Experience the award winning play Tales of a City by the Sea at PKK Tuanku Bainun in Malaysia January 13th to 18th 2017

In collaboration with Pusat Kreatif Kanak-kanak Tuanku Bainun, Kuala Lumpur, this award-winning script by Samah Sabawi will be staged by PKK Tuanku Bainun from 13th to 18th January 2017.  The play will be staged at PKK Tuanku Bainun’s Theatre KuAsh.

PKK Tuanku Bainun is a non-profit organization serving as a safe haven for children and youth from all walks of life to develop their creativity. Centred around the pillars of arts, heritage, culture, and the environment, our classes are made available at full sponsorship or subsidy to the underprivileged. We are proud to present this gripping story, with its stirring universal themes of resilience and the human spirit, in our KuAsh Theatre @ PKK Tuanku Bainun.com

Jomana, a Palestinian woman living in a Gaza refugee camp, falls in love with Rami, an American-born Palestinian doctor and activist who has just arrived on one of the first Free Gaza boats in 2008. Their love is met with relentless string of challenges. Ultimately, Rami must decide between returning to his comfortable life in Texas and staying in Palestine with Jomana. Choosing to stay means leaving his family and career behind for a life ravaged by war, while leaving means not only losing Jomana but also ignoring the plight of the Palestinians.

The play premiered simultaneously at Melbourne’s La Mama Theatre and Palestine’s Al Rowwad’s in 2014. Its sold-out premiere was met with standing ovations and critical acclaim. In 2016 the play was selected for the Victorian Certificate of Education Drama Playlist, and was remounted in Melbourne for a longer also sold-out season at La Mama, before it embarked on its first national tour, playing to full houses and standing ovations in Adelaide’s Bakehouse Theatre and Sydney’s Casula Arts Centre.

Date :  Saturday, 14 January 2017 – Sunday, 15 January 2017
Time :  8:30pm (14 Jan) / 3:00pm (15 Jan)
Venue :  KuAsh Theatre, Pusat Kreatif Kanak-Kanak Tuanku Bainun

To purchase tickets click on this link.

Staging Palestinian love story in six Australian cities: Launching Tales of a City by the Sea 2016 national tour fundraising drive

Woven together from the actual experiences of people living under occupation, Tales of a City by the Sea is a journey into the lives of ordinary people in the besieged Gaza Strip.  Jomana, a Palestinian woman living in a Gaza refugee camp, falls in love with Rami, an  American-born Palestinian doctor and activist who has just arrived on one of the first Free Gaza boats in 2008. Their love is met with a relentless string of challenges. Ultimately, Rami must decide between returning to his comfortable life in Texas and staying in Palestine with Jomana. Choosing to stay means leaving his family and career behind for a life ravaged by war, while leaving means not only losing Jomana but also ignoring the plight of the Palestinians.

“[A] nuanced exploration of the myriad ways the occupation affects Palestinians at home and abroad…This gripping play is an act of resistance that implores its audience to take heed.”  ★★★  Rebecca Harkins-Cross,   The Age

Tales of a City by the Sea is about what it means to leave home to create a life in more tolerable conditions, and what it means to stay. It is about relationships between parents who have chosen to leave, and children who want to return. It is about how people in diaspora see their connection to home, and how people at home see them. It is a Palestinian story, but more broadly it is a migrant story.

“A fantastically told story of two worlds colliding. An elegantly simple set […] is perfect for actors Nicole Chamoun and Osamah Sami to excel in their lead roles.”  ★★★★  Harry Hughes,  The Music

The play premiered in November 2014, with simultaneous productions at La Mama Theatre in Melbourne and the AlRowward Cultural and Theatre Society, in Aida Refugee Camp in Palestine. Both productions received overwhelmingly passionate responses from audiences and critics alike.

“The beautiful and passionate voice of Tayah makes the story even more touching…[This play] wondrously gives  hope and prevents you from giving up on Gaza.”  ★★★★  Zeynep Incir, Melbourne Arts Fashion

In 2016, we hope to remount our Australian production at the La Mama theatre in Melbourne and then take it on tour to Adelaide, Sydney, Hobart, Casula and Byron Bay.

