This last week, the Scottish BPOC Writers Network hosted a talk on Performance and Resistance by Sumud Edinburgh, an organisation supporting a free Palestine. Sofia Nakou, a lecturer in Performance at the University of the West of Scotland and Dani Abulhawa, a British-Palestinian lecturer of Contemporary Applied Performance at the University of Leeds, led the session to explore Palestinian performances that are designed to circumvent the restrictions of the occupation, raise awareness, assert Palestinian discourse, provide therapeutic healing, and envisage possible and impossible futures.
During the presentation, the speakers introduced the audience of around 30 to different forms of art and performance of resistance. Performances that provoked the intervention of the oppressors were particularly moving. Sadly, I don’t remember who the artist was as mentioned, however, on one occasion, performers locked themselves in a cage, forcing the oppressors to symbolically free the Palestinians.
Dani Abulhawa introduced the audience to the performance art of Razan Akramawi. In her performances, she seeks to take control in environments in which she would be controlled.
In The Scarecrow, Akramawi acts as a positive element, protecting the Palestinian Territory. Standing, as she does, in the East Side of Jerusalem in Sheikh Jarrah, an area that is controlled by Israeli occupation forces the artist shows a message of resistance. The Jewish man who intervenes in the project is unknown to the artist.
Another performance, The Gate, took place across the old town of Jerusalem. Akramawi and friends used their bodies as barriers similar to the checkpoints Palestinians have to pass through every day, opening and closing the gate at random with no obvious logic, and denying Israelis movement in the manner the occupiers deny movement to the Palestinians. The defiant, senseless act and the clear bewilderment and discomfort of the Israelis provide a staggering, moving statement of repression and resistance.
The Freedom Theatre, Jenin
As the presentations continued, Sofia Nakou spoke at length about the community-based Freedom Theatre in the Jenin refugee camp, which was recently raided and daubed with the star of David. The theatre’s artistic director, Ahmed Tobasi, was taken into custody though released, and Mustafa Sheta and Jamal Abu Joas Sheta are still being detained. Over 1000 luminaries of British theatre have signed a letter calling for their release. In her presentation, Nakou discussed The Gaza Monologues which continue to be performed and filmed across the world and are indeed now being added to.
In 2 months, Israel has killed several artists in Palestine, and while not mentioned in the talk, I wanted to end with paying tribute to the murdered poet Refaat Alareer, and a video of Brian Cox performing his poem, If I Must Die.