Interview with Iranian/Australian Writer & Actor Osamah Sami by Kyriaki Maragozidis. Originally broadcast 13/6/16 Live to Air on Voiceprint Arts, Three D Radio 93.7fm in South Australia.
Interview with Iranian/Australian Writer & Actor Osamah Sami by Kyriaki Maragozidis. Originally broadcast 13/6/16 Live to Air on Voiceprint Arts, Three D Radio 93.7fm in South Australia.
“Tales of a City by the Sea’ is a perceptive story that magnificently captures the drama of star-crossed lovers in the besieged Gaza strip.”
In Daily – Adelaide’s independent news
This is wide-eyed saga of everyday Palestinians struggling to survive and find normality, hope and love in a region affected by hostility. It is an oddly poetic tale, whose complexity and subtleties of differing narrative viewpoint are maintained by axioms, a strong multi-cultural ensemble and superb lead performances.
Samah Sabawi’s script has received widespread acclaim for its insight into Palestinian life. The playwright’s remarkable sensitivity and artistry confers enormous authority on this portrayal of a beleaguered people.
The play focuses on Jomana (Helena Sawires), a Palestinian woman living in a refugee camp, and depicts life under the Israeli bombardment and siege. She is chaperone to her cousin Lama (Emina Ashman), who is unhappily engaged to Ali (Reece Vella).
When Rami (Osamah Sami), an American-born Palestinian doctor, arrives on the “Free Gaza” boats in August 2008, he and Jomana fall in love. When it is time to leave, Rami promises to sell his clinic in America and return to Jomana and his ancestral homeland.
The play gives us a prophetic flavour of the way people can culturally, politically, ideologically and physically be separated. There are sharp, pertinent scenes in which the lovers speak over Skype and renew their promises. But will the pair live happily ever after?
This play stands or falls by its love affair between the thoroughly decent Texan doctor, Rami, and the poetically romantic Jomana. And this love affair has all the passion of desperate people in desperate times and precarious situations. Sawires is well cast; she puts presence into every scene and bounces well off Sami, who brilliantly portrays an American caught between multiple loyalties. Read more…
by Julia Wakefield
Following its sold out premiere Melbourne season in 2014, Tales of a City by the Sea opened at The Bakehouse Theatre this week. The author is Palestinian/Australian/Canadian writer Samah Sabawi. She describes her work as ‘a poetic journey into the ordinary lives of people living in abnormal circumstances and their struggle to survive’.
The play grew out of a collection of poetry that Sabawi wrote while she was in Gaza during the three week bombardment of 2008/2009, prompted by her own experiences and those of her friends and family. She says she is not trying to put across a political message. Although this is a story based on real life events that took place during Israel’s assault on Gaza in 2008, its main purpose is to highlight the resilience and compassion that people display in such dire circumstances. In this current era of global conflict and confusion, there are many places featured in news bulletins that are enduring similar situations. Sabawi wants us to see ‘the detail of daily lives of people they see for brief seconds on the news’.
The play was originally directed by Lech Mackiewicz, and the current director is Wahibe Moussa. When it opened in Melbourne the plan was to have two simultaneous performances on the West Bank and in Gaza. The play was performed on the West Bank a week later; the script has been read in Gaza but as yet there has been no opportunity to perform the play there.
In the main characters of the play, Jomana and Rami, we see another theme: the gulf between the Palestinian diaspora (those whose families escaped from Gaza and who have grown up in an affluent, privileged society), and the same generation who remain trapped in Gaza. Jomana lives in Gaza, Rami is a doctor raised in Texas by refugee Palestinian parents. They are in love, but in order to enter each other’s world they have no choice but to abandon their families and the reality they grew up in.
The play ideally suits the intimate atmosphere of the Bakehouse Theatre. Scenes are evoked with the simplest of props, and Sabawi’s poetry slips seamlessly into the characters’ dialogue, serving to highlight emotional moments. In some places it appears as a passionate soliloquy, as in Rami’s heart rending speech “what price a life?” But it is also there in the play’s frequent humorous moments, such as the Dr Zeuss style banter that Rami exchanges with his mother. This reference to a familiar Western poetic style serves to emphasize the gap between Rami’s and Jomana’s upbringing. We realise that Rami, in spite of his heritage, has more experience in common with the audience than he has with Jomana. The contrast is cleverly portrayed in a particularly riveting scene where Jomana is conversing with her father in Gaza, while Rami is simultaneously speaking to his mother in Texas, on either side of a dining table.. Read more
The Barefoot Review
Where there is a wall, there is also a city its inhabitants call home in the sacred and emotional way expected of communities deeply attached to their history and culture; especially those coping with just over half a century of war in all its guises and forms, greater or lesser, challenging their right to exist.
Samah Sabawi’s Tales of a City by The Sea is poetically beautiful, discerning and honest in its examination of life in Gaza.
No angry, politicised, locked in sensationalism to be found here, despite what has been said of this work during 2016. Sabawi’s play is an astutely balanced, modern appraisal of what it means to live as a Palestinian under siege. Read more…
Adelaide Theatre Guide
June 11, 2016
This is a tale of conflict and survival told principally through the stories of two couples during the 2008 Gaza war.
