Art, Music & Culture

Four one-act plays by Palestinian playwrights to support art exhibition

The rarely heard voices of Palestinian playwrights come to New York City on October 16-17 for a unique and important theatrical benefit, Acts for Palestine, to support a visual art exhibition entitled Made in Palestine, an exhibition of the contemporary art of Palestine, featuring 23 Palestinian artists. Tragedy, seeping into daily life, fuels the Palestinian playwright at home and in exile. Cultural poignancy, the beloved ancient soil of literary tradition, and revolutionary hope combine to create literary expressions that grip the viewer as much as the playwright. 

"A Prayer Band": Palestinian poet Suheir Hammad on Hurricane Katrina

A Palestinian-American from Brooklyn, Suheir Hammad has appeared on the HBO show “Russell Simmons Presents Def Poetry,” hosted by Mos Def. Her poems have been featured in numerous publications, on the BBC World Service, and National Public Radio. Hammad recently wrote two poems about Hurricane Katrina and the aftermath. The first reprinted here, “A Prayer Band”, was performed at an event organised by Hammad called “Refugees for Refugees” in New York City on September 9th, which raised $5,000 for hurricane relief. Suheir Hammad arrived in Jackson, Mississippi yesterday, to deliver the money personally and help with direct relief efforts. 

Well-known UK graffiti artist Banksy hacks the Wall

“How illegal is it to vandalize a wall,” asks Banksy in his website introduction to his Wall project, “if the wall itself has been deemed unlawful by the International Court of Justice? The Israeli government is building a wall surrounding the occupied Palestinian territories. It stands three times the height of the Berlin wall and will eventually run for over 700km - the distance from London to Zurich. The International Court of Justice last year ruled the wall and its associated regime is illegal. It essentially turns Palestine into the world’s largest open-air prison.” 

Israeli Army stops West Bank mural project, citing Gaza disengagement

A Palestinian family from the town of Mas’ha, recently collaborated with US, Palestinian, International and Israeli artists and activists to paint a mural of hope and resilience on the 280 feet long by 24 feet high Occupation Wall that faces their front door. On 22 August 2005, the Israeli commander of the Salfit region threatened to take away the key that lets the family out of their home if the US, Palestinian and Israeli artists did not cease painting immediately and vacate the premises. He considered the mural of trees, flowers and birds a “provocation” to the Gaza settlers being relocated to the West Bank. 

Freedom for Palestine: Ticket-holders only?

Invitations clutched in their hands, last week the audience members of the East West Diwan Orchestra squeezed past uniformed, armed guards and headed into the Ramallah Cultural Palace auditorium. The concert, performed by both Israeli and Palestinian musicians and conducted by world-renowned Israeli musician Daniel Barenboim, was definitely one of the more newsworthy cultural events in Palestine this year. Yet it was unadvertised, and only at the last minute were local photographers allowed to document the event for Palestinian papers. 

Video: Balata Youth Drama and Dance Group Tours the UK

The first international tour of the Balata Youth Drama and Dance Group travelled to the United Kingdom in August 2005. The Group are a project of the Yafa Cultural Centre (YCC), which is based in Balata Refugee Camp in Nablus. This was Balata’s ‘A’edoon tour - “we will return”. The tour got off to a difficult start. One child in the Group, 16-year old Mohamed, was arrested by the Israeli Occupying Force on the 25th of July as the group crossed the border from Palestine into Jordan. One-month later, Mohamed continued to be held in administrative detention, being interrogated without charge and without access to a legal representative or his family. Jeff Handmaker reports. 

Palestinian woman is first Arab woman to climb Europe's highest peak

Well-known Palestinian female mountain climber, Suzanne Al-Houby, said on Sunday that she is to arrange a charity program for Palestinian children in the Occupied Palestinian Territory. Al Houby, who is originally from Yaffa, is proud to be the first Palestinian woman to climb Mt. Elbrus (5642m.), the highest point of Europe in August 1, 2005, Kilimanjaro (2002), the highest peak in Africa, Mont Blanc in France (2004), Everest Base Camp in Nepal (2003). 

Breathing life into Nablus

Nablusi architect Naseer Arafat’s current project, “a ten year dream,” as he calls it, is the restoration of an estate that was once owned by an influential sheikh and housed a residence, soap factory and reception hall. The compound, which Arafat describes as having a “unique composition,” is nestled in Nablus’ Old City, home to 20,000 Palestinians and some 2,560 historic buildings, mostly constructed during the Ottoman period, as well as some from the Mameluke, Crusader, Byzantine and Roman eras. 

Film review: "Private"

Winner of a Golden Leopard at the Locarno Film Festival (Best Film) and Bronze Leopord (for Mohammad Bakri’s performance), “Private” is a thought provoking, psychological drama, based on real events. Mohammad, played by famous Palestinian actor Mohammad Bakri is a Palestinian teacher and active pacifist. He lives with his family in a home located in an area between a Palestinian village and Israeli settlements. His wife Samia (Areen Omari) feels unsafe in these surroundings and would like to move, but Mohammad’s pride does not allow him and his middle class family to be labeled with the status of refugee. He decides to stay. 

Film review: "The Syrian Bride" makes for a difficult marriage

“Maybe I should learn to be less sensitive but when director Eran Riklis arrived in Nazareth last month for the screening of his much-garlanded film ‘The Syrian Bride’, he got off on the wrong footing the moment he walked through the door,” writes EI contributor Jonathan Cook. The film, produced with Israeli, Palestinian and Syrian actors is set in a tiny Druze community in the Golan Heights, part of Syria occupied by Israel since 1967. The only contact the Israeli and Syrian authorities allow is the occasional passage of brides across the ceasefire line. While the film tries to break boundaries, Cook says, it also reveals others that the director failed to see.