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Inter­view with Rebe­ca Lane about the decol­o­niza­tion of fem­i­nism, ter­ri­to­ry and community.

Art is a vehicle for the memory of peoples. Making art is making historical memory”.

By Alessia Dro

(Part 1 — Part 2)

Alessia • Accord­ing to you, how can music be this space capa­ble of gen­er­at­ing accom­pa­niement and healing?

Let’s say that for me music was not a space in which I start­ed to heal. I start­ed because it allowed me to express myself. Over time, I real­ized that when I told my sto­ry over and over again, there would come a time when it did­n’t stop hurt­ing, but it did­n’t hurt the same way anymore.

If I lis­ten to my songs from 10 years ago, from when I start­ed writ­ing, and the ones I do now, I feel com­plete­ly dif­fer­ent, because I feel that when I start­ed writ­ing I had a lot of anger, a lot of anger, a lot of anger, a lot of very raw emo­tions. Lat­er I did not want the music to come to me from this place of anger, pain, sad­ness and who­ev­er lis­tens to me stays sad. That was where I began to make a more con­scious reflec­tion, to under­stand that what I was trans­mit­ting had an ener­getic and polit­i­cal effect. I still have a lot of affec­tion for my first songs as my stage of cathar­sis, I also real­ized that when I told my sto­ry oth­ers felt called to do it.

As unfor­tu­nate­ly so many women are so tra­versed by vio­lence in our ter­ri­to­ries, then the fact that one tells her sto­ry encour­ages the oth­ers to speak. In my coun­try there have been com­plaints for cas­es of harass­ment, sex­u­al abuse, with­in the mixed social move­ment, and the tes­ti­mo­ny of a help so that oth­ers can speak. When a woman breaks the silence she helps and inspires the oth­ers to say. And inspired by the songs, many have decid­ed to make music as well or write a poem. There are many girls who send us, for exam­ple, illus­tra­tions inspired by the songs heard. Because they speak deeply to them, and this also allows them to express them­selves through art.

I think that my most con­scious reflec­tion derives from a more advanced process of work­ing on my trau­mas and my pain, but there are many col­leagues to whom cer­tain top­ics are very sen­si­tive to talk about. So how do we cre­ate a song where we don’t revic­tim­ize our­selves? How to cre­ate a song in which every­one, regard­less of the space we are in, can express our­selves? I think this is a con­scious exer­cise tak­ing into account the effects that music caus­es. Because at the begin­ning for me it was very spon­ta­neous and unin­ten­tion­al: not that I said “I want to be a fem­i­nist rap­per”. I start­ed mak­ing music and those who start­ed to lis­ten and pro­mote it were feminists.

Alessia • What is, for women in hip-hop and art, the impor­tance of col­lec­tive orga­ni­za­tion and com­mu­ni­tar­i­an trans­mis­sion of knowledge?

For women in hip-hop, the cre­ation of col­lec­tive spaces has been fundamental.

I do not think that women in hip-hop would not have had the pow­er that we have achieved if we had not artic­u­lat­ed col­lec­tive­ly, because with­in hip-hop our voice was mar­gin­al­ized. We had about fif­teen min­utes to open an event. With­out pay­ment, with­out recog­ni­tion, and not even knowl­edge of our name: we were known as the girl­friend of, the wife of, the sis­ter of. And in that infe­ri­or­iza­tion, a strat­e­gy from which we man­aged to put togeth­er our own scenes was to work togeth­er. Being aware that they are not going to invite us, they are not going to give us a good place in their event, they are not going to put us among the main voic­es, pushed us to say: then, let’s do our activ­i­ties separately!

Although we con­tin­ue to denounce what hap­pens in mixed spaces, at some point we began to think that if they do not want us in their events and there are peo­ple who want to lis­ten to us, there are women, above all, who want to lis­ten to us, let’s do our own fes­ti­val. So, let’s have our own meet­ing. When we start­ed with the col­lec­tive “Somos Guerreras/ We are war­riors” about 8 years ago, exact­ly this need arose to ask our­selves: Where are women in hip-hop? What are we doing? Do we know each oth­er or not? And above all: are we orga­nized? So we orga­nized fes­ti­vals, work­shops, and we start­ed doing things among our­selves because also in hip-hop we real­ized that it was impor­tant not only the space of the stage where you do the per­for­mance with oth­er peo­ple, but how you acquire knowledge.