Jomana (Helen Sawires) is a Palestinian journalist in Gaza who meets American born Palestinian doctor, Rami, (Osamah Sami) who arrives on board one of small boats that breaks the Israeli blockade.
Ali (Reece Vella) and Lama (Emina Ashman) are residents of Gaza. He loves her but she’s unsure whether to marry him or not.
The play traces the development of these two relationships amid the death and destruction that is everyday life in Gaza.
Samah Sabawi has created a potent narrative that brims with raw examples of the reality of living under a hostile authority. She explores relationships and family values in a place where people fight to retain some sense of normality amid the daily death toll; where “funerals and weddings have become part of daily life”. Read more
We are pleased to announce that the cast and crew for the theatre production of Tales of a City by the Sea is now fully assembled. We are looking forward to finally staging this Palestinian story of love and separation in Melbourne. This play was written a few years ago during the aftermath of Israel’s assault on Gaza in 2008-2009. It was intended to be a celebration of a people’s ability to rise from the ashes of war. Never did we think that we’d be producing the play at a time when Gaza is living through yet another period of war and destruction.
This play was also scheduled to be staged in Gaza and in the West Bank in Arabic this year but we are still waiting to learn the fate of our Palestinian productions under these extreme and horrific circumstances. Our hearts go out to them as we begin our journey of bringing to life the voices and tales of that battered old city by the sea.
More updates and a full list of cast and crew will be posted later in the week. For now, here is a sneak preview:
By Samah Sabawi
I had the honor of receiving an advance copy of the book Gaza Writes Back: a collection of Short Stories from Young Writers in Gaza, Palestine, edited by Refaat Alareer. I found it to be a confronting, bold and intriguing book that takes us up close and personal into the minds of a young articulate Palestinian generation born stateless, under occupation and growing into adulthood under siege in one of the world’s most oppressed and dangerous environments.
This is a generation that is physically confined within Israel’s walls and emotionally scarred by Israel’s relentless bombings and incursions. Though the stories in the book are Palestinian, Israel’s presence is felt on every page. In fact, a few writers have even tried to enter the minds of Israeli soldiers by creating Israeli characters and trying to imagine how they think and how deeply they may regret their actions. It is as if reducing the IDF to human size, imagining them capable of fear, lament and guilt can help the writers overcome their own fear of the ‘other’.
In this book, the writers expresses anger at the uncertainty of life while at the same time they continue to cling to faith and hope. But make no mistake about it, unlike other works that romanticize Palestinian steadfastness or ‘summod’, this book intimately reveals a simple truth; steadfastness is not a deliberate choice or a romantic defiant act of resistance, it is simply a human instinct to survive.
The overwhelming voices of young female writers and their refined eloquence and capacity to express dissent not only challenges our stereotypical perception of Palestinians and women in Gaza in particular, but it also challenges the norms within Palestinian society itself. One can’t help but contrast this with the lack of young female presence in Palestinian official political circles.
Gaza Writes Back is a promise of a change in societal norms and a positive sign of what is to come. Despite the horror, the frustration, the physical and emotional scars, the voices of Gaza Writes Back have not given up on their ambitions and have not resigned their dreams for a better future.
Please note the book won’t be ready for shipping to readers till early January, however interested readers worldwide can place a pre-order at the Just World Books website and get free shipping for orders placed before Dec 31.
Read more about this project here
Posted on April 25.
It has become commonplace when reading about Gaza to come across descriptions of it as an “Islamist enclave” or “Hamas-controlled territory” and so on. In case someone exists who does not know what Hamas is all about, commentators make sure their readers understand that it is the “fundamentalist” group bent on the “destruction of Israel” and nothing else.
The Palestinians of Gaza, therefore, are often categorized as either ardent Hamas supporters or suppressed dissidents, including women, who receive the severest treatment imaginable, not only from the Hamas government, but also from misogynistic and backward average male residents. Such categorizations are then followed by sweeping generalizations about each of these stereotypes. Whereas the Hamas supporters consist of “terrorists” and “bloodthirsty barbarians,” the dissents are seen as peace-loving minorities who seek neighborly relations with Israel, the occupying entity.
A recent example of such portrayals can be found in a feature story published in The Independent on April 13. In “Tales from Gaza: What Is Life Really Like in ‘the World’s Largest Outdoor Prison’?” the author alledges to provides “a small snapshot into life in Gaza.” Before he proceeds, however, he assures us that what follows are “testimonies” by people “who can rarely get their voices heard.”
At the start of six interviews, the author makes clear that all of those featured are men not because that was his intention — he is a Westerner who believes in gender equality after all — but because in his two and a half days in Gaza, he could not find a woman willing to speak to him “independently.” In fact, the only occasion when he had the chance to speak to a woman, he tells us, was in the presence of a male guardian, the woman’s husband in this particular instance. Hence, while he was able to “give voice” to men, his attempts to do the same for women were all thwarted.
Such assertions play into Orientalist notions. This usually results from foreign journalists coming to Gaza with a set of preconceptions about the place and its people and then seeking to confirm them rather than verify them. While Gaza is, indeed, no haven for women or anyone else, there are thousands of educated women who are willing to speak for themselves and do so in every field, from medicine, theater, and politics to fishing and farming.