Why Support This

Tales of the City by the Sea tells the story of people in terrible situations, living under occupation but it doesn’t define them by their suffering  This is not the kind of story set in Palestine that you hear in the typical every day news reports — we hope to challenge this by telling a story that is not just about the conflict but the experiences of the people who live in and around it.

We believe that sharing Palestinian stories represents a key step towards peaceful and just resolution to the conflict and that a view into the realities of life under occupation has the power to change hearts and minds and that is why we feel it is important that this story is told.

Tales of the City by the Sea will feature a diverse cast and crew and help realize our hopes to see the diversity of Australia represented on the Australian stage. Our cast and creative team include both recently arrived migrants and multigenerational Australians. We have roots in Palestine, Lebanon, Iran, Iraq, Poland, Malta, Italy, Egypt, and Chile.

Funding is the greatest challenge faced by this project, which is why we are asking for your support.

The premiere last year was a co-share, this time, we want to be able to properly remunerate actors and artists involved in bringing this story to the stage. Your contributions go towards supporting a production that deeply values and wants to support its artists.

How the funds will be used

We already have lots of wonderful in kind support such as accommodation but we are committed to paying our artists proper wages.  We will also need to cover production costs for set and costume design,  transport for equipment and cost of travel for the cast and crew.

Raising this money will allow us to commit to the first leg of the Australian tour which means remounting in Melbourne with our artists on full wages regardless of money raised through tickets. That means any revenue raised through tickets will go on to support next leg of tour.

Upcoming Event:

So, let’s kick off our fundraising drive with this exciting event.  Please join us on the rooftop of the Arcadia Hotel and help bring Tales of a City by the Sea to six Australian cities in 2016. Enjoy a BBQ, experience live Arabic music, watch some amazing performances, meet the cast and crew, and dance the night away!

Get your tickets here 

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Email from Gaza: Tales that must be told

Friends, this week our eyes were glued to our laptops watching in disbelief yet another horrible attack on the people of Gaza. We worried about our friends, partners and loved ones.  Within theTales of a City by the Sea production team we worried about our partners in Gaza, our director Ali Abu Yassin and our representative in Gaza, Aya El-Zinati. Aya is a young dynamic and talented film maker and journalist who is the epitome of the human spirit we try to convey in our play. Before the war broke out, she promised to make a new video for our project. Imagine our surprise when she sent this email yesterday with a link to the video she completed while listening to the sounds of the falling bombs outside her window. With her permission, we are proud to share her email as it offers a deep insight into life in Gaza.

Email from Aya

How are you?

I imagine this is not the right time to even talk about this but I know I have work to do. True, I’ve only slept two hours in the last three days, and I’ve been away from home most of the time but I have been thinking of you. I’ve been wondering how can I produce the video (Trailer for Tales of a City by the Sea) and what if something happens to me and I (die) before finishing it.

So, every day at dawn I try to do more edits and I don’t know but I hope this time you will like it. Please believe me I’ve tried my best to do it better than the first cut. If you don’t like it and we remain alive I will do a better one for you.

What is important is that I want to tell you a few stories we hear about the martyrs in Gaza. I want to tell you so you know what Gaza love stories are like in reality…in war… in these conditions.

On the first day when 8 people were killed, one of them was from the Qassam brigade. His name was Abdlerahman AlZamly. He was engaged to a lady, maybe you’ve seen her in some of the photos that went viral as she was saying goodbye to him. They were engaged for a long time and couldn’t get married because they were waiting for the Rafah crossing to open and for cement to come into Gaza so they can finish building their house. All they needed was one ton of cement. Of course there were no crossings open and even if they were to open and if cement came in, they may not have afforded it because it would have been five times its actual worth.

Yesterday, the Kaware family was martyred in Khan Yunis. Their house was bombed. Eight members of the family were killed and neighbours injured some have serious injuries. When I went to report it I almost had a breakdown. I told the photographer to take photos. My stomach turned. But I tried to be strong…to be normal.

