Poet quits over Israelis

2011-09-17 00:00

DURBAN hip hop star and slam poet Iain “Ewok” Robinson has withdrawn his show, Rapped in Truth, from The Witness Hilton Arts Festival in protest at the staging of three Israeli plays — The Timekeepers, Volunteer Man and My First Sony — at this weekend’s event.

Robinson was due to perform at yesterday’s Jongosi youth festival and to give a spoken word poetry performance today.

In a letter to the organisers, parts of which were released to the media by South African Artists Against Apartheid, he said, “I cannot in good conscience willingly participate in any event that enjoys the support and patronage of the Israeli government in any form.

“I believe that this is an endorsement of the criminal acts of oppression and human rights abuses consistently perpetrated by this entity against the Palestinian people.

“I feel it is my responsibility as a South African who enjoys the democratic rights that were fought for so valiantly by my parents’ generation of anti-apartheid activists, to participate in the similar boycott, divestment and sanctions of apartheid Israel.”

His actions follow calls made by signatories at a meeting of the Church Land Programme in Pietermaritzburg last week for actors and patrons to boycott the festival and for sponsors to withdraw their support in protest at the staging of what they called “state-funded Israeli plays”.

Asked why he did not withdraw earlier, Robinson said he only became aware of the inclusion of the shows when he picked up a copy of the programme.

He initially planned to speak directly about the situation in Israel at the festival, but following an e-mail from BDS South Africa — the South African movement furthering the international boycott campaign — he decided to withdraw Rapped in Truth.

The e-mail, he said, pointed out that by performing he would be undermining the principles of the Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel because the event was partially or fully sponsored or funded by an official Israeli body.

Weekend Witness understands, however, that Robinson will still appear at the festival in KickStArt Theatre Company’s black comedy God of Carnage.

Sue Clarence, director of the festival, said that while she was disappointed that Robinson “let 200 school children down at the last minute” by withdrawing Rapped in Truth, they managed to make alternative arrangements.

And today, patrons can watch a performance of Compleat Works of Wllm Shkspr (Abridged), starring Clinton Small, Adam Dore and Marc Kay, in the 2.30 pm slot at the Memorial Hall.

The show is an irreverant, fast-paced romp through all the Bard’s plays and is guaranteed to leave you breathless with laughter. Tickets are R75.

Clarence said patrons who had been planning to attend Robinson’s show can either swap their tickets to see Compleat Works of Wllm Shkspr (Abridged) or get a refund.

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