“Life” is why we celebrate The International Women’s Day at Cosmopolite

Souad Massi
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Julie Brundtland Løvseth

“Life” is why we celebrate The International Women’s Day at Cosmopolite

“Life” is at the center of feminist icon Souad Massis lyrics, as she writes about freedom, justice and equality. “Life” is also about exercising one’s freedom of expression, a central value in the women’s movement.

On March 8th Cosmopolite Scene is hosting a panel discussion at 18:00, and a concert with Souad Massi at 20:00.

The idea behind celebrating the International Women’s Day at Cosmopolite came from following one of the most important events of 2022, the uproars in Iran. The uproars have become a global movement, reaching far beyond Iran’s borders.

The slogan “Woman, life, freedom” has brought together women around the world to protest in solidarity. A multicultural sisterhood, now taking place also in Oslo, where the committee of March 8th celebrations have chosen the slogan as their main banner and cause.

“Life” takes the stage on the International Womens Day

The middle word of the slogan, “life”, is perhaps the word which best reflects Cosmopolites International Women’s Day program. “Life” has a resounding of wanting to be free so one can actively take part in life, eventually by expressing oneself and unfolding one’s talents and skills.

Souad Massi is a role model for people fighting to carry out their freedom of expression, as she was risking her life in her early career as an artist. Due to appearances in the political rock band Atakor, in 1990’s Algeria, she received death threats. Later in her career, Massi has cut her hair and worn men’s clothing to not be recognized on stage when performing, fearing to experience more death threats. 

An activist citizen dreams of being free

Massi’s latest album Sequana carry on her socially engaged and politically aware artistry with songs calling for freedom, justice, and equality. The fall of Kabul made her think about the need for a place “where we can share the beauty of life, where we can express ourselves. We have to fight to keep this dream, to be “un citoyen activiste”” she said in an interview with Financial Times.

In the opening track of the album “Dessin-Moi Un Pays”, she asks the listener not only to imagine but to join her in sketching out a country that could work for everyone, a country with “no corrupt rulers and no evil wars”. The utopianism is tempered with realism: “Draw me a land that no artist has drawn. Draw me a home with big windows, so the light can enter my heart. Draw me a bird, a free bird that no one may possess.”

Arts, culture, and feminism in MENA

Souad Massis career and poetry is of great inspiration to the many women with dreams of expressing their artistic and activist ideas.

Cosmopolite Scene is hosting a panel before the concert with the title “Arts, culture and feminism in MENA” with four passionate women in an exciting discussion about the important role that culture and art play in the women’s rights movement in the MENA region.

Songs, graffiti, poetry, and other artistic expressions were an essential element of the revolution taking place in Iran and the solidarity movement with it. How can arts and culture serve as tools and platforms for cross-border feminist solidarity?

Nasim Mashak is a DJ who moved from Iran to Norway when she was 16 and is taking part in the panel. Mashak says: “I hope one day I can return to Iran and play in the roundabout at the Tajrish-square, where I grew up.”

Enja Sæthrenis an actress who has created and performed her own one-woman show (“Mes Mecs”) at the National Theatre and says based by her experience that: “Becoming an artist in Morocco involves higher risks and sacrifices than in western countries, thus making that choice tends to become a defining feature of your identity. I think that helps explain why I experienced the artist movement in Morocco as so powerful, and so politically important.”

Mariam Kirollos is a feminist researcher, but also a musician on her spare time. Mariam thinks that what is very unique about the women’s movement in MENA is how important culture is: “Culture and arts has a very central position in the women’s movement in Egypt and many other countries in the Middle East, and is a source of great inspiration.”

Everyone is welcome to celebrate the International Women’s Day at Cosmopolite!

18:00 Arts, culture and feminism in MENA

20:00 Souad Massi