Just a few months ago, a play written by the renowned Palestinian writer Samah Sabawi was read at one of Gaza’s cultural centers, which continue to thrive despite Israel’s ceaseless attempts at cultural de-development. Nearly all the participants who performed the play were women, as was the case with the vast majority of the audience. They were not accompanied by husbands, brothers or fathers in order to attend or to perform.
Events like this, however, hardly ever make it into the mainstream media. Moreover, any mention of a considerable number of women going out without a hijab instantly provokes expressions of surprise by those who have only heard about Gaza through mainstream and particularly Western publications. To say women in Gaza are also allowed to drive would sound like a lie to many ears.
Women are not the only part of this story. To claim that Gaza is “Islamist” automatically dismisses the existence of the leftist and secular groups there, most of which denounce religion in its totality. Homogenizing “life in Gaza” could not be more obvious than in The Independent feature.
Of the six interviews the author conducted, one was with a Hamas official, while four were with blue-collar male workers, and the remaining one was with an unemployed man. Despite being at odds with Israel, five of them belong to the category of “ready to forget the past,” has no problem inviting former Israel prime minister Ariel Sharon for coffee, and even views Yitzhak Rabin — the man behind the Iron Fist that broke hundreds of bone in the lead up to and during the first Palestinian intifada — as a man of peace.
With the exception of the Hamas official, the interviewees followed suit in reiterating the same unconditional desire to achieve peace with Israel that one might think no other viewpoint existed. At the same time, they viewed Hamas as the primary source of their distress. Israel was seen as only secondary to their everyday ordeal.
That no evidence was provided to challenge the views in question suggests that there is none — just as the author claims to have found no women able to speak to him. Thus, portraying the residents of Gaza as a homogenous people who all experience life in the same way is condescending at best and Orientalist at worst. The views expressed in the article are undeniably extant but do not reflect the reality.
Israel, which has launched two deadly assaults on Gaza in less than five years, is rarely perceived as a friendly entity. The vast majority of the politicized and non-politicized segments of Gazan society are not ready to “forget the past” that continues to shape the lives of 1.1 million local Palestinians officially registered as refugees at the United Nations Relief and Works Agency.
Rana Baker is a student of business administration in Gaza and writes for the Electronic Intifada
This article appeared here: http://www.al-monitor.com/pulse/originals/2013/04/gaza-misconceptions-women.html#ixzz2RVnXaJdB
“Inch’Allah,” Anais Barbeau-Lavalette’s feature about Israel-Palestine, may be the strongest effort yet to convey the emotions of the supercharged struggle over land and dignity in the present period. For nearly a half-century, those who wanted justice in Palestine hoped that some representation of their narrative could reach the screen. They lived in the shadow, of course, of the epochal power of “Exodus,” probably the most effective propaganda film in world history. A great many years ago I recall Andrew Sarris telling a Columbia film class that the Palestinians were enthused when Jean-Luc Godard got funding to make a movie about their struggle, but were disappointed by the results. What they had in mind was something like a modern western, with the fedayeen in the role of heroic good guys, a project which was never really in the French auteur’s wheelhouse.
Numerous films have sought to convey something of the moral ambiguity of the struggle, including Steven Spielberg’s “Munich.” I haven’t seen Julian Schnabel’s “Miral,” based on the novel/memoir by Rula Jabreal, the story of an orphanage for Palestinian girls whose parents were killed at Deir Yassin. Many had high hopes for the film, perhaps because of the widely acknowledged talent, warmth, and celebrity of Schnabel, but for one reason or another the movie never really took off.
“Inch’Allah” can’t boast the star power of Jean-Luc Godard or Julian Schnabel; its director, Barbeau-Lavalette, is young and highly regarded in the Quebec film world, but not any sort of household name. But her movie deserves the hopes and access to screens granted to “Miral,” and more. It is a tough, gritty, and intense portrayal of Palestinian life under the occupation and the moral dilemmas faced by those—like the Canadian doctor played by the gorgeous Evelyne Brochu—who get involved trying to help them. The Palestinians, three generations ago a rural and pacific people, have been ghettoized and hardened. More than any movie I’ve seen, “Inch’Allah” conveys the something of the feel of Palestinian life, sarcastic and bitter in the younger generations, old-fashioned in the older ones, trying cope under a system of domination and control far more sophisticated than anything South Africans could dream up. Read more
Please join us for a panel discussion with videos and presentations by representatives from the Jenin Freedom Theatre in Palestine. The panelists will discuss the following:
Faisal Abu Alheja is 23-yr-old Palestinian actor trained at The Freedom Theatre in Jenin. He has performed in Animal Farm, Fragments of Palestine, Men in the Sun, Sho Kaman and is currently in rehearsal for The Island. Faisal was a member of the Playback Theatre troupe in 2012 and has toured in Germany, Austria, and Switzerland.
Ahmad Al-Rokh is a 24-yr-old Palestinian actor trained at The Freedom Theatre in Jenin. He has performed in Animal Farm, Men in the Sun, Journey, Sho Kaman and is also currently in rehearsal for The Island. Ahmad was a member of the Playback Theatre troupe in 2012 and has toured in Luxembourg, France, and Belgium.
