Azerbaijan capital hosts virtual festivals showcasing LGBTQ+ artists and filmmakers
- The two-week Queer Art Festival brought together local artists over the theme “Queer x Azerbaijan – My Body, My Identity, My Heritage,” exploring queer and feminist issues in a landscape historically inhospitable to both.
- In-Visible presents international queer films and educational workshops organized by Salaam Cinema, an independent cultural space in Baku and community for Azerbaijani artists and filmmakers.
- Locked out of the government-funded arts system, queer artists in Azerbaijan depend on a network of activist organizations as well as the support of international organizations and foreign embassies.
“Two festivals bring queer art to Azerbaijani audiences” (Eurasanet | February 2021)
Moving In—Moving On (Trans Europe Halles | 2020)
“Azerbaijani artists win fight to save a prayer house-turned-cinema from demolition” (Global Voices | July 2019)
Queer Art Festival Baku 2020
Salaam Cinema Baku
Uyghur graveyards demolished in China
- Recent investigations have uncovered more than 100 burial grounds that have been destroyed by the Chinese government.
- The Chinese government claimed that the graves had been “relocated” due to urban development demands, but other official justifications included “standardization” and the government’s desire to “promote cultural and ideological progress.”
- Cemeteries occupy a significant role in Uyghur cultural life, serving as both resting places and social spaces, and their demolition coupled with the destruction of Uyghur coffins, shrines, and mosques has further substantiated ongoing cultural genocide in Xinjiang.
“More than 100 Uyghur graveyards demolished by Chinese authorities, satellite images show” (CNN | January 2020)
“‘No space to mourn’: the destruction of Uygur graveyards in Xinjiang” (Agence France-Presse, via The South China Morning Post | October 2019)
“China ‘building cark parks and playgrounds’ over Uighur Muslim graveyards ‘to eradicate ethnic group’s identity’” (The Independent | October 2019)
“Then and now: China’s destruction of Uighur burial grounds” (The Guardian | October 2019)
“Demolishing Faith: The Destruction and Desecration of Uyghur Mosques and Shrines” (B.K. Sintash and the Uyghur Human Rights Project | October 2019)
Traveling While Black
For those with the means, contemporary Black travelers experience a freedom of movement historically circumscribed by oppression, persecution, and economic exclusion. People of African descent have found new footing in the exploding global travel field, with travel motivations ranging from pleasure-seeking to the desire to connect with ancestral homes. Travel abroad is not without its challenges, however: Black travelers recount dealing with stares, hair obsession, and the need to expand conceptions of the diverse places Black people live in the world. As a lifestyle movement coalesces around Black travelers, BBC News explores the unique experiences of traveling while Black, from encounters with strangers to hyper-visibility.
“Our access to travel has been historically tied to colonisation or immigration. We’re paying homage to our ancestors to be travelling on our own free will.”
“What does it mean to be a black traveller?” (BBC News | January 2020)
“How the black travel movement is gaining momentum” (CNN | August 2019)
Black & Abroad
Black Girls Travel Too
Graphic artist creates Ethiopia’s first female superhero comic
- Beserat Debebe, founder of Etan Comics, has developed Hawi in the wake of creating Jember, billed as the first Ethiopian superhero comic in a growing African comics market.
- Hawi features the intertwined stories of Ement, a young woman of Ethiopian descent living in the U.S. coming into her powers, and Queen Yodit, a powerful figure from 10th-century Ethiopia.
- The comic will be published in both Amharic and English and is currently available for preorder as part of the project’s kickstarter campaign.
“Ethiopia’s First Female Superhero Comic ‘Hawi’ is Here” (OkayAfrica | March 2019)
“Ethiopia Gets Its First Female Superhero Comic” (CBR.com | March 2019)
“Meet Ethiopia’s first female superhero character who returns from the U.S. to rescue her abducted mother” (Face2Face Africa | March 2019)
Millions form “women’s wall” for gender equality across Kerala
- Organizers reported that some five million participants turned out to form a 385-mile chain across the southwest Indian state of Kerala, stretching from Kasaragod in the north to Thiruvanthapuram in the south.
- Although the demonstration was broadly framed as promoting gender equality, it emerged following protests targeting women who attempt to enter the Sabarimala temple, a Hindu shrine that has historically banned women of “menstruating age” (defined as between the ages of 10 and 50).
- The ban was formally struck down in September 2018 by the Supreme Court after having been enforced judicially since 1991, but protesters have continued to prevent women from entering.
“Women form a fortress against gender inequality” (The Hindu | January 2019)
“Millions Of Women Formed A 385-Mile-Long “Women’s Wall” To Protest Gender Inequality” (BuzzFeed News | January 2019)
“Sabarimala temple: Indian women form ‘620km human chain’ for equality” (BBC News | January 2019)
Israeli parliament passes law formally establishing country as Jewish nation-state
- The new basic law codifies a number of ultranationalist principles, including Hebrew as the sole national language, the expansion of Jewish settlement as a national priority, Jewish symbols as national symbols, and a unified Jerusalem as the nation’s capital.
