Victoria Hanna- Aleph-bet (Hosha’ana)
I haven’t seen anyone on Tumblr talking about the visual symbolism of this music video so if you’ll hold my purse a minute —
The lyrics of this video are an alphabet chant, very Kabbalistic, combined with the Hoshanot prayer. The words are found in Hebrew in the description of the video and an English translation is here, in someone else’s Tumblr post.
The prayer she’s manipulating is sung during the holiday of Sukkot, the harvest festival (every morning but especially during the service for Hoshana Rabbah, the seventh day). It is a song of salvation, of thanksgiving for harvest, and the deep desire for rain, the hope of earning God’s blessing. It’s one of the oldest and most important prayers written when Judaism was largely an agricultural community, rightfully obsessed with the need for rain. The leafy branch she beats against the blackboard at 1:43 is an aravah branch from the lulav, which is an actual religious ritual that many Jews still observe, albeit on the floor of the synagogue, not in a classroom. That act of bending over and beating the aravah is alluded to in the choreography of the schoolgirls in several places, including 3:01.
When all the girls draw marks on the board at 3:23, they’re drawing the rain, the healing source, the life-giving source, which the video animates to depict a storm, complete with sound effects. But it’s drawn on a green chalkboard and that color is also important: don’t those dancing marks equally resemble grass growing, springing to life after the rain?
The arc of the video also mimics the shape of a holiday prayer service, from a simple beginning where most are sitting down and following one person chanting, to communal song, when all voices rise up together in melody and action (Sukkot services in particular are full of organized movement, learned choreography) to pierce through to the glory of Heaven and obtain the blessing of rain. In order to receive the falling rain, we move our own bodies around and around. Stagnation is drought. Staying still is empty prayer.
This song is deeply religious artwork, reimagining and reinvigorating old traditions for 21st-century presentation. And it’s equally important that Victoria Hanna is reclaiming a prayer written by and for men, asserting her right to create art and perform prayer in a cultural space that historically excludes her.
Stay tuned for another post on the subtle transgressive feminism happening in the imagery and the clothing.