Gary English is a Board of Trustees Distinguished Professor, Professor of Theatre, of the University of Connecticut. He is also the Founding Artistic Director of Connecticut Repertory Theatre, as well as the current Artistic Director of The Freedom Theatre in Jenin.
This event is co-presented by the Friends of the Jenin Freedom Theatre (www.thefreedomtheatre.org) and the Center for Palestine Studies at Columbia University and co-sponsored by the Network of Arab American Professionals – NY (NAAP-NY), ArteEast, and Alwan for the Arts.
This event is free and open to the public and on a first-come, first-seated basis. RSVP recommended to firstname.lastname@example.org.
APRIL 14, 2013, 5PM
Room 501 Schermerhorn
Enter Gates on 116th Street & Amsterdam or Broadway
For more information go to the Centre for Palestine Studies
Oday Khatib, the young Palestinian singer of Arabic classical music and protégé of Riverboat Records artist Ramzi Aburedwan, has been charged with stone-throwing, facing up to ten years in prison if he is convicted. Testimonials from around the world have been written in protest at the charge, from teachers and associates who know him, with many expressing a profound skepticism at the credibility of the charge.
Oday’s father, Jihad Khatib, claims that his son was arrested while waiting for a friend he was meeting for dinner, a victim of the indiscriminate nature of occupying forces in the West Bank. Talking to Musa Abuhashhash, a field worker for the Israeli human rights organization B’tselem, Jihad noted that nearby some youths were throwing stones, ‘and when the soldiers chased the kids, it did not come to his mind that the soldiers would go for him. Otherwise he would have run away.’
Born and raised in the Al Fawwar refugee camp near Hebron, Oday had never been arrested before and had always been known for his singular dedication to music, gaining a reputation for his interpretations of Palestinian protest songs from an early age. ‘Oday is not interested in throwing stones or getting involved in this. Since he was nine years old he was interested only in music’, his father said.
As a teenager Oday became celebrated as the star singer of Aburedwan’s Ramallah-based Association Al Kamandjâti, an orchestra set up to provide access to music for Palestinian children under occupation in the West Bank. He has since toured internationally with a number of ensembles, including Al Kamandjâti, as well as participating in music education and outreach projects in Europe.
Julia Katarina, the British Mezzo-Soprano who put her opera career on hold to teach voice lessons at Al Kamandjâti for three years, was among many musicians from around to voice her support for Oday: ‘He is very generous with his art, and just loves singing beyond all else! He is a true singer, and I imagine the only way he is surviving prison is by singing. I hope he sings in the military court,’ Julia writes, because if Oday’s accusers can find ‘an ounce of humanity in their hearts, they will release him.’
Such a prospect appears unlikely, however; according to the author and blogger Sandy Tolan, in 2010 the conviction rate in military trials for such alleged offenses was about 399 out of 400, a figure accompanied by a growing clamour among settler communities in the West Bank to have stone-throwing treated as akin to live fire by the IDF.
Support Association Al Kamandjâti: http://www.alkamandjati.com/en/home/
Follow Sandy Tolan’s blog: http://ramallahcafe.com/
This article appeared on World Music Network
By: Dalia Hatuqa for Al-Monitor Palestine Pulse. Posted on April 3
In a land where space is limited, and public parks and gardens are few and far between, a Bethlehem-based mother of two is working on opening a museum for children — who comprise more than 40% of the Palestinian population — with a special focus on green living and sustainability.
Drawing inspiration from visits to children’s museums across the globe, Layla Kaiksow has a one-of-a-kind museum in mind for Palestinian children — one that can help them not only learn about sustainability and conservation, but also get them immersed in their culture away from the confines of theclassroom.
“In Palestine, people are conscious of the environment in many ways, but in a lot of other ways they are not,” Kaiksow said. “Traditionally, Palestinians have not been a wasteful people, but as things ‘developed,’ trash became rampant and conservation isn’t exercised as it once was. We need to plant green ideas in children’s heads from the outset.”
Plans for the new museum — expected to open in the summer of 2014 — are still at an early stage. The museum, which targets children between the ages of one to 12, as well as their families and educators, is slated to not only be environmentally friendly, but also culturally rooted.
The exhibits will be designed to teach children about local culture and traditions, shedding light on the environment and sustainability, and garnering more interest for math and sciences away from the traditional methods being used in schools.
A water exhibit is also in the making so children can learn about why this precious resource is particularly coveted in the region, along with instructions on how to use it sparingly. “We are not shying away from politics in the museum,” Kaiksow said. “But it’s also not our focus, so we may teach the kids some political facts on a basic level.”
The museum is being created using the “only local” toolkit outlined by the Madison Children’s Museum, known for its commitment to sustainability and community collaboration. This means that during its foundation, local architects, curators and exhibition designers will be hired, and local and recyclable materials will be used whenever possible.
For the math and science exhibitions, the museum is teaming up with Al-Nayzak, a local organization that focuses on encouraging scientific innovation among young Palestinians. Shams/Ard, Palestine’s first green design firm, will be building the museum’s furniture (and some of the exhibitions) out of discarded, recycled or locally produced materials. “The aim of this museum is to teach children through play about green concepts and sustainability, among other things,” said Danna Masad, one of the Shams/Ard architects.
