Issue No. 29 (Spring 2006)
Beautiful Resistance, Revolting Memory
By Abdelfattah Abusrour*
I was born Palestinian and I don’t want to do anything to change this.
I was born in a refugee camp, in my own country, and there is nothing I can do about it.
I was born under occupation, and I will do everything possible or impossible to change this.
The culture and history of nations is probably measured through what they show and what they are able to communicate to the rest of the world. Throughout history people have tried to communicate their life, culture and environment through oral tradition, writing, drawing or painting on stones, leather or paper, or by the creation of sculpture and monuments. In modern times, multimedia and the internet have changed the form of expression and the capacity of that expression to reach the maximum number of people with little delay.
Palestinians are no different from other people in their desire to share with the world their history and culture. They also are like many other people in that they intend through their expressions to counter the images constructed of themselves, their culture, and their history. Zionist propaganda has promulgated numerous fictions and stereotypes about Palestinians and their history, such as the famous Zionist slogan, “a land without people for a people without land.”
Poets have written poems, painters have painted, storytellers have told stories, fathers have narrated to their children and grand-children, novelists have written novels, playwrights have created plays, singers have stirred emotions with their songs, and film-makers have made films. The right of return of Palestinian refugees to their original villages from which they were uprooted in 1948 or after has been the blood and pulse of the nation, transmitted through the past 58 years, consistently, by all means and media, without giving up.
Art as a means of expression and resistance
Art, theater, and education are some of the most amazing tools to reach and influencepeople.Theyare also very powerful vehicles of self-expression for children and adults.
Starting from this concept, Alrowwad began its beautiful resistance against the ugly Israeli occupation and its devastating effects on the Palestinian population, especially its children. Art provided a “safe” medium of expression and a beautiful alternative to the images continuously disseminated by the media about Palestinians.
Through the use of art, Alrowwad theater in Aida refugee camp has created a space for children to express themselves in peaceful and nonviolent Beautiful Resistance through theater and art works which challenge the negative image of Palestinians propagated by the media. In an effort to provide the children with education and awareness of their own history, the focus of Alrowwad is to provide artistic tools for the children to express their national identity and share stories that their families narrated to them about their villages being attacked, populations massacred or chased away and forced to leave. Theater, art, film-making and story-telling are our tools to disseminate information and talk about the 58 years-old ongoing tragedy in occupied Palestine and about the generations of Palestinians born as refugees, sometimes even in their own country.
The biggest production is a play called “We are the children of the camp” which retraces the history of Palestine starting with the Balfour Declaration on 2 November 1917. The play includes the 1948 war, the exile of Palestinians into tents, the recollection of demolished villages and the new Hebrew names they were given, the refugee camps and their locations. The play also includes children's impressions of their lives in the camps, the intifada, the claims of the Palestinians, the claims of the media, accounts of the checkpoints and the experience of oppression. The play concludes with so-called “Peace negotiations”.
This play has been performed in Sweden, Denmark, Egypt, France, Belgium and the United States of America. The impact on the audience was great, and because of its educational and awareness-raising value, the play is requested again and again. Born under occupation, Palestinian children are involved at a very young age in the political debate, are eager to talk about their case and their cause and demonstrate a rejection of all forms of occupation. Art is one medium in which Palestinian children are able to do so. Art keeps the flame of memory and history alive. It shouts loud and clear: “We have rights that were violated… we do not forget, we will not forget, we will never forget. And guess what, we shall always remind you, so that you can never forget. This is our beautiful resistance to such a revolting memory.”
* Abdelfattah Abusrour is the director of Alrowwad Theater and the head of the board of Badil Resource Center.