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,

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.


History told through art: Palestinian scholarship student Bisan Abu Eisheh makes his mark in London through his unique exhibits.

By Denise Marray

 Gulf Times

When ordinary household objects are taken out of context and displayed under glass as exhibits in an art gallery, they look alien and misplaced. But each of these simple utensils has a history and when the history is told they acquire a quite unexpected poignancy.

Bisan Abu Eisheh is the young Palestinian artist who made it his business to collect the objects from the rubble of houses bulldozed by the Israeli authorities as illegal structures built without planning permission. So the objects taken from demolished houses are symbolic of shattered family homes and who knows what heartbreak, anger and despair they represent.

“The house demolitions are part of an Israeli government plan to minimise the percentage of Arabs who live in the city of Jerusalem and accommodate the settlements which are expanding,” he explains.

Bisan is a Palestinian conceptual artist who is the first recipient of a scholarship awarded by the Caspian Arts Foundation. The foundation is a not-for-profit organisation set up to provide scholarships for students from the Mena (Middle East and North Africa) region who wish to pursue their post-graduate studies in Fine Arts, Film Photography or Fashion at one of the leading colleges that comprise the University of the Arts London.

Bisan is now undertaking a two year MA in Fine Art at Central Saint Martins College of Art and Design in London. He recalled the moment when he was told he had been awarded the scholarship. “It was a real pleasure and honour for me,” he says.

On arriving at St Martins he became even more appreciative of the excellent grounding in the arts he had received at the International Academy of Art in Palestine. “It was a very good four years preparation for me and I was very proud of my background because it was very diverse and we were introduced to lots of concepts and ideas and received many tutorials from visiting artists,” he explains.

At St Martins he appreciates the vast resources and opportunities for attending workshops in many subjects including video, sound recording, woodwork and metalwork. He also finds London inspiring. “London is an MA in itself with all its rich cultural and historical resources and archives,” he says.

However, studying at St Martins as one of a 4,500 strong student body representing top talent from around the world makes him aware that to succeed as an artist requires many skills including how to manage your time and career. “It’s a great challenge; you need to fight for your tutorials. You are not that spoiled. It prepares you well for the art world because it’s a tough environment – it’s an ocean – you can’t take a break,” he says.

Bisan admits that his experience of growing up in Palestine has strongly influenced his work. “I like art that has a message. Maybe I am very much affected by my background and feel responsible to say something,” he reflects. His father, a theatre playwright, TV presenter and director was imprisoned from 1980 to 1983 for his role in fighting against the occupation.

Bisan’s wearying experience of crossing checkpoints as part of his daily routine in Jerusalem has left its mark. But he has taken this exasperation and tried to shape it into something transforming through his art. So it was that visitors to the Victoria and Albert Museum in London recently had the experience of going through ‘border controls’ to enter the Middle Eastern section which was cordoned off by volunteers for the purpose.

They found themselves  participating  in one of Bisan’s performance art concepts which afforded a completely new interpretation of the usual process of applying for and being granted access through the issuing of permits. Instead of being asked to fill in a form under the usual categories, visitors were asked to describe themselves as they wished. They were given access on the basis of how they represented themselves as individuals.

“I guaranteed them access according to what they wanted and their understanding of their selves; not according to how I wanted to see them,” Bisan explains.

He is also working on a project undertaken jointly by Art School Palestine, the Delphina Foundation and the British Council, which will be exhibited at the Institute of Contemporary Arts in London in June. The basis for the project is a Travel Guide on Jerusalem, published by Eyewitness, which Bisan in conjunction with others is ‘editing’ in order to give a more accurate impression of the city.

“I bought the Travel Guide here in England and it almost totally ignores any Palestinian existence or narrative. I used ‘post-it’ notes and transparencies overlaid over maps to fill in the missing information,” Bisan says.

He then sent the book to Ramallah and asked people to interact with it and add their own contributions.  When it is returned to him he will transform it into another art medium, possibly using video.

Clearly there is a political dimension to his work; his frustration with the guidebook is evident.

“This book is 90% guiding you to Israel – it’s a totally Israeli narrative. Even when describing the souk in the old city of Jerusalem it says that if you are interested in buying things the modern malls in the West side of the city have more to offer. It’s like they are saying: ‘You can go and look but we don’t really advise you to buy anything or spend money over there’,” he comments.