As part of the museum’s vision to promote the use of sustainable energy and support the prevalence of green ideas in the Palestinian territories, unconventional methods will be used during the renovation and building phase. This includes setting up a geothermal heating and cooling system in the building, as well as installing a solar energy and grey wastewater treatment system. There are plans to also operate a mobile museum in the form of a bus running on bio-diesel in the months following the museum’s opening.
The exhibits will be designed with Palestinian culture in mind, using objects made in cities like Hebron, known for its glass and traditional ceramics, and Bethlehem, where hand-stitched embroidery is made. With that in mind, one of the workshops envisioned will include a station where kids can make their own embroidery using felt and glue. Another is an arithmetic exhibit where children can learn about the traditional process of making ceramics, and stack plates as they solve math problems.
An old historic villa that’s just a few streets away from Manger Square and the Church of the Nativity was chosen to house the museum. An architecture firm that restores historic buildings throughout Bethlehem will renovate the house. The structure itself was chosen for its proximity to the city’s religious sites and its vaulted ceilings, large windows, arched doors and spacious backyard where an old pine tree provides shade over what is to become a large play area.
While the renovation of the building is being funded by the Russian government, the museum itself has so far only received funds from individual donors. A Kickstarter campaign is in the works for the summer and the long-term goal is to form an endowment for the museum. In the meantime, the museum is aiming for individual donations and grant monies.
Kaiksow is hoping that the museum will attract Palestinian children from all over the territories and from inside Israel. She envisions that, with the right exhibitions, the museum will be a destination for educators interested in teaching children through interaction and creativity.
This article appeared at AlMonitor
Dalia Hatuqa is a contributing writer for Al-Monitor‘s Palestine Pulse. A print and broadcast journalist specializing in the Middle East, she is based in the West Bank city of Ramallah and writes for several publications about politics, the economy, culture, art and design. On Twitter: @DaliaHatuqa.
Ramzi Aburedwan was one such child, who grew up in the refugee camp of Al Amari near Ramallah. At the tender age of 8, he witnessed his best friend being killed during an Israeli military operation. He then found himself throwing stones during the first Intifada and as a street combatant Aburedwan seemed destined for an Israeli prison or a Palestinian martyr’s poster. But fate decided to intervene.
At 17, he was invited to a music workshop in Al Bireh, adjacent to Ramallah, where he fell in love with the art and started to learn to play the viola. Replacing stones with a musical instrument led to a journey of channelling his anger into creativity and of personal transformation.
After studying for a year at the Edward Said National Conservatory of Music (ESNCM) in Ramallah and thereafter attending a summer workshop in the United States — at the Apple Hill Centre for Chamber Music of New Hampshire — he enrolled at the Conservatoire National de Region d’Angers.
In 2000 Ramzi created the ensemble “Dal’Ouna”, music that symbolised the link between East and West. It flowed from an encounter between Palestine and France, from the melting of pure traditional Middle Eastern songs with mixed jazzy compositions, played on Western classical musical instruments (viola, violin, clarinet, flute, guitar, piano), and traditional Eastern instruments (bouzouk, oud, darbouka, bendir, etc).
In 2005, he was awarded the “DEM” gold medal for viola, chamber music and music theory. While in France, he also learnt to play the piano.
Yearning to share his knowledge and experience, and inspire a new generation of Palestinians, by helping their anger and frustrations find musical expression, Aburedwan established Al Kamandjâti (The Violin) in October 2002. It was to be the place where Palestinian children and youth could learn music and develop their culture.
In August 2005, Riwaq, the Palestinian architectural organisation engaged in conservation and rehabilitation, completed the renovation of the Al Kamandjâti Music Centre in the old city of Ramallah and it was here that Aburedwan launched his nonprofit musical enterprise, funded mainly by European donors.
Taking music to the people, Al Kamandjâti set up music schools for Palestinian children in various cities, villages and refugee camps. These music schools offer children the opportunity to learn to play music, to discover their cultural heritage as well as other musical cultures, but above all to explore their creative potential.
In addition, Al Kamandjâti produces numerous concerts and several music festivals throughout the year as part of its mission to bring music to all Palestinians.
Aburedwan explains the rationale: “Perhaps the least recognised effect of the violent Israeli occupation on the lives of Palestinian people is the undermining of culture, art and leisure. When a regime wants to weaken a people, it uses psychological, cultural and physical means. It attempts to erase tangible evidence of that people’s unique cultural heritage. Our struggle must be cultural and militant, artistic and political, and economic. But on no account should we forget the primary reason behind the projects and activities led by Al Kamandjâti, which is to educate children, who suffer most from the unjust politico-economic situation.
“We cannot afford to sit back and wait for favourable political decisions which would establish a Palestinian State,” he says. “We must proactively work on galvanising Palestinian cultural life. We must give our children the opportunity to think beyond soldiers and tanks. They must think creatively, not about the destruction of their country, but about rebuilding their way of life and future.”
