Audio: In conversation with Tales of a City by the Sea director Lech Mackiewicz and actress Wahibe Moussa

A fantastic interview with Lech Mackiewicz and Wahibe Moussa about why they chose to be involved with the play Tales of a City by the Sea and what they hope this play will accomplish.  It offers a wonderful insight into the role of theatre in building cultural bridges and telling the stories that need to be told.

With thanks to Jan Bartlett and 3CR radio.

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مسرحية حكايات مدينة على البحر SBS Arabic Radio with Tales of a City by the Sea

مسرحية حكايات مدينة على البحر تبدأ في ملبورن في الثاني عشر من تشرين الثاني نوفمبر. المسرحية عبارة عن قصة حب وانفصال وستعرض على خشبة مسرحين في اليوم ذاته. على خشبة مسرح لاماما في ملبورن، ومسرح الرواد في مخيم عايدة في الضفة الغربية.

كاتبة المسرحية هي الكاتبة والشاعرة سماح السبعاوي، وقد استضفناها في استديوهات الأس بي سي مع اثنين من فريق العمل. استمعوا هنا إلى سماح السبعاوي، والممثلة نيكول شمعون والممثل أسامة سامي.

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.

Palestinian actor Thaer Yassin on importance of staging a love story in Gaza theatre

This is part of our Tales of a City by the Sea video series. To learn more about this project click on the home page, or visit our youtube channel  and watch other short videos from the various key artists involved in this project. We are now half way through our fundraising campaign.  Please bring us closer to our goal by making a donation, and by helping us spread the word by way of sharing our videos on social media and talking to your friends about this unique new and exciting project.

“Are your loved ones trapped behind the wall?” — New animation video by Marta Jelec of Samah Sabawi’s poem “Defying the Universe”.

While Sabawi’s poem expresses the guilt Palestinians in diaspora feel when thinking of loved ones back home, Jelec’s animation video tries to take the message further so it can resonate with a larger audience.

Video animation by Marta Jelec

Music: Bonobo- Recurring

Marta Jelec made this stop motion animation for a project she’s doing for a Digital and Cyberculture Studies module. She explains “Sabawi’s poem, originally written in English and published online, describes the internal struggles her husband faces when confronting the guilt of leaving his family behind in Palestine, while he lives his life of ‘liberty’. By creating an animation of the poem, I aim to make the poetry more accessible to an English speaking, non Palestinian audience, by using non-ethnicised characters and simple and symbolic imagery. I aim to increase the possibility of empathy within digital audiences outside of Palestine”.

Defying the Universe

Are your loved ones trapped behind the wall
Do they need the army’s permission
For their prayers to reach the sky
For their love to cross the ocean
And touch your thirsty heart
Are your loved ones trapped

Do you yearn to be in your family home
And when you call them
Do they always say

“we are well, alhamdollelah”
Does it surprise you

That they are whole

But you… you are broken
Must they always worry about you
Urge you to have faith in your exile
Must they pity you
For not breathing the air

Of your ancestors’ land
Must they always comfort you
Even when the bombs are falling
Do you ever wonder who is walled in
Is it you, or is it them
And when it finally dawns upon you
That their dignity sets them free
Do you feel ashamed of your liberty

Are your loved ones trapped behind the wall
Do they tell you stories
Of how they survive
The trees they’ve replanted
The homes they’ve rebuilt
Do they assure you life goes on
Old men still fiddle with their prayer beads
Mothers still bake mamoul on Eid
Families still gather under the canopies
With loaded bunches of grapes
Dangling above their heads
They nibble on watermelon seeds
They drink meramiah tea
Women perfect the art of match-making
Men talk of freedom and democracy
Children climb on a sycamore tree
Lovers woe in secrecy
And no matter how the conditions are adverse
Do your loved ones defy this universe
Your loved ones defy this universe

Samah Sabawi wrote Defying the Universe during the aftermath of Israel’s assault on Gaza in 2008-2009.

Latest report from Gaza on the continued closure of the Rafah crossing and its implication on life in the world’s largest open air prison

Video: Against The Tide ضد التيار