Many of us went through sit­u­a­tions in which we had to expe­ri­ence sex­u­al harass­ment, where in order to go to a stu­dio to record, you had to put up with the fact that the pro­duc­er was telling you: “how beau­ti­ful you are” or some­one was going to explain you a dance step actu­al­ly just as a pre­text to you touch your body. The graf­fi­ti women artists were giv­en a much small­er space for their mur­al, because since they were women, then, sure­ly it was going to be dif­fi­cult for them to paint a large wall, not like men who are born with the great pow­er to paint large on the walls!

So even in dance women and men have the cen­ter of bal­ance in dif­fer­ent parts of the body, men have it in the chest, we have it in the hips: that a b‑boy explain to you a step of a Danc­ing will not be the same as if a woman does it, because to per­form this dance step your cen­ter of bal­ance will be dif­fer­ent accord­ing to the cor­po­ral­i­ties. I don’t want this to be biol­o­gis­tic. I just say that dif­fer­ent bod­ies have dif­fer­ent ways of moving.

Now there are spaces where women can learn rap or go break-danc­ing. More than a safe space, I would say it is a space on the mak­ing, a space where we are very aware of the prob­lems that women have expe­ri­enced in mixed spaces. And how to cre­ate sep­a­ratist spaces where we pro­pose that these prob­lems are not repro­duced, such as vio­lence. We will cre­ate only between women, a space free of vio­lence. But patri­ar­chal vio­lence also occurs among women. So let’s cre­ate a space where it is not allowed and is not tol­er­at­ed, that we can talk about these issues.

In the end, the trans­mis­sion of knowl­edge between women has been very lov­ing, very gen­er­ous, while in mixed spaces men usu­al­ly say to each oth­er: “if it was dif­fi­cult for me to learn this, it must also cost you”.

I believe that cre­at­ing lov­ing spaces for the trans­mis­sion of very gen­er­ous knowl­edge has been fun­da­men­tal because with­out this trans­mis­sion of knowl­edge, cul­tures would not grow.

Because men have self­ish­ly want­ed to have this secret knowl­edge, to remain only the pro­tag­o­nists, many women did not par­tic­i­pate in hip-hop. So I believe that the cre­ation of this type of space is def­i­nite­ly impor­tant and this year, the pan­dem­ic, which has caused dis­man­tling, has posed new chal­lenges for us.

Alessia • You par­tic­i­pat­ed with a musi­cal con­tri­bu­tion to the first step of the Inter­na­tion­al Cam­paign against Femi­cide, which we call as Kur­dis­tan Wom­en’s Move­ment. We are now think­ing togeth­er in a new phase how to orga­nize among women across bor­ders. In your expe­ri­ence, what are the impor­tant ele­ments that, from a new way of under­stand­ing inter­na­tion­al­ism, we can put in com­mon in the fight against the vio­lence of fem­i­ni­cide at the glob­al level?

I think that one of the chal­lenges we have is that the hege­mon­ic fem­i­nist dis­cours­es are only count­ing on the expe­ri­ence of women in very par­tic­u­lar sit­u­a­tions, such as in Spain or Argenti­na, and we real­ize that it is main­ly a white wom­en’s move­ment, and there is not much aware­ness of racism with­in these types of move­ments, and even in Mex­i­co, although it is a coun­try where the major­i­ty of peo­ple are racial­ized. The dis­course that is per­me­at­ing now is a dis­course that comes main­ly from white fem­i­nism that has noth­ing to do with the grass­roots move­ments. There are pre­cise­ly var­i­ous meet­ings such as those orga­nized by Zap­atista women, they do not even name them­selves fem­i­nists. They are orga­nized women. I think that even here in Guatemala, the place where we see a pow­er to artic­u­late the needs of women far from the most white­washed dis­cours­es is that of com­mu­ni­tar­i­an orga­ni­za­tion and grass­roots orga­ni­za­tion of defend­ers of the ter­ri­to­ry. Per­haps some, over time, begin to find a coin­ci­dence with the fem­i­nist move­ment, but they do not start by nam­ing them­selves feminists.

Here in Guatemala, for exam­ple, the urban fem­i­nist move­ment is grow­ing a lot, except that, not even 5 years ago, there was not a very rep­re­sen­ta­tive urban fem­i­nist move­ment, although there have always been orga­nized women. The wom­en’s move­ment in Guatemala began to artic­u­late after the Peace Agree­ments, and it begins to artic­u­late thanks to many women who par­tic­i­pat­ed in guer­ril­la move­ments or grass­roots move­ments, who from the Peace Agree­ments found a space with­in their orga­ni­za­tions and decid­ed to become inde­pen­dent, because with­in the orga­nized guer­ril­la move­ments it was said that women needs will be ful­filled when the rev­o­lu­tion triumphs.

