In the traditional Ethiopian language of Amharic, hullegeb
means “open to
everyone.” That is the idea behind the third annual Hullegeb Israeli-Ethiopian
Arts Festival, which will take place in Jerusalem later this month.
festival presents the Ethiopian creativity as emerging and developing in recent
years through theater, music and dance,” says Effie Benaya, artistic director of
Confederation House, the organization responsible for the multifaceted
The event will shine a spotlight on the contemporary Ethiopian
artistic community, one that has been “influenced by Israeli artists and, to a
lesser degree, by modern Western influences and even contemporary and African
influences,” he says..
The week-long festival will consist of six
performances of theater, dance and music, each bringing something different to
the stage, including a play performed by The Hullegeb Israeli-Ethiopian Theater,
the festival’s main event.
Moshe Malka, artistic director of the Hullegeb
Theater, says that theater is a great tool to discover both the beauty and the problems within the Ethiopian community. “Art has the ability to
move the community forward,” says Malka.Mandefro Feredeh
(Who Would Dare
Judge?) is a oneman- show starring Beyne Getahon and produced by the Hullegeb.
The narrative performance, which will be the main event of the week’s
festivities, follows a man who is removed from his home and incarcerated after
being accused of domestic violence. Written and directed by Malka, the story
follows the trial and his internal struggle.
The festival will also
feature a different kind of struggle – one between man and nature. The opening
performance, a collaboration of artists Din Din Aviv, Abate Berihun and Alon
Yoffe, is a musical depiction of the atmosphere surrounding the life of desert
nomads. Ethiopian folk songs and melodies, alongside songs by Aviv, will
be performed in arrangements emphasizing the simplicity and cyclical nature of
desert life. The musical journey will open the event on December 20 at the Beit
Also bearing much anticipation is the premiere solo
performance of Ethiopian emerging artist Ester Rada. Her funky music is
soulful, her lyrics are powerful, and her voice is calm and soothing, but
anything but boring. Young and beautiful, Rada has an engaging stage presence.
Her debut solo album, Life Happens
, was released on November 1. Her concert
takes place on December 26 at Confederation House.
Another musical gem,
saxophonist, vocalist and composer Abate Berihun recreates traditional Ethiopian
songs hundreds of years old, along with works of contemporary vocalists such as
Mahmoud Ahmed, Koko Sasaba and Aster Aweke (known as “the Ethiopian Aretha
Franklin”). Also at Confederation House, this hybrid of Ethiopian folk and
modern music takes place on December 25.
Produced by the Nephesh Theater
company, the play One of a Kind
follows an Ethiopian Jewish boy and his journey from Ethiopia,
through Sudan, in pursuit of the holy city of Jerusalem. The play won first
prize at the 2005 Haifa International Festival for Children’s Theater and
received the Play of the Year award in 2006 presented by the Israeli Center for
Children and Youth Theater. On December 24 at the Gerard Behar Center, the
Nephesh Theater will take festivalgoers on the journey that is indeed one of a
The word beta
in Amharic means “house.” The only dance performance
of the festival will be performed by the Beta Dance Company, which incorporates
traditional Ethiopian movement and contemporary dance and expresses the
Ethiopian perspective of combining traditional roots with modern Israeli
society. Founder and artistic director Ruth Eshel has manifested a series
of episodes combining calm restrained movement alongside contrasting aggressive
dance techniques. The piece, entitled And
(One), will debut at the Gerard Behar
Center on December 23.
Confederation House, the masterminds behind the
International Oud Festival and Indian Music Days, is an organization based in
Jerusalem that aims at creating artistic harmony among the more than 100 ethnic
groups that make up Jerusalem. The organization is a metaphorical meeting place
for all heritages and traditions represented by the communities that reside in Jerusalem.
Malka explains that the biggest problem for Ethiopians involved in Israeli
theater and other art is their inability to move past stereotypes. That is why
this event is so important. Their community needs to have its own artistic
outlet, he says.
The mission statement of Confederation House is to serve
as a bridge between East and West, past and present, but above all, to connect
“The more popularity they gain as an artistic community, the more
ability they have to change the stereotypes of the Ethiopian people,” says
A bridge always begins with two separate disconnected sides facing
each other, and the Hullegeb Festival serves as a bridge as well, bringing
together the Ethiopian community and Israel.The Hullegeb
Ethiopian-Israeli Arts Festival takes place December 20-27 in Jerusalem. For
more information: www.confederationhouse.org.