Tag Archives: apartheid

“Make Apartheid History” connects Palestine, South Africa and US civil rights

 

 

Make Apartheid History, the follow-up to Bethlehem Unwrapped, launched online on Saturday 18th July, and held its first event at London’s Southbank with a programme of poetry and prose linking civil rights, anti-apartheid, and Palestinian solidarity movements.

Edited highlights of performances by Paterson Joseph, Miriam Margolyes, Kika Markham, Leila Sansour, Jeremy Hardy and Sam West are here. Hardy’s unscripted rationale for BDS is hard to beat.

Make Apartheid History is an international project that brings together creative individuals, organisations and networks from around the world – starting with Palestine and the UK; South Africa and USA – for a programme of popular events commencing summer 2015 and culminating Mandela Day, summer 2016. A short introductory video is here.

Make Apartheid History launches in a year of significant anniversaries: in the UK it is the 800thanniversary of Magna Carta; in the USA it is 60 years since Rosa Parks sat at the front of that segregated bus; in South Africa it is 25 years since  Nelson Mandela walked free; and in Palestine it is 10 years since Palestinian civil society called for BDS – Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions on Israel until it complies with international law:

‘I know first-hand that Israel has created an apartheid reality within its borders and through its occupation. The parallels to my own beloved South Africa are painfully stark indeed.
Nelson Mandela
We believe it is time to make apartheid history, once and for all, by supporting the call by Palestinian civil society for Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions on Israel until it complies with international law.You can find out more at www.makeapartheidhistory.org. Our video gallery has a wide range of contributors from Palestine, UK, South Africa and USA and we’ll be uploading content to this page on a regular basis.

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And Make Apartheid History partners

OPGAI (Occupied Palestine and Syrian Golan Heights Advocacy), PSCC (Popular Struggle Co-ordination Committee), Bedouins Without Borders, Tipping Point North SouthPressure Cooker ArtsICAHDUK (Israeli Committee against House Demolitions UK). In partnership with Artists for Palestine UK and PLAN (Palestine Legal Action Network).

TRIUMPHANT PALESTINIAN RICHARD II AT SHAKESPEARE’S GLOBE

“London loved the Palestinian Theatre’s performance of Richard II in Arabic at the Globe World Shakespeare Festival on4th May 2012 – a wonderful play beautifully performed.”

Sami Metwasi, Ashtar’s witty and tragic King Richard, addresses the post performance discussion audience.

So commented one audience member who joined a packed and lively post-performance discussion on Friday evening with more than a dozen members of the ASHTAR theatre company and British theatre professionals and enthusiasts.

Also on the panel were UK writer and broadcaster Bidisha and Sonja Linden, founder of iceandfire theatre . There is a full audio recording of the discussion here.  Ashtar’s Richard II is on film here.

Based in Ramallah in the Occupied West Bank, Ashtar was formed in 1991 by two prominent Palestinian actors and directors, Iman Aoun and Edward Muallem, both of whom were on stage in Richard II at the Globe on May 4 and 5.

Iman Aoun, artistic director of Ashtar

Their Gaza Monologues, created in 2010 and performed by more than 60 companies in 36 countries, was their artistic response to the Israeli assault on Gaza which killed almost 1,400 Palestinians in Dec/Jan 2008/09. It told the personal stories of a group of children from Gaza. The Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs tried to stop its performance in Norway.

Edward Muallem, co-founder of Ashtar, Northumberland in Richard II

At the beginning of Friday’s discussion, Aoun, Muallem and 11 other cast members introduced themselves, each drawing warm applause from the audience as they revealed the richness and complexity of their lives as Palestinian artists living and working all over Palestine and the diaspora.

Many are established figures in Palestinian society as directors, playwrights, film-makers, theatre group founders and artistic directors, and educators.

Amer Khalil, Bagot in Richard II, works in theatre with young people in Gaza and the West Bank.

Ashtar’s artistic director Aoun said that in interpreting a Shakespeare play outside their usual repertoire, they had to work hard to understand the setting for Richard II, to explore its meaning at the human level, and to consider what it meant to them.

“With help from our Irish director Connall Morrison we eventually made our starting point the end of the play, where Henry Bolingbroke (Henry IV of England) says he will go to Jerusalem to clean his hands of the blood he had shed – and to dirty our land!,” said Aoun.

