Israel’s Netta, the voice of #MeToo at Eurovision

Israeli singer Netta Barzilai aka Netta poses for pictures during the Red Carpet ceremony of the 63rd edition of the Eurovision Song Contest 2018 at the Altice Arena in Lisbon, on May 6, 2018. (AFP/Francisco Leong)
Updated 10 May 2018
0

Israel’s Netta, the voice of #MeToo at Eurovision

  • The performer's song "Toy" contains the defiant line “I am not your toy, you stupid boy”

LISBON: With her powerful voice and attention-grabbing clothes, Israeli singer Netta Barzilai has become the voice of the #MeToo movement at Saturday’s Eurovision Song Contest in Lisbon.
Her uptempo song “Toy” — which include the lines “I am not your toy, you stupid boy” and “the Barbie’s got something to say” — has grabbed the limelight, summing up the concerns of many women who have adopted the movement.
“The song has an important message — the awakening of female power and social justice, wrapped in a colorful, happy vibe,” Barzilai was quoted as saying by Eurovision site wiwibloggs earlier this week.
“I think the song is #MeToo, but it’s an empowerment song for everybody, and everybody can find themselves in it,” she told OUTtv, a Netherlands-based speciality cable channel.
The song also references “Wonder Woman,” who was recently brought to the big screen by Israeli actress Gal Gadot.
“This song needed to make everyone dance, with a happy beat” but also “say something different about the #MeToo movement,” the author of the song, Doron Medalie, said in an interview with The Times of Israel.
Barzilai is the fans’ favorite at the contest, according to a poll carried out by OGEA, a network of Eurovision song contest fan clubs from around the globe.
At Tuesday’s first semifinal at Lisbon’s riverside Altice Arena, many of her supporters wore T-shirts that read: “I am not your toy.” Barzilai was one of the ten acts that made it through to Saturday’s final.
She says her fashion choices — at the semifinal she wore a multi-colored kimono while at Sunday’s opening ceremony she was decked out in a white chiffon dress that resembled a bridal gown — are part of her message.
“I see it as a really important way of expression. Also because larger women don’t celebrate themselves,” she told a news conference after a rehearsal in Lisbon last week.
“We only live once and I really believe than I am beautiful and sexy and special… it’s a wonderful chance to do a little change in the world.”
Barzilai is popular among young people in Israel after winning a reality show there earlier this year, giving her the right to represent the country at Eurovision.
Born in 1993, Barzilai was raised along with her two brothers in the Tel Aviv region. While still a child her parents moved to Nigeria where she lived for four years, learning rhythms of African lullabies sung to her by local nannies.
Back in Israel, she studied jazz at the Rimon School of Music, one of the most prestigious music schools in the country.
“I find her very talented, she has a very beautiful voice and she performs well on the stage,” said Naomi Yeivin, a 24-year-old Israeli singer and songwriter, who studied at the same music school.
She said many people focused on Netta’s weight and said it was good that she did not feel inhibited by it.
“I also find it good, but I don’t think it will completely revolutionize mentalities,” she told AFP in Israel.
For months Barzilai has been the bookmakers’ favorite to win Eurovision this year.
But after Tuesday’s semifinal she was overtaken by Cyprus’ Eleni Foureira with a catchy pop song entitled “Fuego.”


Omanis praise compatriot for 'historic' Man Booker literature prize

Updated 22 May 2019
0

Omanis praise compatriot for 'historic' Man Booker literature prize

MUSCAT: Omanis on Wednesday hailed writer Jokha Alharthi’s “historical achievement” and praised her for bringing “honor” to their Gulf nation after she became the first Arab author to win the Man Booker International prize.
“It is a huge historic achievement for the author, for Oman and for Arabic culture in general,” said Saif Al-Rahbi, an Omani poet, essayist and writer.
“It shows that Omani literature is moving along,” he told AFP.
Alharthi, 40, received the prestigious prize during a ceremony Tuesday in London for her novel “Celestial Bodies” which depicts life in her small Gulf nation.
The 50,000-pound (57,000 euro, $64,000) Man Booker International prize celebrates translated fiction from around the world and is divided equally between the author and the translator.
The judges said Celestial Bodies was “a richly imagined, engaging and poetic insight into a society in transition and into lives previously obscured.”
It tells the story of three sisters who witness the slow pace of development in Omani society during the 20th century.
“I am thrilled that a window has been opened to the rich Arabic culture,” Alharthi told AFP after the ceremony at the Roundhouse in London.
“Oman inspired me but I think international readers can relate to the human values in the book — freedom and love,” she said.
The jury praised an “elegantly structured and taut” novel which “tells of Oman’s coming-of-age through the prism of one family’s losses and loves.”
The director general of Oman’s culture ministry, Said bin Sultan Al-Bussaidi, agreed.
The novel, he said, shows that Alharthi’s work “reflects maturity and has reached an international level.”
“It is an honor for each and every Omani man and woman... (and the prize) will help spread Omani literature across the world,” he added.
Alharthi is the author of two previous collections of short fiction, a children’s book and three novels in Arabic.
She studied classical Arabic poetry at Edinburgh University and teaches at Sultan Qaboos University in Muscat.
In an interview with the BBC at the weekend, Alharthi said she had wanted for a “very long time to write a book about life in Oman (but) couldn’t when she was actually in Oman.”
“But when I went to Edinburgh, the first year was difficult for me, homesickness, cold, so I felt that I need to go back to warmth and feel something from home,” she said.
“Actually writing saved me.”
Her prize-winning novel — which the Guardian newspaper said offers “glimpses into a culture relatively little known in the west” — came out in 2010.
Alharthi said on Tuesday that the novel touches on the history of the slave trade in Oman, an absolute monarchy where Sultan Qaboos, who has ruled since 1970, has been pushing for reform.
For one expert of Arabic and Middle Eastern literature, it could be a game changer for novels emerging from the region.
“It has the potential to orient publishing away from the Arabic novel as answering the question ‘what can we learn about them?’ and toward the Arabic novel as a work of art,” said Marcia Lynx Qualey, editor of ArabLit Quarterly.
“The surge in translation of Arabic-language novels is already in progress, but I think this re-orients publishers somewhat,” she told AFP.
Qualey said there “is definitely a growing interest in works by Gulf authors.”
“In Kuwait, Oman, Saudi, and elsewhere there are authors writing on issues of class, domestic violence, slavery, racism, patriarchy, power, and other issues that are of global interest,” she added.
Celestial Bodies was translated by US academic Marilyn Booth, who teaches Arabic literature at Oxford University.
Jury chair Bettany Hughes said the novel showed “delicate artistry and disturbing aspects of our shared history.”