In the West Bank, Al Kamandjâti today provides music training to around 500 students in places such as the Al Amari, Jalazon, Qalandiah and Qaddura refugee camps, the village of Deir Ghassana, the old cities of Ramallah and Jenin, and in Tulkarem.
Since 2005, Al Kamandjâti, with ten French musicians, has also organised annual music workshops in the Palestinian refugee camps of Lebanon, where, today, they have 60 students at Bourj el Barajneh and Shatilla.
In Palestine, Al Kamandjâti employs 22 musicians who teach violin, viola, cello, guitar, flute, clarinet, oboe, bassoon, trombone, trumpet, saxophone, piano, accordion, oud, nay, Arabic percussion, orchestra, singing, harmony, choir, improvisation and music theory.
“Music is a universal language,” Aburedwan says. “We encourage Palestinians to use this artistic tool to harmonise and enrich their cultural life, promoting international awareness and recognition of the Palestinian nation.
“Through music, Al Kamandjâti seeks to show that education and culture can transcend and overcome the Israeli violence from which Palestinians suffer,” he adds. “Learning music provides children with a form of expression to channel their energy creatively and constructively. Are not today’s children tomorrow’s adults? Classical music is, for the children, a discovery. We introduce each one to an instrument. Moreover, these workshops enable children to gather in a disciplined setting, whether as neighbours or friends or new acquaintances”.
Many young international musicians have been working at Al Kamandjâti, discovering music and a practical approach to mastering various instruments with Palestinian children. Jason Crompton came from New Jersey four years ago to visit his sister in occupied Jerusalem and after learning about Al Kamandjâti, he stayed on to teach piano and conduct the orchestra. He learnt Arabic to communicate with the children and eventually married a fellow teacher from Italy, Madeleine, who teaches the flute and also works with UNRWA schools in the refugee camps around Ramallah. They have a child and now live in Ramallah.
“The feeling of sharing in the musical experience with anyone who wishes to indulge is special and we believe that we belong here,” Crompton says.
Their story lends credence to the oft-held belief that music transcends both borders and barriers. At Al Kamandjâti, it has been an enriching experience for both the Palestinian children and the teachers of many nationalities.
Not only does Al Kamandjâti teach Palestinian children how to play music, it also teaches some of them how to repair, maintain and tune instruments.
Shehadeh, a young man who has been involved in setting up a local lute-making workshop, spent three months in Italy with stringed-instrument makers who had previously been to Palestine, learning to repair and make instruments. Today his workshop adjoins the Al Kamandjâti building in Ramallah.
Al Kamandjâti organises The Music Days Festival in June, in partnership with the French Cultural Centres Network. The festival lasts 12 days and takes place in more than ten Palestinian cities. A Baroque Music Festival follows in December and various churches in the cities of the West Bank and occupied Jerusalem host it.
Al Kamandjâti also engages in exchange programmes abroad with partner organisations. Some students have been given the opportunity to take part in music workshops abroad to improve their technical skills. Khalil, the coordinator, explains, “We had nine students who completed their scholarships in France last year — in violin, percussion, bass, clarinet and guitar, and two of them learnt how to fix string-section instruments.
“We have two blind brothers, Mohammad and Jihad, who today teach percussion and oud at the Helen Keller Centre in [occupied] Jerusalem,” he adds.
Today, Al Kamandjâti stands for Aburedwan’s transformation from a stone-pelter to a viola player and his dream of sharing his knowledge and experience with his people, bringing joy to the children growing up in refugee camps and under occupation.
This article appeared on http://www.albawaba.com/entertainment/palestine-camps-music-479027
By Samah Sabawi
Gaza is one of the most reported on and yet least understood places on earth. Its mere mention conjures up images of war victims, war criminals, piles of rubble, militants with guns, dead children and weeping mothers. A simple google search will bring up disturbing images of heart break, terror and destruction. But all of this is an infliction on a place that has neither surrendered its identity nor lost its beauty to decades of violent Israeli occupation.
Gaza is a city of many tales. While some are about loss, grief and misery, many others are about enduring love, triumphant moments, tenacity, passion, music and hope that lives beyond the confines of the siege and the occupation. If you dig deeper than the negative headlines and the devastating news reports you will find many pleasant surprises. You can take a walk along Gaza’s gorgeous fields, enjoy its magical sunsets, get to know its warm people, visit its ancient sites and eat its delicious dishes. You will find in Gaza everything that would make you love life with a passion! So join me here to explore some of Gaza’s unknown side.
There is a common belief that Gaza’s art scene is all but dead. While it may be true that art in general is not a great priority for the people in Gaza who are too concerned with bigger financial and political issues, Gazan artists continue to create and to excel in their fields. There is also an appreciation of the need to encourage art in children starting from a young age.
One establishment worthy of salutation for supporting the arts is the Qattan Centre for the Child in Gaza. This cultural centre is an oasis for the hearts and the minds of children. Equipped with a large library painted in vibrant colors and comfortable eye soothing furniture the QCC in Gaza focuses on developing the children emotionally and intellectually through visual art, music, education, cultural events and much more.
Below are some images of the QCC in Gaza. Keep in mind all of the paintings you’ll see in some of these photos were in fact painted by children under 15 years of age at the centre.
