Children and war : a depiction of what moves us

by Fiana Gantheret

For once, it is not about our jobs, our cities, our hobbies, our habits. For once, it is not about something that only concerns some of us.

For once, but once more, it concerns all of us and moves us all.

One image, one picture, and this all too familiar feeling of being caught up with something we wanted to keep at large resurfaces. I wanted to forget what I felt when I saw the images of the palestinian children running on the beach. One minute, one second, and these lives are over. Their shadows stay now in my memory, as depicted by Amir Schiby.

Amir Schiby

Posted by Amir Schiby on Facebook on 17 July 2014

What could be worse than young lives being taken so abruptly? Maybe the idea that the elimination of a life can take more than one second, one minute. It sometimes unfolds over years, during which life is no more than hell. With some moments of relief, when playing football on a beach, for example.

This long lasting suffering can also be captured in one image. And again this all too familiar feeling of being caught up with something we wanted to keep at large resurfaces. I wanted to forget that I knew about hungry or working children, about children living in war. But here it is, in one image, this gripping feeling.


Pawel Kuczynski’s website


Acting Like Men – Freedom of Expression in a Heteronormative World

By Nicola Popovic

Gender roles manifesting the perceptions of what is supposed to be feminine and what is supposed to be masculine, is neither new on stage nor in reality. But for a play to be able to go beyond the parody of the masculine and feminine without ridiculing one or the other may be one of the challenges in contemporary theatre. Small Town Boy playfully overcomes any sort of gender categories and takes us through all layers of human emotions, intimacy and social dynamics, in two hours of high speed performance.

From an intellectual porn star to romantic gay lovers to a sensitive soldier on active duty… contemporary images of men are in the centre of Falk Richter’s latest project. The limits of male heterosexuality remain particularly disputed today, as spectre of real freedom and equality for all sexes has led to fear and resistance. If men also deny their previous role in the patriarchy and just do whatever they want, then who will continue to protect and preserve Western civilisation?” (Gorky Newsletter; 3. April-May 2014)

Small town boy

Small Town Boy” actors: Mehmet Ateşçi / Niels Bormann / Lea Draeger / Aleksandar Radenković / Thomas Wodianka; Director: Falk Richter, Stage and costume: Katrin Hoffmann, Music Matthias Grübel, Lights: Carsten Sander, Dramaturgy: Jens Hillje / Daniel Richter

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An account of three Movies that Matter: Freedom of Expression and the State

by Fiana Gantheret

Movies that matter festival

A small entry into often incredibly violent worlds. That is what the Movies that Matter Festival offers. A regular feature in The Hague for some years now, the festival took place this year between 20 and 26 March 2014. This post focuses more particularly on three movies that featured in the selection: Pussy Riot: A Punk Prayer by Mike Lerner and Maxim Pozdorovkin, Viva Cuba Libre: Rap is War by Jesse Acevedo, and Ai Weiwei: The Fake Case by Andreas Johnson.

The focus of these three movies is freedom of expression and its violation by the state apparatus. The main characters fight to speak out, either about the state itself, or at least without any censorship. The latter is of course linked to the former, given that being able to speak without limits in the societies depicted in the movies entails saying Fuck Off to the system. The means to reach that goal: art. Punk music and performance in Pussy Riot; rap music in Rap is War; and conceptual art – photography, sculptures, installations – in The Fake Case.


Pussy Riot is about the trial of three members of the russian punk feminist movement Pussy Riot created in 2011: Nadejda Tolokonnikova, Maria Alekhina, and Ekaterina Samoutsevitch. The three women were arrested after having staged a performance on 21 February 2012 on the soleas of the Cathedral Christ the Savior in Moscow to protest the support of the leader of the Orthodox Church to Vladimir Putin during the elections. They were sentenced on 17 July 2012 to two years imprisonment. On appeal, Ekaterina Samoutsevitch’s sentence was suspended.

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The Peace and Justice Project: How political cartoons contribute to the debate

By Fiana Gantheret

On the occasion of the bicentennial of the Dutch Constitution, the Cartoon Movement, together with Word Press Photo, the City of The Hague and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs launched on 29 March 2014 the Peace and Justice cartoon project at the Peace Palace in The Hague, The Netherlands.