- Previously, Israel existed formally as a multiethnic democratic state, with Arabic as the second national language and the concerns of Arab Israelis—who comprise a fifth of the population—at least nominally afforded equal weight in matters of national identity and self-determination.
- While some observers have dismissed the law as largely symbolic, Arab lawmakers and progressive advocates argue it provides the legal ground for segregation and discrimination and reduces ethnic and religious minorities to a second-class citizenship.
“Israel Passes Controversial Jewish Nation-state Bill After Stormy Debate” (Haaretz | July 2018)
“Israeli Law Declares the Country the ‘Nation-State of the Jewish People’” (The New York Times | July 2018)
“Israel passes controversial ‘Jewish nation-state’ law” (Al Jazeera | July 2018)
Austrian government announces Islam crackdown, shutters mosques
- Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz announced that it would be dissolving the Arab Religious Group, which runs six mosques, along with a Turkish mosque and would be shut down.
- The Interior Chancellor also announced that the residence permits of dozens of foreign-born imams associated with Turkish organization ATIB were under review, which could lead to their deportation if revoked.
- Implementing its pledge to restrict immigration and monitor assimilation, the government, a conservative coalition that includes the far-right Freedom Party, is using as justification a 2015 law prohibiting the foreign funding of religious groups and for Muslim organizations to support the Austrian state and society.
“Austria to shut 7 mosques and could expel dozens of imams” (Al Jazeera | June 2018)
“Austria shuts down seven mosques in what it says is ‘just the beginning’ of a crackdown” (The Washington Post | June 2018)
“Erdoğan warns of ‘crusader-crescent war’ after Austria’s shutting of mosques” (Hurriyet Daily News | June 2018)
Darkening Beauty in India
Source: Dark is Beautiful Campaign/YouTube (October 2013)
In India, a cultural movement to tackle colorism has taken root, from challenging the pervasive preference for fair skin in romantic partners to reconstructing depictions of Hindu gods and goddesses using dark-skinned models. Skin-whitening practices are pervasive throughout the country and drive a multimillion-dollar industry, but activists and other community members are seeking to reaffirm beauty and value in darker-skinned people.
“Dark is divine: What colour are Indian gods and goddesses?” (BBC News | January 2018)
“Bleached girls: India and its love for light skin” (The Conversation | July 2017)
“India’s unfair obsession with lighter skin” (The Guardian | August 2013)
A Brown Girl’s Guide to Beauty (UnErase Poetry/YouTube | July 2017)
Dark Is Beautiful
Afro-Brazilian Women’s Mobilization Moment
The current global push for the redress of epidemic violence against women—from #NiUnaMenos to #MeToo—has long been of national concern in Brazil, with women sharing stories of sexual assault via #MeuPrimeiroAssedio (#MyFirstHarassment) and demonstrations for reproductive rights having sought to counter entrenched conservative religious interests. For Afro-Brazilian women, this is part of decades of mobilization that has attempted to draw attention to both material and ideological disparities threatening their security. High homicide and sexual violence rates, reproductive healthcare limitations, anti-black beauty standards, and lack of positive cultural representation have led activists to demand attention to institutions and cultural practices that they argue have marginalized their welfare. From mass demonstrations to digital organizing, black women have taken the lead in movements for both racial and gender justice, challenging Brazil’s deeply embedded ideology of colorblindness and calling instead for more research into and accountability for persistent economic and cultural disparities.
“Beyond #MeToo, Brazilian women rise up against racism and sexism” (The Conversation, via Salon | January 2018)
“Afro-Brazilian Feminists and the Fight for Racial and Gender Inclusion” (Black Perspectives | February 2017)
“Black Women March Against Violence in Brazil” (teleSUR | November 2015)
“Interview with Djamila Ribeiro: Fighting Racism and Sexism in Post-Coup Brazil” (The Council on Hemispheric Affairs | December 2017)
“Black Brazilian Feminists Say: ‘Autonomy is the Only Way.’” (For Harriet | July 2015)
“Brazil: Report Exposes High Rates of Rape Among Women, Girls” (teleSUR | January 2018)
“The campaigners challenging misogyny and sexism in Brazil” (The Guardian | December 2015)
Geledés Black Woman Institute
Black Women of Brazil
China’s Growing Body Art Movement
Changing economic and cultural conditions in socially conservative China have given birth to a burgeoning body art movement, and Chinese women are battling mores to ink up. Shanghai in particular has become the center of tattoo production in the country, with some estimates putting the number of tattoo artists in China’s largest city as high as 2,000. While several ethnic groups (including the Dulong, Dai, and Li) have had historical tattooing traditions, contemporary Chinese body art has emerged from the relaxation of legal and cultural prohibitions on tattooing in China and the resurgence of tattooing in global popular culture. For women in particular, body art has come to mark an assertion of both identity and bodily autonomy. Recent media coverage has chronicled the dismantling of the tattoo taboo and the uptake of body art among Chinese women.
