordings and interviews from the trip 30 May – 10 June to Gaza, and i can’t seem to bring them all together to form a cohesive ‘story’ or trail of diary entries that is both useful to someone else and gives justice to my own thoughts. so i shall do this bit by bit by bit by bit – mostly here and there, but mostly about the selfless youth i met this time around – the people who spoke with such eloquence and strength, that puts even my tiny thoughts of greed and need to shame.
2. As I scramble down a rocky mountain edge in the forests of turkey, just inland from the Mediterranean sea, my mind flowing with six.five months of collected thoughts, from Israel-Palestine, Egypt, Jordan, and now, my feet slipping and my sweat dripping in Turkey. It seems strange to be heading towards Europe, with all of its affluence and cleanliness and order, away from places and people and cultures and languages I had only just started getting used to and familiar with – to be honest, my heart and my mind and my thoughts and my feet seem to all be in different places right now; I hope the coming months will align them and then direct them all on the same road again.
As my feet clomp and the noise of the cicadas in the forest keeps intercepting my thoughts, and the hot sun forms beads of sweat on my arms, and the water in my backpack is warm and the goats are looking at me; and I’m thinking most of all of this freedom I have to be here and be doing this, when less than 2 weeks ago I was sitting with people my age in Gaza, talking about their lack of freedom, their inability to move freely, to leave the tiny land and prison walls of Gaza; and now, I, only some thousand or less km’s across the same sea, am walking about on different soils with the freest of freedom anyone could have, without the sound of another soul, except for my mum, around, without the concept of a wall or a border or a soldier or a gun or an extremist view blocking my exist or entry into another place, blocking my ability live without fear in my daily life.
3. so it’s like this; the evening of 04 June we were invited to a hip-hop competition that had live-streaming between the West Bank and Gaza titled ‘HipHopKom’ – the 3rd and final week of a events that were mostly kept underground in Gaza (advertised only by word-of-mouth) and quite open and free in Ramallah (an obvious sign of the diference between the Fatah and Hamas governing powers). So I’m watching these young men and women perform – the live-streaming from Ramallah has no sound until the last few acts so we’re watching these women break-dancing and going off and the mostly young boys in the Red Crescent Society hall are cheering and supporting and moving about as if they’d be moving about a lot more if they weren’t being watched by Hamas. so anyway, as i said, i’m watching these artists perform and i’m thinking, fuck, of course – i’m 23 years old, much the same as a lot of these people – I want to know what they’re thinking, how they see themselves and their lives here in Gaza, how different or similar is it from those people who are living ‘normal’ lives in totally different environments than these. so thinking and watching i am, my ethical dilemma of just visiting Gaza to see friends and show an international face of support suddenly has more grounding and solidity. i smile and let the lyrics of occupation, disposession, love, hate, pride, war and hope take me through a journey so far from my own and yet allow me wholly to place my feet on the floor….
It’s Gaza’s turn and Ayman Jamal is MC’ing; Ayman is from the second generation of Palestinian hip-hop artists, the first being a group called DAM, who originated in the West Bank; Ayman’s group, Palestinian Rappers (PR) are the first group from Gaza. Seen recently on the documentary ‘Sling-shot Hip-Hop’ shot by an American woman about Palestinian hip-hop.
“As-Salaam al-akummmmmm!” (peace be with you) Ayman yells to the audience as he takes the stage and the mic. Ayman introduces the first group, The Darg Team, they’re a group of about 5 who all have shaved heads, the same shoes and long baggy denim shorts. They get round on stage as if they’ve jumped out of an American music-clip. They get people moving, but still in their chairs. A friend Majed starts translating some of the lyrics for us ; they’re about life under occupation, how life has been growing up with war and killings and separation, how they want peace and freedom and their land and lives back, but also about love, and humanity, and hope… next is the Black Unit Band, who appear to be a favorite.
So, more people are moving and more people are cheering, even thought people are still in their seats or standing near their seats. we get so taken in the music and energy that we don’t notice that half the room has shuffled out and eventually the sound starts cracking, and dropping out, eventually it gets completely cut during Ibrahim Gho’s performance, we all get up and get shuffled out – everyone’s whispering and not knowing what’s going on, except best answer is to ‘leave’. We learn that Hamas shut the shown down for what could be any number of reasons: that they don’t agree with the embracing of western culture and events with girls and boys mixing in the same room, that the music isn’t traditional or Palestinian, in other words they don’t support it and will exercise their power in order for it to stop. We are scared for the hip-hop groups, as the smallest ‘mistake’ in Gaza can leave someone with bullet holes in their knees or no more life to live. We get in a taxi and leave the scene, later to hear that the show continued in Mohammed Wafy’s flat in a nearby neighbourhood.
The next day we organise to meet with Mohammed Wafy and Khaled Harara from the Black Unit Band, and also with Ayman to learn more about this growing phenomenom of Palestinian hip-hop and the struggles facing them internally and externally.
4. so this is where this series stemmed from and why this post goes back to them and to the young people who make up more than half of the population in Gaza; back to the hours spent walking Gaza’s streets with Ahmad (friend and translator) asking people at random if they wanted to say something to people outside of Gaza. To the people who invited us into their homes for much coffee and tea, with the sound of israelis shelling fisherman at sea in the background, it goes to those who put trust in me and to those who want someone to listen. I’ll let them do the talking
*Thanks to Ahmad, Mond and Majed for organising interviews and for interpreting them.
**after this I will post some more notes an images from our time there.