In Daily Review: Fine theatre well worth watching!

“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.”

Stephen Davenport

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…



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:


Hon. Gordon Rich-Phillips MLC

Thursday, 12 December 2013


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,

No Time for the Olive Branch: In conversation with Palestinian artist Samia Halaby whose work is exhibited at London’s Ayyam Gallery until November 30, 2013.

Written by 
Saturday, 26 Oct, 2013
Samia Halaby, Sunrise Green (Courtesy: Ayyam Gallery)

Samia Halaby
“Sunrise Green”
(Courtesy of the Ayyam Gallery)

In her words, Palestinian artist and academic Samia Halaby has the defiance of the Palestinian writers Ghassan Kanafani and Mahmud Darwish and the activism of 1970s New York. She is in London for her work, and yet she does not feel beholden to any critic. Years of jousting with cut-throat New York art critics has taught her not to care for the gatekeepers of culture—you either like her work or you don’t.

Critics might accuse the majority of the Palestinian diaspora’s work as being political, and by implication less worthy of praise. But Halaby embraces the label. “Semantics!” she says to The Majalla, “Don’t be fooled: everything we do is political. Staying silent is political . . . Yes, my art is political.” In fact, Samia Halaby is the walking embodiment of political. She is the Palestinian experience in the flesh—an exile, an activist, a rebel—and she is not going to compromise now.

Samia Halaby was born in 1936 in mandated Jerusalem to an established Arab Christian. Her father was a self-made man who established an importing business, subsequently moving the family to Jaffa. Her memories of this period are idyllic: attending British colonial school, green hedges, a busy port city, and fresh fish being brought in from the blue ocean. She also remembers being huddled up in her home as men dashed in with buckets of water and blood trickling down the floor. She remembers the tanks entering Jaffa, oppressive British rule, and Eastern European Jews coming to the Holy Land. She talks of how Arabs in pre-mandate Jerusalem saw themselves as Syrian Arabs, and felt a close affinity to Damascus and Baghdad. Despite having a US passport, Halaby sees herself as a Palestinian Arab belonging to a greater Arab world. Though pan-Arab in many ways, she does not relate herself to the pan-Arabism of Nasser, but rather one which recognizes the cultural milieu of her forefathers. She recognizes that despite her loss of faith, she grew up Christian in a mostly Muslim environment, and appreciates all aspects of those faiths—yet her art is her own.

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Exhibition of paintings by pioneering Palestinian artist Samia Halaby opens at Ayyam Gallery in London

LONDON.- Ayyam Gallery London presents an exhibition of paintings by pioneering Palestinian artist Samia Halaby, who is widely credited with inspiring the new school of abstraction in contemporary Arab art. Parallel to her artistic career, Halaby is an active political campaigner for Palestine, as well as a scholar who has been instrumental to the documentation of Palestinian art, publishing her landmark text ‘Liberation Art of Palestine: Palestinian Painting and Sculpture in the Second Half of the 20th Century’ in 2002.

Samia Halaby, Pink Clouds, 2013, Acrylic on Linen Canvas, 183 x 152.5 cm.

Over the past fifty years, Halaby has built upon historical abstraction in painting, such as that of the Russian Constructivists, merging this with traditional Arabic arts and Islamic architecture. Her rich and varied oeuvre is characterised by a compelling energy and an unceasing commitment to experimentation; in the mid 1980s, Halaby taught herself computer programming in order to create a series of digital kinetic paintings with sound later using her programmes to perform live with percussionists. At the age of 77, she continues to produce work that challenges conventional approaches to painting and this latest exhibition at Ayyam Gallery London displays new abstraction emblematic of her innovative approach.

