In mid-October, a group of young Kenyan artists from the Five C’s Theatre Collective,* a progressive human rights theatre group in Nairobi that presents participatory theatre for change, was slated to meet virtually with writers from We Are Not Numbers for a cross-cultural exchange of ideas. This meeting had been arranged by Rose Levinson, founder of Emerging Voices: A Webzine for Shifting Times, which in its Voices Rising section had been featuring work by WANN writers and Kenyan artists.
That meeting has been postponed indefinitely as a result of Israel’s massive, ongoing bombardment of the Gaza Strip.
In response to this thwarted collaborative opportunity, Sophie Ogutu prepared the following statement of solidarity on behalf of Five C’s and other artistic communities she participates in, including Support Women Artists Now (SWAN). In addition, Five C’s is encouraging all creatives to join the African Artists Against Apartheid, a Pan-African network of creatives and freedom-driven people organizing against the occupation towards a free Palestine.
* 5C’s is an acronym for the theatre group’s first political play, “5 Centuries of Colonialism, Neo- Colonialism and Post-Colonialism in Africa.” The play revolved around those five centuries of misrule and plunder that Africa experienced. The production became very popular in Kenya and beyond. Amnesty International supported the group through the umbrella organization 4C’s (Citizen’s Coalition for Constitutional Change). The theatre collective is now referred to as 5C’s.
My name is Sophie Ogutu. I am a member of the Five C’s Theatre Collective in Kenya. We speak as a human rights theatre collective, whose mission is driven by the necessity of changing negative perspectives on people’s lives. We do this social transformation through theatre, song, and dance.
We are very saddened by what is happening in the Middle East. This has greatly affected the artists in Palestine whose progressive artwork and popular culture create space for changing narrative. Artists in Palestine need support, solidarity, and love.
We condemn Israel’s settler colonialism, military occupation, and its systems of apartheid. We condemn the assault and the decades of state terrorism by Israel against the Palestinian civilians in the occupied Palestinian territories. We condemn the sanctioning of war and genocide against Palestinian children. We condemn Israelis’ collective punishment of Palestine, the use of banned weapons, the targeting of civilians in Gaza and the West Bank, and the carpetbombing of residential areas, hospitals, mosques, churches, and schools.
We are outraged by the mainstream media’s continuous complicity in dehumanizing Palestinians and silencing their narrative.
We denounce antisemitism, Islamophobia, racism, and all acts of violence and terrorism in all forms. We believe every human life matters and every human being deserves to live a life of dignity.
We are moved by the Palestinian people’s resilience, strength, and spirit and the fearlessness of the Jewish people who are speaking up against what the state of the Israel is committing in their name.
We call on all people of conscience to demand an immediate ceasefire in Gaza and the safe release of all hostages. We firmly believe lasting peace and security can only be attained through political solutions that bring an end to Israeli military occupation and state violence against Palestinians.
While we are in no position to judge how the Palestinian people should resist colonialism, state violence, and ethnic cleansing, we salute the persisting Palestinian nonviolent resistance to occupation, even as they are occupied right now in Palestinian territories.
Art is special. Art speaks volumes. If Palestinian artists are given an opportunity to share their plight through their art, they will make the world more aware. Art remains powerful, reaching not only the heads, but the hearts of people where real change manifests.
Yet it’s very difficult to continue to make art during genocidal acts.
Now, Palestinians, you need us all to be in that space for you. You need the international media and all our social media spaces to share your plight.
We call for boycotts, protests and marches, journalism, art, theatre, literature, music, cultural events, festivals, politics and film. We implore the world to listen to these voices. None of us is free until all of us are free, and peace can only be attained when justice is served.
We pledge to continue to create a space free of racism and hate. We pledge to continue to fight against all forms of antisemitism and Islamophobia. We pledge to confront rhetoric that dehumanizes any people and to continue to present narratives and voices that are ignored and omitted. The Five C’s Theatre Collective opens its doors to all the members of our communities to come together in these dark times and share with love the essence of us all.
In grief, outrage, and solidarity, we stand together with Palestine.