January 26, 2007

What you can't take away from Reem Kelani

Here's an article about Reem Kelani from the Financial Times site from last week. I don't recall seeing it in the print edition.
“Cultural appropriation,” she insists, “is a lot more dangerous than dispossessing people or demolishing their homes. How can someone from Poland tell me that falafel and hummus are Jewish foods?”

She is resistant, however, to Palestinian radical chic. “People said: ‘Why don’t you have a cover with a child throwing stones?’ but I can’t stand that kind of emotional pornography. I didn’t even have a flag on the front cover. Those flowers there” – pointing to the yellow flowers that border the CD – “are rue. A purely Galilean plant. We eat black olives pressed in rue, that’s our native culture. No politician, no neocon, can take that away from me.”

“People said: ‘Why don’t you have a cover with a child throwing stones?’ but I can’t stand that kind of emotional pornography. I didn’t even have a flag on the front cover. Those flowers there” – pointing to the yellow flowers that border the CD – “are rue. A purely Galilean plant. We eat black olives pressed in rue, that’s our native culture. No politician, no neocon, can take that away from me.”

This suspicion extends to the current vogue for the arabesque. “What a lot of people think of as Arabic music is pastiche, orientalism. It’s white man’s music. There are no quarter tones, no melodic modes.”

She scorns the notion of a clash of civilisations based on religion. “I am a Palestinian first and a Muslim second. I refuse the Islamicisation of the Palestinian question. I believe in an ecumenical Palestine, with room for all three faiths, without either Zionists or radical Muslims. It probably won’t happen in my lifetime, but what a goal to work towards.” Even so, Kelani refuses to appear on stage with Israelis and has joined the call for a cultural boycott of Israel. She complains about her work not being played on the radio unless it is “neutralised by being played with Israeli artists”.
That stuff about hummus and falafel recalls one of my favourite blog posts.

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