The Qattan center was built on land donated by the Gaza municipality and has succeeded in meeting its goal of creating an educational and stimulating space for children and their caregivers. Parents are encouraged to join their children in the library, engage with them over art and craft activities, or just watch them proudly as they perform their song and dance routines.
Membership at the QCC is free of charge to all children in Gaza from all walks of life and some of the classes offered charge a small symbolic fee. Many of the events are also free of charge such as the concerts captured in the video below that took place as part of the winter camp activities in January 2013. In this video below you’ll see a variety of instruments, you’ll hear music of both Arab and western origins ranging from Gershwin to Darweesh.
Also worthy of special salutation is the Gaza Music School and its incredible teachers and talented children. The children featured in the next video are nine years of age. They are very dedicated to the art they practice in spite of all the challenges they face including Israel’s bombardment of the Gaza Music School in 2009.
The Gaza Strip is densely populated mostly by refugees who fled Israel’s war of ethnic cleansing in 1948 and have not been allowed to return to their homes since. As the population continues to grow in the besieged strip the natural landscape changes to make way for more cement structures and buildings to accommodate this growth.
However, population growth is not the only challenge facing Gaza’s green spaces. Agricultural land is shrinking as Israel usurps more of Gaza’s water supplies and if that’s not enough, Israel’s siege, blockade, frequent bombardment and occasional land incursions have left their mark on many of Gaza’s farming land. A recommended report that sheds great light on this is the UNISPAL report Farming without Land, Fishing without Water.
Below are two pics of bombed trees in our farm in Gaza. The first depicts a tree totally uprooted from the power of a one ton bomb blast. The second photo depicts a tree that was uprooted from the blast, flew in the air and actually landed straight on top of another tree.
Despite all of the challenges and the uncertainties of Israel’s incursions and bombings, some farmers have insisted on maintaining their land. When visiting their farms you get a sense of what Gaza’s landscape looked like before Israel’s war of ethnic cleansing began. You can imagine how before the refugees were chased into the far corners of their homeland to settle into camps under occupation, how most of Gaza’s natural landscape would have looked like.
Perhaps the most important feature of Gaza is its sea. It is the only landscape that remains unchanged, unaffected by the occupation and the aggression. The sea is an open recreational space that is free of charge. For Gazan families the sea is a cure for all of life’s problems.
Finally, no matter where you go to in Palestine, you will always be overwhelmed with warm hospitality and great food. Gaza is no different. Here are some pics of some of my favourite dishes, but if you’re looking for a more comprehensive list along with recepies I highly recommend you visit The Gaza Kitchen. Bon appétit or as they say in Gaza Saha we afya!
Palestinian artists at this year’s Venice Biennale showcase installations tackling issues such as alienation, identity and conflict.
Monday 11 Mar 2013
‘Otherwise Occupied’, an exhibition of Palestinian artwork at the 55th edition of the prestigious Venice Biennale, will be held from 29 May until 30 June, presenting a neutral space in which Palestinian artists can showcase their art.
The exhibition is organised by The Palestinian Art Court (Al Hoash), a Jerusalem based non-profit organization seeking to develop Palestinian visual arts as a tool for expression and communication, and curated by Bruce Ferguson, Dean of the School of Humanities and Social Science at the American University in Cairo. Bruce Ferguson and Al Hoash director Rawan Sharaf, will feature the work of two globally acclaimed Palestinian artists; Bashir Makhoul and Aissa Deebi as part of the exhibition.
“’Otherwise Occupied’ describes other ways of imagining the nation outside and beyond the conflict; it is therefore a means of artistic and critical thinking through the de-territorialization of Palestine,” reads the curatorial statement.
Both Palestine-born artists have emigrated, yet continue to create artwork abroad that somehow redefines their roots. Both artists are “in continuous search of new ways to imagine the nation from a distance,” according to the the press release.
UK based artist and head of the Winchester School of Arts at Southampton University, Bashir Makhoul, will exhibit a large-scale installation project entitled “Giardino Occupato” at this year’s Venice Biennale. Thousands of cardboard boxes, assembled by members of the public during the show, will be shown in the garden of the Liceo Artistico Statale di Venezia, simulating a shanty town, or refugee camp, probing questions regarding the spaces and shelters that have emerged in the wake of conflict and occupation.
While Makhloul is occupied with raising questions about the impact of war on the livelihoods of people, his work often offers political critiques on various issues, Aissa Deebi is more concerned with issues of cultural-migration, his work investigating notions of alienation and identity. Deebi is based between Cairo and New York, and is currently the Director of the Visual Cultures Program at the American University in Cairo.
In ‘Otherwise Occupied‘, Deebi exhibits a series of drawings, and an installation recreating a speech by the Palestinian citizen of Israel, Daoud Turki, who tried “to advance an idea against the paranoid Zionist fantasy of conflict toward the larger idea of a socialist class struggle, proclaiming solidarity with ‘…all workers, peasants and those persecuted in Israeli society.'”
This article first appeared here .
This post is also available in: Dutch
Over the last weeks, The Palestinian Circus School has been performing in Belgium in various locations, offering a show around the theme ‘Kol Saber!’ The travelling company of performers from Ramallah, Palestine differs from the traditional circus setting with the large tent and animal acts. However, classic circus acts such as acrobatics and tightrope walking do form a part of their show, albeit choreographed in a special way and embedded in a story. The young Palestinian people actually use the circus to tell their story to the world.