“Tattooed and proud: Chinese women peel away stigmas” (Agence France-Presse, via France 24 | December 2017)
“Good girls, not gangsters? Tattoos no longer taboo in China” (CNN | August 2015)
“Shanghai Inked: The Artists Redefining Tattoos in China” (That’s Shanghai | November 2015)
Wen Shen: The Vanishing Art of Chinese Tribal Culture
Christians celebrate opening of Christmas market in Algiers
- Catholic international organization Caritas organized the market, which has seen contributions from Christians and Muslims alike as a result of increased advertisement in its second year.
- Algeria’s population is 99% Sunni Muslim but has seen an increase in its Christian minority as a result of the international diplomatic community and influx of sub-Saharan migrants from countries like Mali, Niger, and Burkina Faso.
- Because proselytizing is legally forbidden, Algerian Christian organizations focus on social services in local communities as well as cultural exchange between the country’s Christian and Muslim communities.
“Christmas market opens in Algerian capital” (Reuters | December 2017)
“« Chrétiens d’Algérie », ils témoignent sans prosélytisme” (La Croix | October 2017, in French)
“Dans ‘Chrétiens d’Algérie-Sur les chemins de la rencontre’, Jean Dulon dévoile une ‘Algérie proche et fraternelle’” (The Huffington Post Maghreb | March 2017, in French)
Egypt expands crackdown on LGBT community
- Dozens of LGBT Egyptians have been arrested , including raids on cafés and detentions following a concert by Lebanese band Mashrou’ Leila (fronted by a gay man).
- As citizens continue to be subjected to invasive medical examinations and entrapment via social media and mobile apps, Egypt’s media regulatory body issued a statement condemning homosexuality as a “sickness” and barring the presence or representation of gay people in the media.
- In addition to political and law enforcement assaults, LGBT Egyptians have recently been the targets of cultural campaigns by the media and conservative religious and academic leaders.
“Brutal crackdown has gay and transgender Egyptians asking: Is it time to leave?” (The Los Angeles Times | October 2017)
“Egypt’s latest crackdown on gays creates fear in LGBT community” (USA Today | October 2017)
“Unofficial Translation of Statement by Egypt’s Supreme Council for Media Regulation” (Human Rights Watch | October 2017)
Australia’s “Stolen Generation” Speaks
For six decades across the 20th century, the Australian government pursued a ruthless policy of the forced assimilation of its indigenous population, tearing mixed-race children from their communities and creating “stolen generations” deprived of access to the culture of their aboriginal roots. The policy, similar to those pursued in Canada and the U.S., forced children into boarding schools, church missions, and adoptions to erase connections to their communities. Canadian photographer Matthew Sherwood has documented the stories of those in the Northern Territory through his photo series Generations Stolen, profiled in The New York Times.
“Australia’s ‘Stolen Generations’ Tell Their Stories” (The New York Times | May 2017)
Female students locked in hostels to avoid harassment during Holi festival in Delhi
- Two women’s hostels at the University of Delhi were put on lockdown over the Holi holiday out of safety fears.
- India’s minister for women argued the restrictions were necessary to defend against consequences of “hormonal outbursts.”
- Women have long reported being sexually assaulted during the festival, but some activists expressed outrage at women’s rather than men’s mobility being targeted as a response.
“Holi festival: Delhi women forced into lockdown amid sexual harassment fears” (The Guardian | March 2017)
“Delhi University hostels ‘lock up’ girls on Holi” (The Asian Age | March 2017)
“Delhi University hostels prohibit women students from playing Holi outside the premises” (International Business Times | March 2017)
(Image Credit: Reuters, via International Business Times)
The Poetics of Protest for Bengali Muslims in India
Named for the pejorative term used to describe Muslims presumed to be undocumented immigrants, Miyah poetry has emerged as a cultural protest against the marginalization and scapegoating faced by the Bengali Muslim community in the northeastern state of Assam. Its dissemination through social media channels has made it distinctly public and communal as opposed to more academic forms of cultural protest, bringing together the voices of the trained and untrained alike. Al Jazeera highlights the origins of the form and the social and political conditions that have shaped its evolution.
“Protest poetry: Assam’s Bengali Muslims take a stand” (Al Jazeera | December 2016)
“For better or verse: Miyah poetry is now a symbol of empowerment for Muslims in Assam” (Firstpost | September 2016)
“A state on edge” (India Today | October 2016)
#MiyahPoetry (The Sunflower Collective)
(Image Credit: Kazi Neel/Al Jazeera)