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Artspace London announces upcoming show ‘From Palestine With Hope’ featuring works by Jeffar Khaldi and Tarek Al‐Ghoussein

June 12, 2013

Wall Street International Magazine

From Palestine With Hope

Jeffar Khaldi, Me Laden and My Middle, 2010-2013, 106cm x 135cm, Oil on Canvas

Artspace London is thrilled to announce the upcoming show, From Palestine With Hope, featuring works by Jeffar Khaldi and Tarek Al‐Ghoussein. From Palestine With Hope will challenge the viewers’ perceptions of the human costin Palestine, as well as their attitudes towards the reality of the consequences of conflict. Artspace London believes that art can nurture hope and peace and this wish for Palestine is strongly seen through the works of Khaldi and Al‐Ghoussein.

Both artists have different styles, yet the major theme of a never‐ending belief in a Palestinian homeland is striking in both their works. From Palestine With Hope comes at a time when many Palestinians are looking to the future for a life free from aggression, occupation, and conflict.

20% of the sales proceeds from From Palestine with Hope will be directly donated to Medical Aid for Palestinians (MAP). Established in the aftermath of the 1982 massacre of Palestinian civilians at the Sabra and Shatila refugee camp in Lebanon, MAP works towards re‐establishing the health and dignity of Palestinians living under occupation and as refugees. MAP is an international, non‐governmental, independent, non‐ political, non‐religious organization. It is with great honour that Artspace London is collaborating on this exhibition with MAP.

Palestinian artist Jeffar Khaldi (b. 1964) was born and raised in Lebanon. Before moving to Dubai in 1995, he studied architecture and interior design in the United States. In his works, Khaldi draws upon his multi‐cultural and diverse upbringing and merges his own experiences and memories with those of the Palestinian people. However, Khaldi is adamant that his work is by no means meant to be political nor does he want to force his opinion onto the viewer – he is more concerned about leading the viewers to draw their own conclusions through the political, social and contemporary images that he uses.

“I am not a political artist but I believe that art must have depth and meaning and should make people think. This work is not just about me and the history of my homeland. It is about making people aware of the past so that we can learn from it and not allow anybody to take advantage of our ignorance.”

With his theatrical use of wit, intelligence, emotion and pop culture imagery, Khaldi’s works successfully questions various notions that are commonly accepted or refuted – depending on the viewer’s own beliefs.

Tarek Al‐Ghoussein (b. 1962) was born in Kuwaitto Palestinian/Kuwaiti parents. Al‐Ghoussein moved to the USA for his BFA in Photography at New York University, and continued his studies with an MA in Photography at theUniversity of New Mexico. Al‐Ghoussein’s early experiences as a photo journalist has affected how he confronts his artistic output and, currently working as a professor of photography, has placed his conceptual and forward‐thinking compositions ahead of many Arab photographers working today.

In the last 15 years while living in the United Arab Emirates, Al‐Ghoussein has witnessed tremendous change that has challenged his understanding of what is meant by the term identity. “Since 2003 I have explored various aspects of “identity” through my work as a photographer. The rapid transformation of the UAE has been a catalyst and starting point for an investigation into issues related to my own personal relation to land and place.”

From Palestine With Hope will present paintings, photography, and mixed media works in a manner to provide a beacon of hope and reassurance that contemporary Palestinian art and charity has a place in the hearts and minds of viewers, collectors and enthusiasts.

7 Milner Street
London SW3 2QA United Kingdom
Ph. +44 (0)20 75895499

Opening hours
Tuesday – Friday from 10am to 6pm
Saturday from 10am to 4pm

This article appeared here



Palestinian Singer Gives Rare Concert in Gaza

Posted on April 30.

“I’m even happier than I appear.” With these words, Palestinian artist Reem Talhami began the concert to launch her first album in Gaza City, a place where musical concerts have typically been banned since Hamas came to power. She received warm applause from the audience, which swayed in delight to the beat of two songs that she sang from the new album, “Carried by the Night.”

The album features 10 songs. The lyrics were written by Gazan poet Khaled Jumaa, and Saeed Murad composed the melodies. Talhami sang these songs, which primarily aim to describe Gaza, she told Al-Monitor, “as we see it and as we hope for it to be, far removed from the news reports that only contain killing and destruction in this ancient city.”