Yesterday a very young man Fakhr AlAjoory was martyred on his motorcycle and the scene was horrific. Before he was martyred he wrote a status on his Facebook: ‘when I die, some will mourn me, some will feel relieved, some will remember me forever, some wont care, but that’s o.k. it is enough for me to be going to a better place’.

Last night they bombed the Hamad family. The family was sitting in their garden drinking coffee at night. The missile landed suddenly and the problem is the whole family died except for the youngest child, 5 years old, he is now orphaned and with no one left to take care of him.

My father is a maintenance engineer at the hospital and because of the emergency situation there he doesn’t come home much. I try as much as possible to check on my mom at home in between my work shifts. Anyway, as I was walking to our house, I saw lots of nervous people in the street, some were running it turned out the neighbours were told to evacuate their homes because it will be bombed in ten minutes. I ran to my mother and told her to hurry up and leave. I told her they’re bombing the house next door. The problem is if a missile lands next door our entire house will be destroyed. I kept begging her to leave but she insisted on staying. She said she would never leave her home. I kept begging there was no time…I stayed with her preferring to die with her than to live and mourn her death. Can you believe the missile landed but did not explode? The authorities came and they carried it away. So we’re still alive.

There is no safe place in Gaza at all. Every place is a target. This means Israel is bankrupt and has no list of targets so it just bombs sporadically at civilian structures. Despite it all, the poor people of Gaza still go out into the street, they buy food for Ramadan, they make kenafah and katayef for desert and they try to live the spirit of the holy month.

What upsets me the most is that the situation in this city has become so painful. There are many who don’t have enough to buy food. And on top of that, there is war and destruction. Many live on handouts or borrowed money. Some people built their homes from borrowed money only to see their homes destroyed and with their home gone, so goes everything else they have. No one seems to understand the depth of our pain. Is it not enough we’re losing ourselves, losing our lives, losing our future, and outside, the rest of the world carries slogans ‘Gaza under attack’ or ‘Gaza under fire’ but listen first about what is really happening in Gaza. Some people even post the wrong photos from Syria or from Iraq this made the international media discredit what’s really happening here and this played to Israel’s advantage. But believe me what happened here in the past three days is a massacre.

What also really upset me and frustrates me is that no one is telling our stories. Our real human stories. They talk about us as enemies or they reduce us to numbers and statistics.

I am sorry I’ve given you a headache with my rant. But I really wanted to talk to you and tell you our stories.

I’ve been in Gaza for nine years now and in that time I’ve lived through three wars. Each war has many stories. If I don’t die in this war, I will write a book about those three wars….hahaha…I remember how innocent I was when I came here and how this place made me a human being. Seriously. I think as much as I am tired of being in this place, it has given me life.

All my friends outside Gaza call me and message me. They are worried this time I will get killed. One friend said ‘Promise me Aya you will not die. If you do I will be very upset with you’. They say if you need anything … I said yes…I’ve ran out of coal for my water pipe…I can’t smoke sheesha now. hahaha….:)

Pray for me.

Here is the video.

Amazing! Replica Palestine Separation Wall Built in Central London

On 23rd of December 2013, Bethlehem Unwrapped festival opened with the unveiling of a 8m high life size replica of the separation wall that has been built by Israel in the West Bank. It has been constructed over 8 days in the church yard of St James’ near Piccadilly Circus in central London in a bid to bring some reality of what it is like to live in Bethlehem in 2013.
bethlehem-unwrapped.org

Christmas in Bethlehem

Christmas 2013

Christmas in Bethlehem (Beit Laham, Aramaic for House of Laham, the Canaanitic God of Sustenance) is still a very special and meaningful time even under the brutal Israeli apartheid occupation.  We are not talking about the visual aspects and the unique religious services at the Church of Nativity (you can now follow these live stream for example on the link shown below).  It is special because reflection here is special.  Nowhere is there an exhibit of “Occupation Art” shown in a “Peace Center” in front of a large Christmas tree in front of one of the holiest places in Christianity. Nowhere on earth do people pray that the wall suffocating them is dismantled then watch and listen to Christmas carols from around the world after admiring such exhibits. No where can we hear the same singers mix Christmas and patriotic songs in the manger square and the Shepherds’ field…  Read more

