Creative Revolutions! al Valle domenica 27 Novembre

CREATIVE REVOLUTIONS! sulle primavere arabe –

Domenica 27 h.21

Creative Revolutions!
user-generated videos da Tunisia, Egitto, Giordania, Siria, Libia, Yemen

Il Valle Occupato dopo aver ospitato un workshop sul funzionamento dei principali social network per produrre e scambiare informazioni, costruire reti di persone e organizzare azioni sul territorio, ospita una serata dedicata alle rivolte arabe per mostrare come si sono diffuse le informazioni e quanto la creatività abbia contribuito al coinvolgimento delle masse divendo un’arma che opera sull’immaginario, l’arte e la cultura.

Creative Revolutions e` una finestra sulla creativita` web emersa dalle primavere arabe. Cartoni animati, video musicali, telegiornali satirici, soap opera, tutto in pillole create da giovani egiziani, tunisini, giordani, siriani, e diffuse viralmente attraverso i social network. Creative Revolutions e` uno sguardo su una nuova generazione araba, quella che in questo 2011 e` scesa in piazza e ha preso in mano il suo futuro. Si e` ripresa anche la sua creatività, armata di telecamerine, cellulare, e computer, cominciando a raccontare la “sua” storia. Creative Revolutions e ` un breve spaccato di questa storia e di questa creatività che si rifanno giorno per giorno, nelle piazze arabe e in quelle del web.

Donatella Della Ratta ( e Hossein Taheri

Mohamed Tailamoun (sociologo di origine libica)
Armada Bizerta (Rap Tunisino)
Altri Arabi (Editrice il Sirente)
Lilia Zaouali e Simone Santi, fra gli autori di “Non ho più paura. Tunisi. Diario di una rivoluzione” (Edizioni Gremese)

Maria Strova- Martinica Ferrara, danzatrice

Creative Revolutions! user-generated videos from the Arab revolutions

I`m currently preparing an evening dedicated to the creativity of the Arab revolutions in Tunisia, Egypt, Syria, Libya, Yemen. I`m trying to pull together a program of cartoons, songs,parodies, short film, showing how brave the Arabs have been not only in the streets, but even in art. There is an incredible amount of creativity coming out from the Arab revolutions and I`d like to pay tribute to this. The program will be built around a screening of user-generated videos and live performances of music, dance and theater put together by Arabs resident in Italy.

“Creative Revolutions!” will be hosted in the beautiful space of Valle Occupato which is the most significant #occupy movement in Italy.

If you have any suggestions of creative videos coming out from the Arab Springs please do not hesitate to contact me. The show will be repeated in Paris early next year and hopefully in other places. I`d love to pay tribute as much as I can to this brave creative youth.

Here below some of the examples I`m planning to show on the 27th Nov:

La chaise renversee, by Dani Abo Louh et Mohamad Omran (Syria/France)

Abou Naddara (Syria) 

Dans la tete d`Aziza.. by Astrubaal, Nawaat (Tunisia)

Asmaa Mahfouz, a video message (a truly creative girl who contributed with the power of her words to call upon the Egyptians to hit the streets on Jan25)

Syrian Rap from the strong heroes of Moscow (Syria)

Rulers street fighters from the incredibly creative team of (Jordan)


“Occupy” culture at Teatro Valle Roma

I`ve just published an article on Al Jazeera English talking about the “occupy culture” movement in Italy, whose best expressions are Cinema Palazzo Sala Vittorio Arrigoni and Teatro Valle. I`m happy to have joined, even if only for few days due to my permanence in the Arab world, this exciting movement.

We are planning an evening dedicated to “Creative Revolutions!” at Teatro Valle next 27th Nov. featuring creative user-generated videos (songs, cartoons, parodies, mini-soap operas) coming out from the Arab Spring. Stay tuned for more details. And please spread the word about these amazing efforts to free culture in Rome and give it back to citizens.

‘Occupy’ culture enters Roman theatre
As a result of privatisation and downsizing, Italian communities have taken culture into their own hands.
Donatella Della Ratta Last Modified: 16 Nov 2011 16:03

On November 14, while Silvio Berlusconi was heading to the Quirinale to resign amidst a crowd chanting “buffoon, thief”, a thousand people were quietly sitting in a former cinema listening to a public reading of David Foster Wallace’s last book. When the news of the resignation came out, somebody jumped on the stage and started to play the piano, while the crowd erupted in a chorus chanting “Bella ciao”, a partisan song from Italy’s resistance against Mussolini. After the one song, they all went back to the reading. The crowd – made up of publishers, actors, artists, book lovers – stayed up all night long reading David Foster Wallace in a technically illegal place.

