Liberation is a keyword for Palestine theatre artist Faisal Abu Alhayjaa, who is part of Freedom Theatre from the country. He feels that after years of occupation, people of Palestine crave for the occupation by Israel to end and the atrocities committed against them to stop.
“Occupation of Palestine is not only physical. The minds and views of Palestinians are also affected by it. With art, we will liberate the mind first and then we will liberate the land,” he said. The efforts by the theatre troupe, though acknowledged now, had to face severe opposition from conservatives, before they realised the power in performances.
“There are several misunderstandings about Islam which Freedom Theatre has fought. Conservatives were adamant against men and women performing together and ruled that theatre and music were haram (sinful). However, once they saw the performance, their views about our activities changed,” he said.
Resistance offered to the occupation by the Theatre is only through art. “We believe that it can change communities, touch people and empower them to fight for their rights,” he said.
The Palestinians are often misrepresented, he says.
“The people of Palestine are always presented in international media organisations as terrorists who want to blow themselves up and go to heaven. This is since many people aren’t aware of what is happening in Palestine and countries around us. Palestine has been ‘officially’ occupied by Israel since 1948, dividing families and restricting access to Palestinians to travel in the region. This has to end,” Alhayjaa said. “We are freedom fighters, who believe in the cause of human values and liberty,” he said of the troupe.
The progressive theatre troupe, which also presses for the liberation of Palestine, has been victimised by Israeli authorities. Owing to the popularity of the troupe and the messages conveyed in plays and performances, several members of the troupe have been arrested in the past, he said.
Hailing from a refugee camp in Jenien, he explained the hardships people face there. “The land is apt for the cultivation of grapes and watermelon. However, Israeli authorities do not allow people to dig wells or borewells for agricultural purpose. As soon as a well is dug, authorities fill it up with cement, denying access. Water, though available, is rationed for Palestinians,” he added.
Despite the hardships suffered by residents of the disputed land for over six decades, Alhayjaa said that none of the Palestinians were homeless. “Palestinians are a small but tightly knit community. People who lose their homes from bombings are sheltered soon after, as residents are well aware of the hardships they have suffered,” he added.
‘Forever Steadfast’ to Play in City till Jan 16
As part of Freedom Jatha 2016, a play Hamesha Samida, translated as Forever Steadfast, was performed on the city at Chitra Kala Parishat on Wednesday. The street play will also be staged at several locations around the city, prior to the conclusion of the Jatha in the city on January 16. Jatha, is a collaborative effort by Palestine based The Freedom Theatre and Jana Natya Manch, Delhi, and will be in Bengaluru from January 13 to 16. A total of 12 artistes, six Indian and six Palestinian will perform Hamesha Samida, a play in Arabic and Hindi. Commenting on the play, Sudhanva Deshpande of the Manch said that the play will revolve around the story of Palestine and the hardships suffered by its residents. The concept of using Arabic and Hindi in the same play is unique, he said. Speaking on the Jatha, he said that even though The Freedom Theatre troupe had arrived in India in October, the team started performing in various cities from December 18. After the completion of the Jatha in Bengaluru, the troupe will head towards Hyderabad, Patna and will conclude it in Delhi, he said. The Jatha has been supported by Samudaya Karnataka.