The recent lockdown in Greece has been the catalyst for the creation of many new collective initiatives with solidarity and collaboration at their root. The new group Drag Sabbat is one such initiative, created by drag artists in Greece and abroad with the purpose to strengthen their voice and create an alliance to safeguard their professional and social rights.
Drag Sabbat takes its name from the pagan sabbat festivals, and particularly the fabled witches' sabbaths that supposedly took place in the Middle Ages. In their announcement for the founding of their group, Drag Sabbat draw a direct connection between witch hunts and their practice, as they describe themselves as "the 'witches' who have not been burned". Just as witches who have not been burned are survivors of patriarchal and racist violence, Drag Sabbat also see themselves as survivors of modern violence against women and LGBTQ+ identities, taking a political stance against homophobia, sexism and oppression.
Participating artists in Drag Sabbat are from Athens, Thessaloniki, Crete and abroad. The intention of the group is to be open and as inclusive as possible, working consciously towards equality amongst its members. The group's formation also relates to current debates about cultural workers' rights and the Support Art Workers movement; the group's members meet in closed "sabbats", where they explore the conditions that will enable these discussions to take place within the context of drag performance in Greece as well.
In addition to their closed meetings, Drag Sabbat will also present two public live events on 21 June and 05 July. The two online drag shows engage with issues of LGBT rights, Black Lives Matter and other current political themes, and they will be followed by a Q&A between the participants. The events will take place on Gumroad, with tickets available here. The lineup is as follows:
Volume I — 21 June
- (Hosted by Aurora Paola Morado and Dr. Oglie Boss)
Angel Seemen (Haus of Proletarea - Thessaloniki), Aurora Paola Morado (Haus of Proletarea - Thessaloniki) , Ingrid Hideki (Crete - Karlsruhe), Lala Kolopi (Athens), Nina Nai (Haus of Karma - Thessaloniki), Dr. Oglie Boss (Haus of Karma - Thessaloniki), Space Manifesto (Athens - Berlin)
Volume II — 05 July
(Hosted by Marianah Grindr)
ActiVista (Athens), Aphrodite HGW (Athens), Marianah Grindr (Athens), McMorait (Haus of Proletarea - Thessaloniki), MohDonna (Athens - Patras), Reject (Athens)
Below is the announcement of Drag Sabbat in full:
Announcement of the establishment of an artistic and movement collective of drag artists and announcement of the first two online shows of the collective
Through drag we are free to express what we feel, whether it is the most insignificant thing that we might instantly live, or the most important, perhaps, global phenomenon that we want to expose in a show. We are a team of drag artists created on the occasion of the challenges that arose through the pandemic of coronavirus. Some of us make a living from drag, some don't (although some would like to), while some see it as part of a movement and/or a hobby.
At first we gathered to share concerns about the future of our art, but very quickly these meetings gained a heavier substance. We realized that by allying with each other, we could claim and achieve much more in terms of demands and visibility, both professionally and socially. In an already problematic professional reality (even before the pandemic crisis), where there was little or even no guarantee of our professional and insurance rights, it is necessary to claim our professional and artistic visibility. So, in the middle of the quarantine, we tried to do something collectively as our minimum support as artists and/or workers, while having as a starting point the movement #SupportArtWorkers, since our rights are completely violated, whether it is the financial part or the free expression through it.
Sabbat was the name of the secret meeting of witches between the 14th and 16th centuries before they were burned by the Church. As drag artists we consider ourselves as the "witches" who have not yet been burned, but we also consider ourselves "sisters" of oppressed LGBTQI+ individuals and women/femininities, as they are victims of sexism in a similar way that we also often do.
For most of us, doing drag is a way to overcome this oppression. After all, the feminist movement has often used the term "Sabbat" (see a homonymous feminist group operating in Athens) for the same reasons as us, and we want to believe that we are close to these movements. Both our closed meetings and our first live online shows (Sunday 21st of June and Sunday 5th of July) are such "Sabbats". We gather, we discuss, we create and we connect both with each other as well as with you, our viewers.
Our goal is for many drag artists from all walks of life to come together and create something enjoyable for the audience but also for each of us. We want to create an open space of self expression that will support our need for creation but also support us financially. We are also interested in claiming issues related to our labor rights, such as the recognition of drag as an art and/or profession, our insurance coverage, securing good, safe and inclusive working conditions and our protection from sexist and other violative behaviors.