British-Palestinian rapper and singer Shadia Mansour spoke in August 2014 about her visit to Chile to perform with musician Ana Tijoux and Chilean and Latin American solidarity with Palestine.
Pablo Navarrete: You were recently in Chile, performing and visiting the country. Can you tell me how that trip came about?
Shadia Mansour: The way I got to Chile was through Ana Tijoux, an amazing singer-rapper of Chilean background. She emailed me and asked me to accompany her on a track for her album [Vengo], and we just took it from there and then we ended up recording ‘Somos Sur’ (‘We are the South’). I recorded it in London, sent it to her and then she emails me back and says ‘We want to do the video’, and then flies me out to Chile. I was there for ten days. That came a month after we recorded the track… so we ended up recording, doing the video, touring the south of Chile, and then doing a really amazing show in Santiago a couple of days before I left. We did quite a bit.
PN: What does the song ‘Somos Sur’ mean to you?
SM: Before I went to Chile I was writing it from the perspective of a Palestinian, I guess… just my perspective on what’s going on in Palestine; the current situation. I was obviously really honoured to contribute that to a track that involved Ana as I’m a fan of her music and of her as a person. When I got to Chile I really, really felt like it wasn’t a track just about my side; it wasn’t just a track about what I was saying, it was more about bridging the gap between Latin America and Palestine, really, and I guess… painting a picture of really what unity is: unity is not just unity between your own people; its’s between just people in general, who share the same aspirations and beliefs. They’re all kind of connected to humanity, and equality and justice, and that’s what made me want to work with her more and made me even more proud to be in Chile because I was around those types of people.
PN: So you were in Chile for ten days. How would you summarise your experience? Was it the country you thought it might be?
SM: Originally, the way I pictured Chile was just through songs. I’m a big fan of Victor Jara. I’ve listened to his songs like non-stop, literally, for years and years, so I always had a kind of special place in my heart for Chile. When I got there it was a whole different [experience]… I’ve made some really good friends, like serious comrades that I will never forget. There are simple things that people made me feel, you know, the ways that they made me feel comfortable there. Everything like, just the solidarity that they have for Palestinians, the respect they have for Palestinians in general… and also just seeing the Palestinians there; how they’ve integrated into Chilean culture and society and to see that unity between them as well… that was really inspiring as well – and lovely to see, to know that Chile has the biggest Palestinian community in Latin America… it makes me very proud.
PN: Do you have any further plans to collaborate with Ana Tijoux? For example, would you like her to go Palestine to perform with you?
SM: Ana has to come to Palestine. Via London, so she has to come to London again, and we’ll take her to Palestine. She has a lot of fans in Palestine. And I know that Ana really wants to be there; I mean, Ana is more Palestinian than me. She really has a genuine, genuine passion to go and to sing for my people, and it’s just beautiful. That’s rare in artists that I’ve met.
PN: In terms of what’s happening now in Palestine, Israel’s attacks on Palestine, you see countries like Chile, other countries like Venezuela, Nicaragua, various leftwing governments in the region coming out in support of the Palestinian people. As someone coming from Palestine and being in a Latin American country that is supporting the Palestinians, how does that make you feel?
SM: If I didn’t feel proud enough, I left even more proud of Chileans and my Mapuche [indigenous community] friends that I met there and I grew very close to. It’s no secret that Latin American countries have led by example, kicking Israeli diplomats out of their countries. We’re just waiting for the Arab countries to follow suit. And you know it’s not just the Latin American governments that are making these decisions: they’re going by what their people want, what their society wants… and that tells you a lot. The people, they represent what the county is about, not just the government. The government just has to follow, I guess represent the majority.
PN: Would you say that this solidarity is important?
SM: Yes, and I think it’s really important to pay attention to the international solidarity for Palestinians. I think that Gaza is going to really change the course of history. It’s really going to teach the whole world a lesson in humanity and human rights. These people have nothing, because of the Israeli oppression, Israeli violence, the massacres and the genocides that Israelis have basically put on Palestinians. They’re going to teach the whole world, without resources they’re going to teach the whole world what it really means to be free; what it really means to have some dignity. We can talk about the revolutionaries and the freedom fighters and the warriors of Latin America, if we talk about the holocaust of South America. When I went to Chile I met a lot of amazing people, who went through their own oppression by their own government, by the Pinochet government. But Palestine is the longest occupation in history; this needs the whole world’s attention, it needs the whole world’s involvement in freeing Palestine. But as long as they resist, that’s going to go down in history and no one’s going forget it. That’s why there’s so much solidarity for Palestinians around the world. Because people have already been through what they’ve been through around the world. There are genocides around the world, but because Palestine refuses to give up, refuses to lay down. There’s nothing more inspiring than that. We all learn something from that, we all learn a little bit from that.
This article was originally published in Alborada magazine issue two (Winter 2015)