In honor of International Women’s Day, I attended the live stream of HotHouse’s “¡ACTIVISTA! An International Women’s Day Celebration.” A virtual concert comprised of musical performances, spoken word and poetry, and a bit of Q&A with some of the artists, ¡ACTIVISTA! was a wonderful arts experience. Live streams are one way to mindfully engage with the arts during the pandemic, and this one was a masterfully curated experience, hosted by Chicago-based organization HotHouse and publisher Haymarket Books.
The artists featured in the performance came from all around the globe, and covered a wide range of topics from refugee rights to environmental justice to anti-colonialism. I truly enjoyed the blending of music and poetry performances during this event. Culture and vision wove through each piece of the performance, beginning with Farah Siraj’s haunting song honoring refugee women, written in Arabic, and ending with Kyung-Hwa Yu, a South Korean artist reviving the Korean stringed instrument cheolhyeongeum in contemporary music.
A truly intercultural collection of pieces, there were a variety of languages represented in the art. There were poems in Spanish and Zapotec, songs in Sousous and Arabic. A painful song written about child marriage performed by the lovely Natu Camara and her band from Guinea. COLLECTIVA, a group of women who formed recently online during the pandemic to share their passion for music virtually and across oceans. One of my favorite moments from the concert was a thoroughly enchanting improvised bass clarinet solo by Angel Bat Dawid. Lyla June of the First Nations, with the gripping words, “they say that history is written by the victors, but how can there be a victor when the war isn’t over?”
It was a beautiful experience to watch these powerful women and their art shared together in a common space, in celebration and solidarity. I am reminded through these pieces that art can be expressive and lovely while also being a firm call for change. While extremely personal and masterful, these pieces also contain the seed of movement. They contain past, present, and future.
Available online to watch at: https://youtu.be/d4Cn6eCvSX8. Consider a donation, if you are able, so that HotHouse can continue to provide virtual concerts free of charge to viewers all over the world.