EWOK withdraws from Hilton Arts Fest
Tags: South Africa
Iain EWOK Robinson*, the South African Hip Hop artist, has cancelled his scheduled performance at this year’s Hilton Arts Festival. The festival is due to start today.
EWOK wrote to festival organizers last night:
“I cannot in good conscience willingly participate in any event that enjoys the support and patronage of the Israeli Government in any form. I believe that this is an endorsement of the criminal acts of oppression and human rights abuses consistently perpetrated by this entity against the Palestinian people.
“I feel it is my responsibility as a South African who enjoys the democratic rights that was fought for so valiantly by my parents’ generation of anti-apartheid activists, to participate in the similar Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions [campaign] of Apartheid Israel.”
The Coalition for a Free Palestine (CFP) commends and salutes EWOK’s position which should be an example for all other artists.
EWOK is part of the MC duo, Illuminating Shadows, and has represented South Africa in several major competitions including the African Hip Hop Indaba, World Hip Hop Slampionship, Poetry International Festival, and Poetry Africa.
Accepting Israeli funding
This year’s Hilton Arts Festival has been marred by controversy over its collaboration with, and accepting of money and support from, the Israeli Embassy in Pretoria and the Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
Citing financial woes, Hilton Arts Festival director, Sue Clarence, explained to the Witness Newspaper: “[R] elative to other festivals in South Africa, we’re still really underfunded… we need old-fashioned cash money.”
Sue Clarence should be reminded that the cash strapped Apartheid government also turned to Israel (the apartheid government’s only remaining partner) during the 90s for “old-fashioned cash money”. This is a collaboration that we want to walk away from, not re-enforce – at least until Israel, like South Africa, democratizes, ends its apartheid policies and oppression of Palestinian people.
The progressive Christian and land-rights organization, Church Land Program, was the first group to call on artists to boycott the festival. In a public statement the organization said that by hosting Israeli plays and accepting funding from the Israeli Embassy, “the [Hilton Arts] festival is in danger of irrevocably tarnishing its image”.
Joni Barnard from the SA Artist Against Apartheid collective went further, stating that the “Israeli Foreign Ministry’s involvement in the Hilton Arts Festival can only be interpreted as an attempt to distract from Israel’s abuse of human rights, contravention of international law and disregard for UN Resolutions.”
In fact, the Deputy Director-general for Cultural Affairs, at Israel’s Foreign Ministry, Arye Mekel has said: “We will send well-known novelists and writers overseas, theater companies, exhibitions [and in] this way show Israel’s prettier face, so we are not thought of purely in the context of war.”
EWOK now joins the growing list of artists and cultural workers who have cancelled or refused to perform in Israel or at Israeli funded events. These artists include: the legendary, Gil Scott Heron; Pink Floyd front-man, Roger Walters; folk singer, Pete Seeger; Bono of U2; actors Meg Ryan and Dustin Hoffman; Elvis Costello, Carlos Santana and groups such as Faithless, Massive Attack and the Pixies.
The boycott of Israel movement is a peaceful and non-violent international campaign to isolate Israel until it abides by international law and basic human rights principles. It was launched in 2005 and is inspired and modeled on the successful anti-apartheid boycott of South Africa and the civil rights movement in the USA.
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