In the future if I grow up, and in Gaza it’s an achievement to grow up, because death is standing at your doorstep, I want to defend the rights of children – Yasmeen (Born 1996)
Gaza has no tenderness and no childhood, a boy is born a man here and a girl is born a bride…
- Yasmeen (Born 1996, Al Daraj)
The war ended on the ground but it’s still there in my head. I want to be like any child in this world…
– Mahmud (Born 1995, Al Saftawi Street)
Before the war I was a child… But after the war I discovered I’m not a child any more, and that Gaza, unlike all cities of the world, doesn’t have children in it.– Mahmud (Born 1994, Al Jalaa' Street)
I think I’m still scared till today… but I pretend not to be.– Fateema (Born 1996, Ash Sheikh Radwan)
The Gaza Monologues are as much stories of childhood, as they are of war. They are told by children who dream of a tomorrow – while hoping they get through their today. And while they may be located in the specific context of Gaza, they speak of a collective psyche of a generation born into, growing up in and altered by experiences of war.
In Sri Lanka, Floating Space partners with Ashtar Theatre based in Palestine on The Gaza Monologues performance project – Ashtar’s global initiative for peace and non-violence.
Directed by Jake Oorloff, The Gaza Monologues in Sri Lanka on October 30 and 31 at the Goethe Institute hall will bring together 14 students from Ladies’ College and Wesley College, Colombo. For Oorloff, the children and their individual experiences as witnesses of war, irrespective of geographic location, circumstance and degree of violence experienced, are the point of focus of the work. “They are the most damaged,” he says, as he points out the need – and the responsibility – to recognize, acknowledge and validate each childhood experience in a world of war. The Gaza Monologues is significant in its focus on children in war, as much as it takes on the practice of cultural expression as activism.
For Floating Space, the collaboration with Ashtar for The Gaza Monologues falls within its work with theatre in application, its conviction in the possibilities of cultural expression, and most specifically, in terms of this project, the focus on the collective experience of childhood located in war.
On October 17, 2010, The Gaza Monologues opened with the Palestinian performances at eleven in the morning where the initial group performed on the beach, sending out their stories to the world as paper boats. After which each partner country began their own performances, following international time zones until returning to Palestine where each Palestinian city had its own event.
Between October 17 and November 29, 42 partner companies some of which include The New York Theatre Workshop, The Pegasus Theatre, Oxford, The Headlines Theatre, Vancouver, The East Gippsld Institute of TAFE, Australia and the key companies based in Gaza, Ramallah, Hebron, Jenin and Nazareth will continue performing The Gaza Monologues, culminating in the international cast’s performance at the United Nations. Each partner company will send one young actor to work with Ashtar Theatre in New York, where The Gaza Monologues will be performed, first, before the representatives of the United Nations after their annual meeting on The Question of Palestine, and later on in the evening, at the photography exhibition of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency.
Ashtar Theatre was established in 1991 by two Palestinian actors Edward Muallem and Iman Aoun, and was the first theatre training organization for youth in Palestine. Ashtar’s involvement in Gaza started in 1994 at a time when the area was accessible and when the Gaza theatre community expressed an initial desire for a means of theatre training to the creators of Ashtar.
The year 2010 saw the beginnings of The Gaza Monologues performance project when Ashtar began its training with a new group of youth aged 14 to 18 using drama therapy and creative writing techniques, focusing on the experiences of the Gaza attack of December 2008-January 2009.