A DXF crash course in hip-hop

After a long day spent plotting to save the world through democratic change, DXF participants were treated to a hip-hop themed evening.

First, Anders Ackfeldt — who is doing a PhD on Islamic themes in hip-hop music at the Center for Theology and Religious Studies at Lund University — explored the similarities between Islam and hip-hop. Hip-hop has a long history of giving voice to the voiceless and oppressed, and Anders explored how hip-hop has taken up this role again in the Middle East and Northern Africa, most recently in the context of the Arab Spring.

Then it was time for some participatory rapping. The multi-talented Swedish Grammy award-winning hip-hop artist and Malmö native Behrang Miri provided DXF participants with a crash course in writing and performing rap.

The enthusiasm was infectious, and the DXF crew was soon putting on a talented performance:

Here’s how those rap songs were written:

Behrang Miri’s and his protégé, the very talented 14-year old Dushan, also engaged in a collaboration, with Behrang as a human beat box:

Quite by coincidence, visiting Moriska Paviljon at the time was the Buenos Aires hip-hop star Miss Colombia, and they were drawn to all the full throated rap being sung by DXFers. She and her sidekick also ended up performing. Here they are by themselves:

And here they are in a collaboration with Behrang:

Still, that was not the end of the evening. Many at DXF were motivated to attend a late-night vigil in support of Hana’a Shalabi, a palestinian activist in Israeli administrative detention who is in the third week of a hunger strike:

The Arab Spring — on film and via Twitter

On Tuesday evening, Malmö had its première public showing of Zero Silence, a documentary about the Arab Spring produced by DXF program director Hussain Kabani.

Afterwards, Dr. Reza Arjmand — a visiting professor at the Centre for Middle Eastern Studies at nearby Lund University — moderated a series of three panel discussions with some of the participants at DXF — all of them popular bloggers and Twitter users, knowledgable in the local politics of their home countries: Tunisia, where the revolutions started, Egypt, and finally Syria, where the outcome of the unrest is still far from settled.

The Tunisia panel:

Dr. Reza Armjand talks with Wael Abbas during the Egypt panel:

The Syria panel:

Joakim Jardenberg’s session

Joakim Jardenberg’s session on digital networks and social change turned out to be more interactive than even he expected: DXFers brimming with opinions soon turned his talk into a dialogue instead of a monologue, and the enthusiasm on all sides was contagious.

Joakim started off his presentation (see his slides below) quoting from the introduction to Amnesty International’s 2011 annual report, which proved to be prescient:

The year 2010 may well be remembered as a watershed year when activists and journalists used new technology to speak truth to power and, in so doing, pushed for greater respect for human rights. It is also the year when repressive governments faced the real possibility that their days were numbered.


This was one type of social change he wanted to highlight. Another was how access to knowledge and to tools for social change management is very quickly becoming much broader. Once, only those with access to the Library of Alexandria had such knowledge at their disposal. Today, it is accessible to everyone with an Internet connection. Although technology will never be completely evenly distributed across society, Joakim argued, things are getting more equal, over time.

A third kind of change was highlighted by watching his 11-month old daughter unlocking an iPhone. Nobody told her it was supposed to be hard. To the next generation, these new technologies are part of the landscape, Joakim said. And they are here to stay, so our responsibility is to make sure they are used for good, rather than bad.

Joakim had much more to say in the two hours he spent with DXFers — leading a discussion on how much digital networks precipitated the Arab Spring (or not); on the utopian vision of technology promising “zero friction” in social change management, but how the human element is a crucial missing element — Joakim admonished DXFers “to be the grease”. There was also much talk about the notion of the “Technium” — of the Internet and associated technologies turning into something as complex and intelligent as a human brain, and if this process inevitable, how it is our duty as contributors to this machine to steer it towards benign ends.

Malmö hunting

As a way for participants to get to know each other, they were divided into groups and sent around Malmö on a quest to find specific landmarks and stores, and then to act silly around them while documenting their exploits. Here is the result:

First, a video rendition of “Falling in Love” by team “Va shnoa shu?”. Falling in love with… Malmö, or DXF-SWE?

Day 1: Getting to know each other

For the first real session of the conference, Eva Hamboldt set up the space for the ensuing discussions, followed by short personal introductions by the participants.

Wael Abbas:

Hasan Karajah:

Rachid Boukhenfer:

Kholoud Mansour:

Mohammad Azraq:

Day 1: Morning – Introductions

… And the Democratic Exchange Forum is underway:

Hussain Kabani opened the the day, welcoming everyone to the Democratic Exchange Forum:

Mia Norgberg, a democracy activist from Malmö, welcomed participants to her home town and gave them a quick introduction to Malmö:

Hanna Gedin
A deputy mayor of Malmö responsible for equality and gender issues and a member of the Left Party, spoke about her home town and the challenges it faces to maintain equality in the current economic and political climate in Sweden. Her talk will be available soon.

Dushan, a14-year old Romani youth from Malmö performed, some of his spoken-word pieces to raise some issues for the subsequent discussion:

Jehan alfarra, a Gaza native, spoke movingly of life under occupation, about trying to live a normal life but “resisting normalization of the situation.” Because physical freedom is so constrained, she says, many people turn to the Internet for self-expression and commerce. It feels like “all of Gaza is on Twitter,” she joked. “Everybody has a blog,” and Facebook is popular too. Offline, “there is so much going on in Gaza that the world isn’t paying attention to,” from cake bakes to startup conferences.

Finally, the organizers, coordinators and debate leaders introduced themselves. Everybody is now ready to go for the coming four days.

Day Zero

Overseas participants trickled into Malmö today from all corners of the Middle East and North Africa, ready to kick off of DXF-SWE tomorrow. An impromptu dinner made for an informal start to the week, followed by a quick meeting with program director Hussain Kabani to coordinate the fist day of the conference and to make sure no one was a stranger any longer. Then it was off to bed for most. Here are some photos from the evening, by Veronica Dalya El Radaf.

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