Palestinian Australian playwright Samah Sabawi receives government grant to produce Gaza love story on Melbourne stage

Palestinian Australian playwright Samah Sabawi was congratulated today in an electoral Press Release issued by the Hon. Gordon Rich-Phillips MLC, for receiving a government grant to go toward the production of her playTales of a City by the Sea in Melbourne’s La Mama Courthouse Theatre.  Below is the full press release:

ELECTORAL RESS RELEASE 

Hon. Gordon Rich-Phillips MLC

Thursday, 12 December 2013

LATEST GRANTS SUPPORT LOCAL CREATIVITY

Gordon Rich-Phillips, Member for South Eastern Metropolitan Region, today congratulated Narre Warren artist Samah Sabawi, who is among 85 artists and organisations across the state to share in the latest round of $1.3 million of Victorian Government arts grants.

Mr Rich-Phillips said Arts Victoria’s new grants program, VicArts Grants, sought to support projects across all art forms by some of the state’s most exciting independent artists and arts organisations.

Samah Sabawi will receive a $10,000 grant to present a theatrical journey into the lives of the playwright, a Palestinian Australian, her family in Gaza and the events experienced over several years.

Taqi Khan, under the auspices of Multicultural Arts Victoria Inc, Hampton Park, has also received a grant of $15,000 to be used for a significant project for Melbourne’s local Afghan Hazara community, encompassing contemporary and traditional Hazara music, singing and poetry.

“I am pleased that our local arts sector has been recognised in this statewide program and I look forward to seeing the projects as they come to fruition,” Mr Rich-Phillips said.

Overall, the latest round will create career development opportunities for more than 2200 Victorian artists.

The VicArts grants program, announced as part of the 2013-14 State Budget, is aimed at streamlining the process of applying for a grant while opening up funding opportunities to innovative ideas.

“Grants recipients include artists at all career stages and overall, more than a third of the recipients are receiving government funding for the first time,” Mr Rich-Phillips said.

“The arts sector contributes $11.4 billion to the state economy each year and up to 110,000 jobs. It supports the Victorian Coalition Government’s broader goal of supporting growth and innovation in all sectors across the state.”

The next round of applications to the VicArts Grants program will close in March 2014, for projects commencing in July.

To find out more about the VicArts Grants program and to see the full list of recipients, visitwww.arts.vic.gov.au

Amnesty: Gaza power crisis has compounded blockade’s assault on human dignity

Amnesty International 

Israel must immediately lift its blockade on the Gaza Strip, including by allowing the delivery of fuel and other essential supplies into the territory without restrictions, said Amnesty International today.

For the last month, all of Gaza’s 1.7 million residents have been living without power for most of the time and in the shadow of a public health catastrophe, after their sole power plant was forced to shut down, causing the failure of several sewerage and water plants.

“This latest harsh setback has exacerbated the assault on the dignity of Palestinians in Gaza and the massive denial of rights they have experienced for more than six years because of Israel’s blockade, together with restrictions imposed by Egypt,” said Philip Luther, Middle East and North Africa Director at Amnesty International.

“The blockade has collectively punished Gaza’s population in violation of international law. The power plant shutdown has further affected all aspects of daily life, and the Israeli authorities must lift the blockade immediately, starting by allowing urgently needed fuel supplies into the Strip and working with all relevant parties to avert a prolonged humanitarian crisis this winter.”

The power plant, which until recently supplied 30 per cent of the Gaza Strip’s electricity, ran out of diesel fuel on 1 November. The resulting shutdown has exacerbated an ongoing water and sanitation crisis and has left Gaza residents without power for 16 hours a day.

According to the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, all 291 water and wastewater facilities in the Gaza Strip are now relying on standby generators, which are also affected by the fuel shortages. On 13 November a large sewage pumping station failed in al-Zaytoun, south of Gaza City, allowing more than 35,000 cubic metres of raw sewage to spew into the streets.

Local authorities have struggled to clean up the spill, leaving some 3,000 residents wading through sewage. The clean-up finally began on 29 November, according to local residents, following efforts by the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) and other agencies, and an emergency donation from Turkey to pay for fuel for critical sewage stations.

