Postcards From Palestine |ONE: Under Construction

 Volcano's Intern-Artistic Director Rimah Jabr in rehearsal at the Under Construction Festival in Ramallah city. 

Volcano's Intern-Artistic Director Rimah Jabr in rehearsal at the Under Construction Festival in Ramallah city. 

"I'm on the way back to Toronto, returning from Palestine, where I participated in the Flemish-Palestinian festival Under Construction as both a writer and performer and then spent several days with my family in Nablus.

Between the sense of foreboding during my trip there (which coincided with the transfer of the US embassy to Jerusalem), and the feelings of sorrow and disappointment over what happened in Gaza (the killing of civilians who are crying out to get out of that big prison), I've been sending these postcards to my colleagues at Volcano Theatre, where I'm doing my internship as an artistic director.”      - Rimah Jabr

Under Construction is a Palestinian-Flemish Cultural Festival, organized by the A. M. Qattan Foundation (AMQF) (Palestine) and Connexion VZW (Belgium). Under Construction is running from May 3 to 11, 2018, 2018 in Ramallah city.

Grounded in the concept of collaboration, the festival features a variety of performances, film screenings, and experimental arts. All the shows feature collaborations between artists from Belgium, Palestine, and other regions around the world. All the festival events are taking place in a number of Palestinian cities, including Ramallah, Nablus, Haifa, and Tulkarem. In addition to many Palestinian artists, 32 artists and guests from outside Palestine are participating. 

The festival starts at the Municipality Theater/Ramallah City Hall with the work Infini#5Infini#5 was created in Belgium in 2015 as part of Infini#1–15, a Decoratelier performance in which fifteen artists consider what space or landscape they would like to see represented in a theatre today.

The performance lasts for 12 minutes and runs every half an hour. Each audience gets to see the brilliant work of the celebrated Belgian scenographer Jozef Wouters while listening to my voice reading responses to all of the questions Jozef asked during the creation process.

Infini#5 is a performance without actors. This is the first time that it has played in Palestine, my home, and the first time it has played in Arabic. The work will be touring this year in Lisbon, Oostende and other European cities. 

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Right after the Infini#5, the audience has to run to Edward Said National Conservatory of Music (ESNCM) to catch the concert of the amazing Faraj Suleiman. Faraj Suleiman plays mostly original compositions that are strongly influenced by Arabic music and eastern rhythms, often using its scales and modalities. Yet, in addition to being inspired by his Arabic culture, he is also influenced by the traditions of tango and jazz. The concert hall is full of people from Belgium. Palestine and other countries. We all enjoy ending our day with this beautiful music.

The weather is amazing.  You can smell the flowers everywhere on your way out of the concert hall to the Al-Mahatta bar-restaurant. Participants in the festival are sitting on a beautiful open sky terrace divided into two sections: one for the smokers and the other one for the non-smokers.  Everyone is enjoying their time drinking Taybeh beer, a Palestinian beer that is made in a town near Ramallah called Taybeh.

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There is a lot still to see and talk about. I’ll keep you posted. The vibe is nice. It is really amazing to meet all these people from Palestine and Belgium – many are people I worked with in Belgium or Palestine, and many I have heard about and now meet for the first time.

Tomorrow is the opening of my play Two Lady Bugs... its first time in Palestine!!