The old Cinema Palazzo is an occupied building in the San Lorenzo area of Rome that has been renamed “Sala Vittorio Arrigoni” after the Italian activist who was killed in Gaza last April. Months ago, activists took over the historical theatre, which was about to be converted into casino with slot machines. Since then, backed by famous artists and actors like Sabina Guzzanti– an Italian satirist who has always criticised Berlusconi – the Sala Vittorio Arrigoni has held cultural activities – from plays to concerts – relying entirely on people’s donations.

From Palazzo to Valle

Over the past few months, re-appropriation of goods that once have been public or devoted to culture and education has been a growing trend in Italy. This was a reaction not only to Berlusconi, but to the culture he has generated over decades of commercial television and which has been renamed Berlusconismo. Occupations of movie houses and libraries – to reclaim cultural venues as public goods – have been flourishing in small villages and big cities alike. The most significant started June 14 at Teatro Valle, an 18th century theatre at the heart of Rome, where Sarah Bernhardt’s company used to perform.

The day after the 2011 nationwide referendum, which successfully marked the return to daily campaigning against corruption and privatisation of public goods, a group of artists christened Teatro Valle Occupato. The activists settled there and called immediately for a press conference at which they explained the reasons behind the occupation.
“Once the property of public body ETI, which was shut down for not being financially productive, Teatro Valle risked being sold to private companies to become a restaurant. And, as theatre employees, we were re-assigned to a different public institution. People who have been working for years on the lighting of the theatre, for example, had to become doormen at the ministry of culture in order not to lose their jobs.””The theatre has been a target of one of these ‘usual’ corruption stories that we unfortunately hear so much about in Italy,” says Mauro, who has worked on the technical staff of the theatre for 20 years.

“The trade unions would tell you, ‘Take it, at least you will have a salary’,” adds Hussein, an Iranian-Italian who is part of the group that planned the occupation of Teatro Valle.

“But they never consider the social cost of moving from a job that you are skilled for to a completely new environment. This way you also destroy the cultural know-how of a profession. By strictly applying the ‘re-assign’ mentality of HR departments, you kill the historical heritage of a place, of a city.”

“We don’t want to hear the ‘this is the only solution’ answer. There are other solutions, but we have to sit all together and think about it,” he adds.

Alternative solutions

The occupants of Teatro Valle have been thinking about alternatives. After six months of holding free, donations-based plays, movies, poetry readings, concerts and workshops, they are now trying to build a new formula for a cultural foundation that gives the place back to the public.

Stefano Rodota , a law professor, and Ugo Mattei, the author of Plunder: When the Rule of the Law is Illegalare helping to draft the charter of the nascent Teatro Valle foundation.

“The main point is that this theatre is a monument. It should be given back to the citizens and administrated as a public good,” says Fulvio, an editor and TV director who has been in the occupation group from the very beginning.

“We are looking into a ‘third way’ of financing culture. Not private, not entirely public, meaning that it doesn’t have to rely entirely on public institutions’ money. This could imply corruption and go against the quality of cultural offers. We would rather have the citizens micro-financing the activities of theatre, at least for a part.

“We want to have shareholders that love the theatre but have a pro-active relation with it, too. It’s not a matter of paying an entrance free and watching a show anymore. We would rather address to a pro-active audience, who contributes financially but also artistically, by suggesting things to do, people to contact.”

“We are also elaborating a different concept of art direction,” says Simona, a theatre actress who is now leading Teatro Valle’s communication efforts.

“Instead of having one person who keeps the power for a whole mandate and decides everything, we are considering having three people, coming from different disciplines who discuss before taking shared decisions. In a way, that is what has already been going on here for months: each week we have somebody who takes the art direction of the theatre.

“We would always ask this ‘temporary art director’ not to bring only his/her play or songs, but to give back to the community by doing a daily training to share knowledge and skills with everybody. We would ask to develop not only an artistic concept, but also a new political philosophy throughout the week.”

‘Peer-producing culture’

“What we are experimenting here is a new approach to politics,” adds Fulvio. “An idea of peer-producing culture, economy, law. Something which goes beyond the idea of just delegating others to take care of these fundamental sectors.”

So far, the Teatro Valle Occupato experiment has been doing great. Each day, there is a line of people waiting for the evening show. In the morning, training sessions animate the beautiful 18th century stage, which is kept tidy by the occupants. Young people have also started to join the occupation, originally composed mostly of people in their 30s and 40s.

Martina, 25, came from Tuscany and joined the occupation in September. She was fascinated by the experience. “We do stuff here, we see culture on the move,” she says while live-tweeting.

Berlusconi is gone, but the occupiers are already thinking ahead. Their next move will be a popular petition to cancelthe financial privileges and political immunity of members of parliament.

Donatella Della Ratta is a PhD fellow at University of Copenhagen focusing her research on the Syrian TV industry.

