Palestine’s Freedom Theatre to stage Mandela tribute in Brazil

A standing man gestures to a kneeling man on a dark, spare stage

The Freedom Theatre performs The Island. (Photo courtsey of the Freedom Theatre)

In response to the news of the death of Nelson Mandela, the Jenin-based Freedom Theatre announced today that it will be dedicating its upcoming performances of The Island as a tribute to the former South African president and freedom fighter.

The Freedom Theatre touring company is currently appearing at the University of Sao Paolo’s International Theatre Bienniale, alongside groups from Lebanon, Tunisia and other parts of the world.

The Island, which the company has previously performed in Palestine, Sweden and the United States, is described by the festival organizers as “an adaptation of a true story set in South Africa during apartheid, and focuses on the experiences of Palestinian political prisoners.” As such, it brings together the historical experiences of Mandela and other fighters against apartheid in South Africa, and the contemporary situation of hundreds of Palestinian political prisoners in Israeli jails.

A Freedom Theatre announcement sent in the early hours today greeted the news of Mandela’s death at 95 by stating: “A true freedom fighter has ended his struggle but his legacy will forever be in the hearts of millions across the world. In Palestine, Mandela is known as a brother, a friend and an inspiration.”

According to the notice, “This South African play with its story of political prisoners was inspired by Nelson Mandela’s time incarcerated at Robben Island.” The play was originally co-written in the 1970s by South African actors John Kani and Winston Ntshona, along with renowned anti-apartheid playwright Athol Fugard.

Nelson Mandela was widely-known as a supporter of the Palestinian struggle, having proclaimed in a speech in 1997 that “freedom is incomplete without the freedom of the Palestinians.”

The Freedom Theatre troupe members explain here what The Island means to them:

Watch a preview of The Island in Arabic:


Sarah Irving

Sarah Irving's picture

Sarah is a freelance writer and editor, author of a biography of Leila Khaled and of the Bradt Guide to Palestine, co-editor of A Bird is Not a Stone (a volume of Palestinian poetry translated into the languages of Scotland), and a PhD candidate at the University of Edinburgh. She has worked and traveled in Palestine since 2001.