With reference to Article 90 of the Constitution, which provides that “The Government shall promote the development of the international rule of law”, the project aims at triggering a debate on peace and justice through a series of guest lectures in several countries and the sharing of ideas that will follow these lectures. The students will be invited to share their thoughts by sending their tweets, sketches, comments and photos, that professional cartoonists will then transform into cartoons.

Here is a presentation of the project:

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Diego Rivera: the individual expression of collective emotions

By Nicola Popovic

Strolling along Berlin, it is impossible to overlook the numerous graffitis and, after all, mural art work visible at every street corner. Public art, which is what mural art has developed into, is part of our everyday media consumption, walking to the bus station or waiting at a traffic light. Political views and discussions are exchanged through symbols, words, and paintings, on walls and on buildings, in many cities around the globe.

In Berlin, the most prominent example of mural art is the accumulation over decades of layers of paintings and graffitis on the Berlin wall, the symbol of the division between two political ideologies, regimes and economic systems as it took place in one city. As shown by the Wall on Wall project, the Berlin wall, the Peace Line in Belfast, or the wall in Palestine are examples of dividing constructions which have been re-used as visual platforms for individual expressions of collective emotions concerning such disunion.

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The Lady in Number 6: Music Saved my Life – A documentary on Alice Sommer, the world’s oldest pianist and holocaust survivor

The Lady in Number 6: Music Saved my Life, is a short movie of 38 minutes released in 2014 by its director, Malcolm Clarke, and nominated at the 2014 Oscars in the Documentary Short category.

It tells the story of a 109 years old lady named Alice Herz Sommer, and what a story. Born in Prague in 1903, Alice was raised in an “intellectual atmosphere” built by her parents, which that she describes as being the most important thing that accompanies an individual in his life, more important even than the things that school teaches you. Franz Kafka was a family friend. She conversed – or rather her mother – with Gustav Mahler… She became a pianist.

Having chosen the career path of a concert artist, she soon met the man who would become her husband, and in 1937, they had their son, Raphaël. She was living a fulfilled and happy life.

On 15 March 1939, Hitler’s army marched on Prague, and soon after, Nuremberg laws started to be implemented in Czechoslovakia. Music was only allowed for non-Jews, but Alice, “as a form of quiet resistance”, continued to play on her piano. Her mother, the father of her friend, her husband, every Jew in Prague got arrested and deported to Auschwitz or Theresienstadt.

It is in Theresienstadt that Alice and her son were sent, the concentration camp that was used for the nazi propaganda to show how well the european Jews were treated. Artists and intellectuals were sent there, and music groups, orchestras were formed. For Alice, “as long as we could play, it could not be so terrible”. And it is the “atmosphere” she tried to maintain for her son. From his own terms, he has very few dark memories of this time, thanks to the efforts of his mother to protect him.

Both survived, and after the liberation of the camp in 1945, Alice lived in Israel and then in London, where she died on 23 February 2014 at the age of 110. She remained an incredible optimistic and happy person, inhabited by music and love for life. “Music saved my life, and Music saves me still”. She had a profound curiosity in people and their lives, and used to swear that she never hated the nazis and never would. Because of music, Alice had access to the consciousness that “life is beautiful” and that there is “no place nor time for pessimism and hate”.

The movie can be rent or bought here.

Update!: The Lady in Number 6: Music Saved my Life won Best Documentary Short at the Academy Awards on 2 March 2014.

Liberating words – Peace poetry by a female ex-combatant of the Zimbabwean liberation movement

By Nicola Popovic

Now that I put my gun down
For almost obvious reasons
The enemy still there invisible
My barrel has no definite target
Let my hands work-
My mouth sing-
My pencil write-
About the same things my bullet aimed at.

© Freedom Nyamubaya

Freedom Nyamubaya took on her guerilla name when she joined the liberation movement in the late seventies in Rhodesia/Zimbabwe. She fought together with men, mostly, in order to obtain free elections and recognition of human rights for the black majority in the former British colony. When she speaks about her decision at the time to join the rebels across the border in Mozambique, the expression on her face mirrors the teenage girl that was fascinated by the spiritual power radiating from the freedom fighters, disappointed by the conservative Christian education, and denied the possibilities the white kids were offered in the seventies’ Southern Africa.


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