Talhami noted, “The words of these songs are far removed from killing, destruction, war and bombing. They take you to a wider horizon and another space, filled with love and hope, as seen by the writer and as we all wish to see.”

Talhami was born in the Arab Israeli city of Shefa-Amr. She studied singing at the Rubin Institute in Jerusalem, where she currently resides, for five years, graduating in 1996. She has participated in a number of local and international festivals, singing songs that primarily express Palestinian heritage and nationalism.

On why she selected Gaza City to launch her first album, Talhami said, “In recent years, I’ve noticed that, whether intentionally or not, Gaza and Gazan intellectuals have been marginalized in Arab and Palestinian cultural activities. Through my participation in these activities, I found that Gaza was absent. So, through this album, I wanted to express my absolute rejection of this marginalization of Gaza City, a city I love.”

Since the imposition of the Israeli blockade, the Gaza Strip has been characterized by a state of cultural stagnation. This is due to the difficulty artists and intellectuals have faced traveling between the West Bank and Gaza through the Rafah crossing since the first years of the blockade. This is compounded by the pressures resulting from the political divide between Fatah and Hamas.

Talhami explained, “It was a great honor for me to be a part of this artistic work, which was in preparation for two and half years before now being revealed to the public. I am very proud of it. Although I wanted to record the album in a studio in Gaza, circumstances prevented us from doing that.” She described as “shameful” the West BankGaza political divide and lamented the inability of the Palestinian people, “who have confronted various challenges,” to force politicians to reach a compromise to restore unity between the two parts of the nation.

Those attending the Gaza concert, mostly youths, of both genders, swayed to Talhami’s songs at times and applauded at others. The joy was apparent in their faces.

Ahmed Rizaq, 21, was one of those in attendance, listening intently to the words and music and applauding warmly. He said to Al-Monitor, “I’m here so that I can live in the Gaza I want and desire. We have been lacking these types of cultural and artistic activities. My presence here and listening to the lyrics of Talhami’s songs helps me to confront the difficulties we face in Gaza.”

Rahaf al-Batniji, 22, agreed with Rizaq, and offered that it was the first time she had attended a concert with singing of this kind. These songs left a notable impression on her psyche, which has endured political and psychological pressures in her daily life.

Reem Talhami sings “Gaza Bitghanni”

She told Al-Monitor, “What we see and hear today is an exception. This is not the reality we live. Every time I’ve left the country I’ve made an effort to attend a musical concert. I’m amazed today to see a small concert in Gaza City.”

Since taking power, the Hamas-led government in Gaza has typically banned all private music concerts. They justify the ban by arguing that the concerts do not reflect the “customs and traditions” of the Palestinian people.

Speaking to Al-Monitor, Talhami directed a message to the government in Gaza: “Everyone must realize that goal-oriented singing is a means of resistance. Our battle today with the Israeli occupation is a cultural battle, not another type of battle.”

Following the concert to launch her album, held in the courtyard of the French Cultural Center, she said, “I think that differences of opinion do not undermine the entire cause. The Palestinian people are simple. They love art and singing. I think that it’s an integral part of our culture, which reflects Palestinians and is a part of the primary struggle.”

Hazem Balousha is a Palestinian journalist based in Gaza City. He has worked as a news producer for BBC World Service, as well as contributed to Deutsche Welle, The Guardian, Al-Raya (Qatar) and other publications. Balousha covered Israel’s Operation Cast Lead in Gaza in 2008 and the conflict between Fatah and Hamas in 2007. He is also the founder of the Palestinian Institute for Communication and Development (PICD) and has a master’s degree in international relations and a BA in journalism. On Twitter: @iHaZeMi

This article appeared in Al-Monitor


Boston Event: World-renowned Palestinian artist Samia Halaby presents ‘The Art of Palestine’ on April 27, 2013

The Boston Palestine Film Festival announces that world-renowned Palestinian artist Samia Halaby will give a presentation entitled The Art of Palestine on April 27, 2013.  For information visit Boston Palestine Film Festival.