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#JerusalemaDanceChallenge: South African song strikes a chord with Palestinians

Jerusalema song [Master KG/Youtube]
Jerusalema song [Master KG/Youtube]

Jerusalema – a South African gospel song with an infectious beat and a catchy dance – has captured the imagination of the world. The song by South African musician and DJ, Master KG (real name Kgaogelo Moagi), with vocals by songstress, Nomcebo Zikode, has been viewed more than 76 million times on YouTube.

But it is the #JerusalemaDanceChallenge that has taken the world by storm. In February, fans in Angola posted their own choreography to the beat of Jerusalema. The video went viral and the #JerusalemaDanceChallenge was born. Since then, thousands of videos of people mimicking the dance moves – from healthcare workers in France, Sweden and South Africa, to diners at restaurants in Italy and Romania, and in different settings across Africa, the United Kingdom, the United States, the Caribbean and Europe – have been uploaded to Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and TikTok.

And this week, the dance challenge made its way onto the streets of occupied East Jerusalem.

Jerusalem music collective Jaw (meaning ‘mood’ or ‘atmosphere’ in Arabic) uploaded a Palestinian version of the #JerusalemaDanceChallenge on Tuesday. Filmed with the participation of Jerusalem’s small Afro-Palestinian community in the Babul Majlis area of the Old City, adjacent to the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound, local dancers created their own unique version of the Jerusalema dance, adding elements of dabkeh. Within 12 hours of its release, the video had already been viewed more than 10,000 times, and has been widely circulated via WhatsApp and other messaging apps in South Africa.

For Palestinians, however, this is no passing dance fad. The three-minute video ends with a powerful message:

From Jerusalem to South Africa with love. This dance by the youth of Jerusalem is dedicated to our friends in South Africa. As our leaders before us, let us unite with renewed energy towards collective liberation. From Palestine to South Africa, Amandla Awethu, the future is ours.

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According to Jaw spokesperson Samer Hussam Abu-Esheh, music and dance are an essential part of the Palestinian struggle against Israeli occupation and colonisation: “It wasn’t just about the dance. We needed to touch on the deeper issues affecting young people in Palestine and South Africa like justice, freedom and peace.”

While the song is written and performed in isiZulu (one of South Africa’s 11 official languages), its message, says Abu-Esheh, resonates strongly with Palestinians. The lyrics are a supplication to God, asking for protection, guidance and to be taken back home.

Jerusalema ikhaya lami (Jerusalem is my home)

Ngilondoloze (Guard me)

Uhambe name (Walk with me)

Zungangishiyi lana (Do not leave me here)

Jerusalema ikhaya lami (Jerusalem is my home)

Ndawo yami ayikho lana (My place is not here)

Mbuso wami awukho lana (My kingdom is not here)

“But it’s like it was written by a Palestinian because those simple words describe the longing of thousands of Palestinians to return to Quds [Jerusalem] and millions of Palestinian refugees who want to return to Palestine,” explains Abu Esheh.

Palestine solidarity groups in South Africa are excited by Jaw’s video and called it and the accompanying message to South African youth, “a creative expression of solidarity and love for the young people of South Africa”.

“We are particularly impressed by the positivity and energy of everyone involved in the video and their desire to tackle problems faced by the youth of both Palestine and South Africa,” said William Shoki of the South African BDS Coalition. The coalition represents several dozen civil society groups working in solidarity with Palestinians to end the Israeli occupation.

Meanwhile, Master KG is excited to see that Jerusalema had reached Jerusalem, saying that he was emotional to see how the song had transcended South Africa’s borders and the African continent, and has people across the world dancing to its vibrant rhythm.

Jerusalema Dance Challenge [Ofentse Mwase Films / Youtube]

Jerusalema Dance Challenge [Ofentse Mwase Films / Youtube]

The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.

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