In the first ever India-Palestine theatre collaboration, The Freedom Theatre (TFT) from Jenin collaborated with the Indian theatre group, Jana Natya Manch (Janam). This is one of the major projects taken up by Studio Safdar.
The Freedom Theatre is one of the leading Palestinian theatres. Just as Safdar Hashmi was killed during a performance in 1989, the founder of TFT, Juliano Mer Khamis, was shot dead outside the theatre in 2011.
In November 2015, eight artistes from TFT arrived in India for three months. They took part in intensive workshops with Indian theatre experts. Along with actors from Janam, they prepared a joint production, which traveled to 10 Indian cities in December-January 2015-16.
The Freedom Theatre is a Palestinian community-based theatre and cultural center located in the Jenin Refugee Camp in the northern part of the West Bank. Established in 2006, the theatre aims to generate cultural resistance through the fields of popular culture and art as a catalyst for social change in the occupied Palestinian territories. The theatre’s goals are to “develop a vibrant and creative artistic community empowers children and young adults to express themselves freely and equally through art emphasizing professionalism and innovation." The theatre teaches courses in film, photography, creative writing, and theatre.
“It will be a great experience for the young artistes from Palestine to share their ideas of freedom and liberation with Indian audiences,” said Faisal Abu Alhayjaa, artistic leader of the project from TFT. “Indian culture, cinema and theatre have been great inspirations for us, and we hope that this will lead to many more such cultural exchanges between our two countries.”
“Over twenty different cultural organizations are partnering with Janam to make this incredible tour happen,” said Sudhanva Deshpande the artistic leader of the project from the Indian side. “A number of artistes are keen to associate with the production and the tour in a variety of ways.”
Many leading Indian artistes and intellectuals have welcomed the tour. The famous actor Sharmila Tagore says, “I think it is very important for artists of different countries and cultures to connect with each other. That this artistic collaboration is taking place without the mediation of any funding agency or international organization makes it more exciting still — this is a direct dialogue between artistes of the two kindred civilizations.”
Sanjna Kapoor, co-director, Junoon, who are one of the partners in this project, says, “This is a really important journey, where people from two lands get to meet each other, through performance. Palestine will meet India in this totally unique and wonderful way.”
“The Palestine Solidarity Committee welcomes this upcoming artistic collaboration,” said Prabir Purkayastha on behalf of the Palestine Solidarity Committee. “We pledge this initiative all support.” The committee consists of leading public figures including filmmakers Shyam Benegal and Saeed Mirza, writers Githa Hariharan and Nayantara Sahgal, and artist Vivan Sundaram.
The famous Indian artist Orijit Sen designed the visual identity of the tour (above), as well as four other unique artworks for the tour.
Studio Safdar provided the space for all the workshops and the play-making sessions for the collaboration. The Tour is supported through various local city organizers, Junoon in Mumbai, Samudaya in Bengaluru.