The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily represent Al Jazeera’s editorial policy

Free Alaa!

Activist, blogger and friend Alaa Abdel Fattah has been detained in jail in Egypt  since 31st October.

Following the Maspero protests in which 27 were killed, Alaa was very outspoken and denounced the military council who`s keeping the interim government in Egypt as being responsible for the blooshed. He also denounced how the youth revolution of #Jan25 has been hijacked by the generals themselves.

According to human rights groups, more than 12.000 people have been processed in Egyptian post-revolution by military courts.

I`d like to re-publish here below a very touching letter that Alaa has written from jail, a statement of love for his family, for his lovely wife Manal and his soon-to-be first child Khaled..a statement of love for his country, too, which is undergoing a very delicate and scary phase. We should all follow and watch very carefully what`s going on in Egypt and continue to mobilize people to support freedom of activists and freedom of the revolution from the Armed Forces who are hijacking it.

Article translated and originally published here 


This is a translation (from Egyptian Arabic) of this letter, by Egyptian blogger and revolutionary Alaa Abdel Fattah, who remains imprisoned on charges relating to “insulting” the Egyptian military.

You can also check this alternative translation by Sultan Alqassemi and Mina Naguib.

I am writing this note with a deep sense of shame. I have just been moved from Ist’naf (appeal) prison, at my request and insistence, because I simply couldn’t withstand the difficult conditions there: because of the darkness, the filth , the roaming cockroaches, crawling over my body night and day; because there was no courtyard, no sunshine and, again, the darkness.

However, what I couldn’t stand, above all, was the revoltingly toilets. I just couldn’t do it, I couldn’t navigate my way around the filthy, door-less, overcrowded toilets. So I spent my first five days simply “keeping it in”. Until I could take no more.

I found Nouara’s piece, celebrating my “manliness”, confusing, but Najlaa Budeir’s article reminded me how, in my previous stint here, my blog was my refuge, the sanctuary where I could be brutally candid with myself.

So yes, I couldn’t do it. I couldn’t “man up” and bear it, even though I knew only too well that thousands were bravely and stoically enduring far worse conditions, even though I never had to suffer the untold horrors of military prisons, nor was I ever subjected to the torture meted out to those comrades of mine who had been sent down to the military courts.

And so, I let my Maspero protest comrades, my fellow prisoners facing the wrath of the ministry of defence, as well as other political detainees, down. I let down all those prisoners who had been moved, upon seeing the mayhem and fracas that my presence had been causing, to come and speak to me, sharing their tales of the horrors endured at the hands of the interior ministry, all so that I could tell the outside world about it. They were overjoyed that someone was going to speak up about the baltagia and the gangs.

Yet, I left them behind, because of dirty toilets.

Instead, I traded the company of convicts, loud and boisterous youths, for that of white-collar dullness: miserable, sad, and lifeless. Before, I was everyday faced with an important new case of grave flagrant injustice, for instance the security officers jailed for taking part in their first ever demonstration, accused of burning their ministry. In the past, I had never taken seriously anything relating to them, until I met and spoke to them. Or Tamer Rashwan, who has been seemingly framed into such a sinister and mysterious plot that I’ve come to suspect the security services are experimenting with new ways of punishing troublemakers instead of simply arresting them; not to mention the scenes I have witnessed, of people being tortured and left to rot in their cells, stories I had been collecting and waiting to share with you all upon my release.

Clearly, it wasn’t just the prisoners who thought me capable of playing a role inside, anyone suspected of having spoken to me was routinely roughed up and questioned, informants abounded, my every word seemed to find its way back to those in charge.

And yet I left all that behind, and for what? For a clean, spacious, well-lit cell. Because I simply couldn’t handle a prison’s dirty toilets. That was the extent of my capacities, of my limits. That was my weakness.

Even my decision to refuse questioning by a miltary court, which so many of you have celebrated and praised, that too came with a grain of cowardice. The day we had met to take the decision, I was not brave enough to seek my wife Manal’s opinion on the matter, even though I knew full-well I would be leaving her on her own, through the final days of her pregnancy; even though I knew I would be leaving her to face, on her own, the trials and tribulations of running our life, starting with overseeing the workers currently preparing Khaled’s room; even though I knew full-well the daily hardships and humiliations she would have to endure while running around trying to address my daily requests and needs, the paperwork for prison visits, all while playing a central part in the campaign for my release.

And yet, I dropped this on her, taking my decision after consulting my revolutionary comrades rather than listening to her. Because I knew, and took for granted, that she would support my decision, whatever it may be.

Having said that, I am also proud. It is true that I am not the “Real Man” Nouara believes me to be, but I am no coward either. I had received an offer, through a prominent figure of the revolution, to seal a deal that would guarantee me a swift release: “You can leave, just don’t insult the Field-Marshall”. That was it, the simplest of compromises. But I refused. After all, how was I ever going to face my people had I accepted?