And this does not mean that at that time the fem­i­nist move­ment did not exist, but I think there was a very strong dis­con­nec­tion between the more tra­di­tion­al wom­en’s move­ment, with the move­ment of younger women, uni­ver­si­ty stu­dents, from dif­fer­ent places, with dif­fer­ent needs. So art has been very pow­er­ful to ampli­fy these reflections.

We are also here dis­cussing all of this, because art has been a dri­ver, know­ing that women in Guatemala are expe­ri­enc­ing this in the strug­gle, and that the women of Kur­dis­tan are also in a strong strug­gle, and we some­times know this through murals, demon­stra­tions, dances. I think about the chore­og­ra­phy of LasTe­sis, in Chile, which was played in so many countries.

And there is some­thing else also that allows us nowa­days to find our­selves but that is a dou­ble-edged sword, which is social net­works, since social net­works can serve us or they can affect us.

And in the case of the fem­i­nist move­ment, I believe that social net­works have been very vital to artic­u­late, know and rec­og­nize what is hap­pen­ing in oth­er ter­ri­to­ries. As in the case of the NiU­na­Menos demon­stra­tions, which were born in Argenti­na. I remem­ber that when they made their first call for a march, in less than a week there were calls all over the con­ti­nent and in the world, at least in Latin Amer­i­ca and where there were women of Latin Amer­i­can ori­gin in var­i­ous parts of the world, and these demon­stra­tions were also orga­nized there.

But the case of the 56 chil­dren who were burned by the state of Guatemala, did not tran­scend the same as NiU­na­Menos; The cas­es con­cern­ing the women of Kur­dis­tan has not tran­scend­ed the same as the cas­es of Argenti­na or Spain. For this rea­son, when I speak of hege­mo­ny, I speak a lit­tle about that, It should not have been giv­en more light to some cas­es than to oth­ers, and this hap­pens because there is no per­spec­tive of look­ing towards the South. I don’t under­stand it as a geo­graph­ic south. More like an ide­o­log­i­cal south. The “civ­i­lized white” is still seen as an ori­gin and as a civ­i­liz­ing objective.

Of course, the fight for the legal­iza­tion of abor­tion is a nec­es­sary and fun­da­men­tal fight, but in many ter­ri­to­ries, it is not the main objec­tive. If you now think about what are the ele­ments that uni­fy the fem­i­nist move­ment, the legal­iza­tion of abor­tion is one. But we must con­tex­tu­al­ize where this strug­gle was born and not think that it is strate­gi­cal­ly a pri­or­i­ty for all women in the world. So, I believe that with­in inter­na­tion­al­ism it is impor­tant to decol­o­nize the look of white fem­i­nism that we have well root­ed, many of us repro­duce it, I do not know if it is uncon­scious or automatic.

Because it is not the same when a rur­al woman from an indige­nous com­mu­ni­ty is mur­dered as when an urban woman in the city is mur­dered, it is not the same when a trans woman or a cis woman is mur­dered, it does not cause the same out­rage. Here in Guatemala, for­tu­nate­ly, the com­rades who denounce vio­lence are being lis­tened to, but it is not the same effect when a woman from an indige­nous area makes this type of denounce. Soci­ety does not react the same. So I feel that these are the ele­ments where we have to pay a lot of atten­tion, to how we our­selves react in front of what we see.

Alessia • In the fight against racism and colo­nial­ism I feel that there is a strong ener­gy that is gen­er­at­ed from the shar­ing of expe­ri­ence between women, when from dif­fer­ent con­texts we share our suf­fer­ings and our strug­gles, rec­og­niz­ing the dif­fer­ent needs and achieve­ments, the col­lec­tive joys that gen­er­ate new hori­zons of the pos­si­ble. I remem­ber when I was in Guatemala two years ago, shar­ing Rojava’s expe­ri­ence of con­fed­er­al­ism and auton­o­my. After this meet­ing, a multi­na­tion­al assem­bly of women was gen­er­at­ed. I would love to know what you think of this process that is under­way in your coun­try, and in gen­er­al of the com­mit­ment towards pluri­na­tion­al­i­ty in these geographies.