The Palestinian Circus School was established in 2006 by the Belgian Jessika Devlieghere and her Palestinian husband Shadi Zmorrod. The school teaches around 170 children and young people 9-27 years of age in different parts of the occupied Palestinian territories. Shadi Zmorrod is the former artistic director of the Jewish Jerusalem Circus and started the circus school when the circus refused to take in Palestinian children. The project is a form of cultural resistance against the occupation and the daily threats. The school aims to offer children a solid and safe haven where they can escape the depressing daily reality, just like a real circus family would do. A place that allows them to explore their creativity and develop social and psychological skills. An artistic world in which they can discover fun, embrace hope, create a positive self-image and learn to work in a team.
Kol Saber – © Veronique Vercheval
More than a school
Some of the early students became local trainers themselves in the basic techniques of acrobatics, juggling, trapeze, flower sticks, pois and clowning. They went on to tour refugee camps in the occupied territories with surprising performances. They also performed abroad, in France and Belgium. One of these trainers is Fadi Zmorrod. “I’ve never done anything like circus acts before I started. After three weeks of intensive training I was amazed at the physical capabilities I turned out to have. It’s therapy. I use it to release tension. ” Young students learning more about their culture, and how to trust others, makes the circus school more than just a school. “We went to other cities. The hardest thing I encountered were the many checkpoints, because they made me nervous. But I also learned more about my culture. We had to get rid of some old ideas like ‘men are stronger’ and ‘girls have more fun.’ For example , touching eachother is prohibited. We have to be physical but without touching eachother. The trust factor is also at play. Girls have less confidence. We learn about gender roles and empowerment. “
The youngsters needed something to look forward to in order to take life into their own hands. The circus school enables them to do just that, without having to live in constant fear. According to Noor Abu Rob, one of the young artists, growing up was difficult. “We only had the streets to live in and sometimes we couldn’t go to school because of a curfew. For me, circus is an open world. I can express myself better through the circus than through words. “
Kol Saber – © Lucia Ahmad
Kol Saber – © Veronique Vercheval
When they first performed in Belgium the shows theme was ‘Circus behind the wall’. The performance was based on the Palestinians’ daily lives, in which the notion of separation is central. The title refers to the wall that separates the Palestinian territories from Israel. The Palestinian Circus wants to teach the public about communication through juggling and clowning acts. This time around they performed their new contemporary circus production ‘Kol Saber!’. The production centers on the various realities of streetlife, a story of the ongoing challenge to escape the external power holding sway over their lives.
‘Kol Saber!’ literally means ‘Eat (the sweet fruit of) the cactus!’, but figuratively speaking ‘Eat patience!’, and tells the story of young people waiting for a change in their society. They try everything and keep believing in hope but finally have to accept the fact their lives will remain the same.
The 14 december show in the De Roma concert hall in Borgerhout was overshadowed by the death of the 17-year-old Mohammad Ziad Al-Salaymeh, one of the students of the Palestinian Circus School. He was shot and killed near a checkpoint by an IDF soldier on his birthday. Mohammad went out to buy a birthday cake and came under fire because the soldiers suspected him to be carrying a gun. Later the Israeli newspaper Haaretz reported he had been carrying a toy gun. That news devastated both performers and founders of the travelling company. Jessika Devlieghere held an emotional speech and the young artists dedicated the show to Mohammad al-Salaymeh and the many other innocent victims. It was not the first time that candles were lit. In 2008 they did the same, observing a minute’s silence. The young artists hope this is the last time.
Ahmad Abu Taleb – © Vince Buyssens
Ahmad Abu Taleb (21) from Jenin has been performing in the Palestinian Circus for 4,5 years now. “For me, the circus is a way to tell my story and that of the Palestinian people in a creative way and to show it to the world. We recently lost our colleague Mohammad al-Salaymeh. No matter how many atrocities we experience, we will find the power to perform over and over again. Because for every Mohammad who dies by Israeli violence, we are performing even more passionately on stage.”
As has been said, the performance was far from a traditional circus show, but rather a profound story poetically told by means of dance and circus techniques like juggling, aerial acrobatics, balancing acts and jumps. With coats dancing for life, diverging and converging, fighting and living, in a tense context, until a mysterious coat falls from the sky and change the rules of the game. ‘Kol Saber!’ portrays the conflicting life between the bitter realities imposed by the occupation and the sweet and colorful dream of the bereaved sea.
Kol Saber – © Lucia Ahmad
The project gives the students a sense of dignity and is a way to prevent becoming a victim in a dehumanizing conflict, allowing them, on the contrary, to be proud to be Palestinian.
Artists: Ahmed Abu Taleb, Fadi Zmorrod, Mohammed Abu Taleb, Mohammed Abu Sakha and Noor Abu Rob
Directed by Shadi Zmorrod
Costume design: Fadila Aalouchi
More information: http://www.palcircus.ps/
Written by Malikka Bouaissa – Asma Ould Aissa
This article first appeared in al.arte.magazine