So let us start again from the beginning: How are you? My name is Alaa, a foot soldier of the revolution, many are those who have sacrificed far more than I have, many are those who have been far braver than me, and many are those who have played far bigger roles than I have.

My name is Alaa, and I am immensely proud that I am doing all that I can, often surprising myself at how much it is I find myself capable of doing. Yes, I know myself, and I know my limitations. But I try my best to stand and be counted, to never stay behind. I try my best to keep fear at bay, and to always be there on the front lines.

If you see bravery, or honour, or gutsiness in me, know that they stem from my mother and from my little sisters. Know that they come from my wife too, the separation from whom has been the cruellest and most painful hardship prison has ever inflicted upon me.

Day 5, first night in cell 1/6, Ward 4, Tora Investigative Jail

Alaa Abdel Fattah

Alaa Abdel Fattah is an Egyptian blogger, software developer, and political activist. He is known for co-founding (along with his wife Manal) the Egyptian blog aggregator “Manalaa” and “Omraneya“. In 2005 his blog won the Special Reporters Without Borders Award in Deutsche Welle’s Best of Blogs competition.

Charlie Hebdo, another “Danish cartoon crisis”

After Nessma TV provoking the rage of some Muslisms by showing a scene of Persepolis movie where God is represented, now it`s the turn of France to repeat the “Danish cartoon crisis” again.

French weekly satire magazine Charlie Hebdo`s Paris office has been hit by a molotov cocktail bomb. Two days ago, the French publication announced it was preparing a special issue called “Charia hebbo (a linguistic game between the name of the magazine and the Islamic law sharia which French people transliterate from Arabic as charia) “supervised” by Prophet Mohammed as “editor in chief”  . The current issue features in the front cover a caricature of Prophet Mohammed saying ” a hundred lashes if you don`t die laughing”. Inside the magazine, there is an “editorial by Mohammed”  titled “Halal aperitif”, an insert titled “Charia Madame”  and the last page shows the Prophet again. This time he wears a red nose as a clown and says “Yes, Islam is compatible with humor”.

The special issue is a reaction to the recent success of Tunisian Islamist party, Ennahdha, few days ago at the first elections held in free Tunisia. The electoral victory of Ennahdha has scared many, especially in France, the traditional “patron” of Tunisia`s political and social life and the most concerned (I would rather say obsessed) country in the world by the idea of laicite`.

It is such a paradox, with all the relevant issues that we could discuss in such a troubled period for the world, to come back again to the “star wars” battle between “freedom of expression” and “respect of religion“. Frankly, I believe the two things are not to be put in opposition. Freedom of expression does not manifest itself by offending others` beliefs. Frankly, it is so easy to provoke in such a stupid way, to attract viewers, readers, or simply to throw dust in the eyes of people while there are so many important issues to be explored. I dont want to defend the people who have thrown the molotov bomb onto Charlie Hebdo`s office. But I dont want to defend such a meaningless move by Charlie Hebdo, either. I hope the “media hype” on this issue will calm down soon and we wont have another “Danish cartoon crisis” which we really do not need, now more than ever.

I just want to raise a point. While France and the French media are so busy defending “freedom of expression” and “laicite” in the Tunisian case, I suspect that the real reason of this “much ado about nothing” is that France fears loosing control over a country which has always been under the republique`s cultural protectorate, even under Ben Ali. While the victory of Ennahdha scares France and pushes all its media establishment to raise the “Islamic” fear vis-a-vis this new Tunisia, somebody else is already doing business with “Islamists”.

The US has already announced “investments” and “commercial operations” to start in the new democratic Tunisia next week.“We will work with Tunisian government regardless of its composition”, they have underlined. And the Obama-sponsored US-North Africa Partnership for Economic Opportunity (NAPEO) is already at work to exploit business opportunities in the Maghreb area, starting with the new Tunisia.

The US prefers to shut up on “Islamic fears” and not to start a crusade to defend the laicite`. They prefer to do business, establish relations, partnerships, move the economy forward. With the new Islamic majority.

It has been a while that the new American project vis-a`-vis the Middle East has become evident: accepting the “moderate Islam” and building alliances with it. The fact that Europe -and, first of all, France– that is closer to the Arab world and has strong historical and cultural -together with of course commercial- ties with it, has not elaborated a plan is a bit weird. We continue defending abstract concepts as “laicite”, and we dont act. We go on defending principles, but we do nothing to affirm these principles in practise.

If we care about the “laicite”, if we care about freedom of expression, about helping to build civil societies and secular states in the Arab world, then it would be better to start doing serious stuff and elaborate a serious strategy, instead of writing useless editorials to raise media hype and dust in people`s eyes.