I think this has been one of the efforts in which urban fem­i­nism has not been very involved here. Start­ing a bit from the crit­i­cal per­spec­tive that I shared before, espe­cial­ly as urban fem­i­nists, we are mov­ing more around the fol­low­ing issues: legal­iza­tion of abor­tion; for find­ing the per­pe­tre­taors of femi­cides. Because main­ly these demands to build pluri­na­tion­al­i­ty and these ana­lyzes in which the state is not seen as the hori­zon, come from com­rades of indige­nous peo­ples or rur­al women who are in anoth­er type of more com­mu­ni­tar­i­an orga­ni­za­tion, even mixed, that is to say: while in the city ​​we are ask­ing for legal­iza­tion of abor­tion, we are ask­ing for the inter­ven­tion of the state, that it has to leg­is­late some­thing; like­wise, when we ask for the law against femi­cides to be inten­si­fied, we are demand­ing that the state get involved in solv­ing social prob­lems. While, from a com­mu­ni­tar­i­an per­spec­tive, there is a whole mil­lenary polit­i­cal prac­tice, which has showed how the res­o­lu­tion of these issues is a com­mu­ni­ty issue and a ques­tion rais­es to us, to those of us who live in the city, what our com­mu­ni­ty is. If we were to hypo­thet­i­cal­ly build a com­mu­ni­ty space with­in the urban, it would be some­thing this gen­er­a­tion would do.

But it would be a real­iza­tion that would not have in itself a trans­mis­sion of gen­er­a­tional knowl­edge, which does not have ingrained uses and cus­toms, to the cul­ture and the ter­ri­to­ry. In oth­er words, most of the peo­ple in the city do not have ter­ri­to­r­i­al roots, or tra­di­tion­al com­mu­ni­ty orga­ni­za­tion, and if we have it today in Guatemala it is very spon­ta­neous: def­i­nite­ly this is what racism and colo­nial­i­ty have caused us. And because there is a con­tempt for oth­er ways of orga­niz­ing and this con­tempt can open­ly trans­late into racism that thinks that com­mu­ni­ty orga­ni­za­tion does not work, based on igno­rance. Many times this is the prod­uct of igno­rance. But this igno­rance in turn is due to racism. So I think that many of these more rad­i­cal pro­pos­als for trans­for­ma­tion come from women who have roots in the ter­ri­to­ry, whose grand­moth­ers, great-grand­moth­ers and great-great-grand­moth­ers have lived there, and whose com­mu­ni­ty orga­ni­za­tion has been oper­at­ing for 100 years, where there are cer­e­monies for the trans­fer of com­mand of author­i­ty. Although for a long time there was no par­tic­i­pa­tion of women there, now women are mak­ing there their strug­gles for their recog­ni­tion and for the recog­ni­tion of their rights. And there is a place where they can take their voice, which is not the state, so the dia­logue is not direct­ly with the state.

This is pro­found­ly pow­er­ful when we think about pluri­na­tion­al­i­ty and I think that one of the lim­it that we have had as urban fem­i­nists has been not to rec­og­nize the pow­er that exists in these com­mu­ni­tar­i­an polit­i­cal prac­tices because these are the polit­i­cal prac­tices that con­crete­ly are going to lead to decol­o­niza­tion of the ter­ri­to­ry and it is only to the extent that we think about decol­o­niz­ing the ter­ri­to­ry and the form of com­mu­ni­ty orga­ni­za­tion, that all the oth­er demands that we have as women will be possible.

I under­stand why we have this dis­en­gage­ment, and for me it is one of the great chal­lenges we have with­in the move­ments. It will not be with­in the frame­work of a state, where women will be able to live in full har­mo­ny. We will be giv­en small prizes so that we can shut up, but in the frame­work of this state in which we are, our demands will not be resolved, if we do not trans­form the com­mu­ni­ty form of ter­ri­to­r­i­al organization.

Inter­view con­duct­ed by Alessia Dro in col­lab­o­ra­tion with Rosa Rosano and Meztli Yax 

Alessia Dro is an activist for the Kurdistan Women’s Movement in Latin America. She has been traveling the Latin American continent for more than three years to build bridges from a dissident, feminist, anti-capitalist and anti-racist transnational solidarity. She shares collective words from the borderless community of the Kurdistan Women’s Movement, embracing its international significance
Rosa Rosano : Popular communicator and activist from Mexico. She works independently for different international media, she is a component of solidarity with Kurdish Women Movement and Zapatista Movement.
Meztli Yax : Communitarian communicator and journalist for free and independent media radio zapote, she integrates the Committee of Solidarity with Kurdistan in Mexico City

Rebeca Lane in support of the Kurdish singer Nûdem Durak

#FreeNûdem­Du­rak inter­na­tion­al campaign
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Image: Presse Rebeca Lane
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