“The reason for the flood of sewage was the blockade,” a resident of al-Zaytoun told Amnesty International. “The question is, why is the blockade being allowed to continue? What is our crime? There is no justification for this situation. We just want to live like any other people in the world.”

Ten other sewage pumping stations in the Gaza Strip have been forced to divert sewage to open channels, lagoons, or the sea during the last month, and other stations are close to overflowing.

Before the current crisis, some 90 million litres of raw or partially treated sewage were being dumped into the sea off Gaza every day. Since the power plant shutdown, more raw sewage is being dumped into the sea. For years, more than 90 per cent of the water extracted from the Gaza aquifer has been polluted and unfit for human consumption due to the infiltration of sewage and seawater and prolonged over-extraction because of Israel’s disproportionate use of water resources.

Water supply to households across the Strip, which was already rationed, has also been reduced since the power plant shutdown. Some 65 per cent of Gaza’s population only receive water once every three or four days.

“For each day that the Gaza power plant does not receive fuel, the risk of a massive public health crisis increases. Access to adequate sanitation and drinking water are fundamental human rights. The power plant shutdown should never have been allowed to happen,” said Philip Luther.

Hospitals and other health facilities throughout the Gaza Strip have been relying on their own generators during the lengthy power outages. But the generators are also affected by fuel shortages, jeopardizing essential services like kidney dialysis, operating theatres, blood banks, intensive care units, neo-natal care, and laboratories, putting patients’ lives at risk.

Businesses, construction, and much agricultural work have also ground to a halt amid the power cuts and shortages of fuel and building materials. This has further reduced the incomes of many households who already had trouble meeting their basic needs.

Bakeries have reduced production and people are forced to queue to buy bread. Transportation throughout the Strip has been curtailed; carts pulled by donkeys are now being used to collect solid waste. The Strip’s schools and universities have also been affected.

Since June 2007, when the Israeli blockade was tightened, Gaza’s energy, water, and sanitation infrastructure has been inadequate to fulfil the basic rights of its inhabitants. They were already poor due to prior Israeli restrictions and decades of neglect.

Before the power plant shut down, Gaza already suffered from a chronic electricity shortage and routine power outages. Since 1 November, the electricity currently supplied to the Strip – which is purchased from Israel and Egypt – covers less than 40 per cent of the population’s needs.

A main factor triggering the shutdown was the Egyptian military’s campaign to destroy tunnels between Gaza and Sinai – more than 90 per cent have been removed since June 2013. Since early 2011, the power plant was run on Egyptian diesel brought in through some of those tunnels – the amount dropped from about 1 million litres per day in June 2013 to around 20,000 litres per week in November.

Amnesty International is calling on the Egyptian authorities to facilitate construction of new power lines to increase the electricity supply to the southern Gaza Strip and work with Palestinian and Israeli authorities to find a sustainable solution to the fuel crisis.

Background

On 28 June 2006, Israeli aircraft fired eight missiles into the Gaza power plant, destroying all its transformers. Israeli restrictions on imports of construction materials, spare parts, and fuel impeded reconstruction. These restrictions were tightened after Israel imposed a complete air, land and sea blockade on Gaza in June 2007, when Hamas established a de facto administration in the Strip.

As the occupying power, Israel has the primary responsibility for addressing the current crisis by immediately increasing fuel supplies to Gaza. It must also address the long-term crisis by completely lifting the blockade, including by allowing fuel into Gaza without restrictions, allowing construction materials and equipment necessary for repairing and maintaining vital infrastructure, and increasing electricity supplies to Gaza by facilitating the construction of new power lines.

Continuing disputes between the Hamas de facto administration in the Gaza Strip and the Palestinian Authority over payment and taxes are also a factor in the current crisis. Both authorities must co-operate so that the power plant again receives a steady supply of fuel and can resume operations.

According to the UN’s Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, only about a quarter of the water and sanitation projects in Gaza included in the 2013 Consolidated Appeals Process have been funded.

This report was published on Amnesty International‘s website.