Nina Mahdavi, Founder and Chair Trustee of the Caspian Arts Foundation, is motivated to assist talented artists from the Mena region to reach their full potential.

She was born in Iran but her family left during the revolution and she was educated in Europe and the US. Her career background is in property investments and she describes art as “my personal passion”.

She is impressed with the talent and creativity in the Mena region, and through fund raising and corporate sponsorship intends to expand the scholarship programme, which is open to all regardless of nationality or religious background. She aims to offer practical support for students after they graduate and have to find their feet in the intensely competitive art world.

“We’re trying to partner with different institutions to give a platform to students after they graduate through residencies or internships or participation in exhibitions,” she says. She also emphasises the importance for students to understand the commercial aspect of their careers which can be very challenging.

Partners include Christie’s, the Delphina Foundation, Sotheby’s, the Lahd Gallery and the University of the Arts London which includes Central Saint Martins, the London College of Fashion, Camberwell College of Arts, Wimbledon College of Art, London College of Communication and Chelsea College of Art and Design.

This article appeared here 

Palestinian artist Bashar Al Hroub wins Grand Prize at 15th Asian Art Biennale

New Age Online Edition December 2, 2012  reported on the inauguration of the 15th edition of Asian Art Biennale at the Bangladesh Shilpakala Academy with the participation of 35 Asia-pacific countries.  Amongst the winners was Palestinian artist Bashar Al Hroub who along with Bangladeshi artist Kazi Salahuddin Ahmed, and Japanese artist Meiro Koizumi “won Grand Prizes for their works respectively in mixed media, photography and video installation”.

Read full article here or visit Bashar Al Hroub’s website and find out more about his work.



Palestinian artists launch art festival to protest Israel’s barrier


Sunday, 04 November 2012

Palestinian artists showcased their art work at West Bank’s Qalandia International Festival on Thursday framed as part of a creative reaction to the Israeli barrier that separates Palestinian villages from each other.

Israel has said the barrier, a mix of electronic fences and walls that encroaches on West Bank territory, is meant to keep suicide bombers out of its cities.

Palestinians call the barrier — whose course encompasses Israeli settlements in the West Bank — a disguised move to annex or fragment territory Palestinians seek for a viable state.

The International court of Justice declared the planned 600-km (370-mile) barrier, more than half of which is completed, illegal but Israel has ignored the non-binding ruling.

Qalandia International Festival Art Director, Jack Persekian, said it was an important way for Palestinians to channel their emotional reactions to the barrier.

“The wall and the road that was constructed recently connect the Israeli settlements together and separate the Palestinian villages from each other. The reaction to this separation was a cultural festival. It is an important and a good reaction — it shows a positive, artistic and cultural spirit in a painful situation that should be stopped,” he said.

The festival, which showcases Palestinian contemporary art projects, performances, films, and other cultural activities, kicked off on Thursday at Qalandia village northern of Jerusalem and ends on November 15.

According to the festival’s organizers, over 50 local and International artists came together for the launch of Qalandia International, ‘a milestone contemporary art event’.

Palestinian artist Khaled Jarar screened his 2 minutes film at the festival. His film, too, addresses barrier issues and Palestinians’ reactions to it.

“I went to the wall and I cut out some pieces of it. I smashed them then I mixed them with cement and water and I made a ball which children play with. My message is that the wall is an ugly thing, so we should seek out ways in which to use it and the occupation for our benefit,” he told Reuters television.

The festival was organized by seven Palestinian institutions- Riwaq, Al Ma’mal Foundation for Contemporary Art, A. M. Qattan Foundation, Palestinian Art Court – Al Hoash, International Art Academy – Palestine, Sakakini Cultural Centre and the House of Culture Arts – Nazareth.

Palestinian band ‘Dar Qandeel’ performed traditional and modern music at the festival’s opening ceremony and people from various Palestinian villages and cities as well as Internationals came to attend.

Yara Bayoumi, a visitor at the festival, said the cooperation involved in hosting such a festival was wonderful.

“The festival is very nice. It is the first of its kind in Palestine. It is the first time seven organizations have worked together to organize such a festival. I hope it will have a good effect, and put Palestine in the world’s contemporary art,” she said.
The festival is expected to tour Jerusalem and other West Bank cities.

This article appeared in