“Britain occupied Ireland as it later occupied Palestine. But the play speaks far beyond our situation. Shakespeare talks about every tyrant, every power struggle in every place and time.”

At the Globe’s reception for Ashtar, after their second performance of Richard II on Saturday May 5, Globe artistic director Dominic Dromgoole hailed Ashtar’s interpretation of a play which the English habitually did not “get”.

“It took a Palestinian company to show us what it’s really about,” he said.

The discussion on Friday, held in a lecture theatre at the Globe but organised independently by Ashtar with help from London-based campaigners for Palestinian rights, repeatedly highlighted Ashtar’s role as artists performing universal work.

“When Palestinian artists perform, they are not only representing their lives under military occupation,” said Bidisha, noting that resistance may take political, diplomatic or cultural forms.

Writer and broadcaster Bidisha

She said the play’s bloody action gave us claustrophobic character studies reminiscent of a rich Saudi family scheming and fighting for wealth and power.

Linden, whose own work explores stories that are often passed over or ignored, said artists have a duty to engage and bear witness. She called theatre “a form of non-violent resistance.”

Playwright Sonja Linden

The audience  included a number of actors, directors and playwrights who had signed a letter calling on the Globe to rescind its invitation to the Israeli National Theatre, Habima, in the Shakespeare festival.

Actors Roger Lloyd-Pack (centre) and Kika Markham (right)

BDS campaigner Les Levidow asks Ashtar’s view of the boycott movement

The Habima issue was one of those raised in audience questions.

Aoun stated unequivocally that all the theatre companies represented by Ashtar’s members support the Palestinian call for boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS), and specifically cultural boycott.

“We cannot agree to any hostile presence on the West Bank, or engage with anyone complicit in it,” she said. “Remember we have to LIVE the Occupation. Even coming here, to perform  at the Globe, I was strip searched at Tel Aviv airport.”

Nicola Zreineh, Iman Aoun, George Ibrahim

Nicola Zreineh, who played Richard II’s deposer Bolingbroke in the play, said the boycott was not just about Habima.

“Any institution of the Israeli state should be cut off as long as justice is denied,” he said.

George Ibrahim, sharing the platform with Aoun and Zreineh, reminded the audience;  “We Palestinians are all besieged. Even in Jerusalem the cruel, ugly wall separates us.”

Another Ashtar member, Firas Farah, joked that checkpoints and closures made it easier to get from Jerusalem to London than to Ramallah.

Firas Farah, Aumerle in Richard II

“When Henry Bolingbroke says he is going to Jerusalem, I think – ‘How will he get a permit?’” said Farah.

In an interview with journalist Eleanor Kilroy before coming to London, Aoun addressed the idea that cultural boycott prevents communication between artists on different sides of a conflict. She agreed that art can build bridges and bring people together,  but she appealed for “a bit of sanity.”

“At night Israeli artists want to perform with us and in the morning they serve in the army. What is the use of going on producing art when deep down they know they are breaking basic human rights by supporting the occupation and its apartheid regime and settlements? Israelis need to work inside their own society; changes have to occur on the ground in Israel for there to be real justice.”

Other members of the Ashtar team were pictured at the discussion by Abbas from inminds.

Bayan Shbib, the Queen

Mohammad Eid, Ross

Ihab Zahdeh, Mowbray and two other parts

Iyad Hurani, Percy in Richard II

Hussein Nakhleh (standing), John of Gaunt

Raed Ayasa, plays Ross and a gardener

George Ibrahim, Duke of Gloucester & Duke of York

Nicola Zreineh, Henry Bolinbroke

See here for an excellent resume by Eleanor Kilroy of the arguments for Habima’s exclusion from the Globe’s festival.

Bidisha is launching her new book, Beyond the Wall: Writing a Path Through Palestine, on Wednesday May 16.

Some examples of media coverage for Ashtar:

http://www.theartsdesk.com/theatre/globe-globe-richard-ii-shakespeares-globe

http://arabshakespeare.blogspot.co.uk/

http://jn1.tv/video/culture/?media_id=22210

http://www.alalamiatv.com/news/?p=4850

http://danhutton.wordpress.com/tag/ashtar-theatre/