أخبار عاجلة

المسرح ــ الاغتراب الحضاري وهيمنة المراكز الثقافية الغربية / أ.د فاضل سوداني – العراق – الدنمارك

السؤال الذي يفرضه المحوريحمل جانبين هما :

1ـ  ماهي الصعوبات التي يواجههاالفنان   الشرقي عموما والعربي بالذات في بلدان الاغتراب  الأوربي  ؟ وكذلك

2ــ كيف يمكن أن نجعل الغرب  يهتم  بمشاكلنا الفكرية او كيف يمكن أن يفتح لنا بواباته  الاعلامية والفكرية وبرامجه الحضارية. وكيف يمكننا ان نخلق لغة تفاهم  بيننا وبين الغرب المتفوق علينا تكنولوجيا  وحضاريا ؟

ونستطيع  ان نلخص كل هذا بمشكلتين اساسيتين :

1ـ تكيف الوعي الذاتي مع حضارة جديدة( قدرة الذات على التبصر في وعي الاخر)

2ــ تجاوز الإغترابوخلق لغة  التفاهم الحضاري

بالنسبة الى المشكلة الاولى

ــ الاندهاش الاول هو الحرية الأولى

تركت العراق عام  1976 الى بلغاريا  التي تعد اغترابي  الاول ،  وفي اوغسطس عام 1991 أيقظتني  مضيفة الطائرة البلغارية  لتخبرني  باننا وصلنا الدنمارك. في مطار كوبنهاكن  انتظرت رحيل  الطائرة التي اقلتني  حتى لا يعيدوني فيها الى بلغاريا وبحثت عن البوليس الدنماركي  وقلت له  :

انا عراقي أبحث عن وطن  

عندها شعرت بأن  حضارة وتاريخاًابداعياًوأحلاما وردية وطموحات كبيرة اسمها العراق  انسلخت مني عنوة .

عندما يبحث  المبدع  العربي عن وطن جديد لأسباب  سياسية او كارثية او اقتصادية او ظروف حرب  يتكثف الشعور بالاغتراب ، بالرغم من انه كمبدع  كان يعيش الغربة وهو فيالوطن الأول.

وفي  الخطوة الأولى في بلد الإغترابيصبح المنفى هو الوطن فعليك ان تعيد مفرداتك الإبداعية والحياتية من جديد ، لا يشفع لك تاريخك ومنجزك الفني في وطنك الأول أبداً  وعليك ان تبدأ ولكن احذر  لأنك وبسهولة يمكن ان تكون  في مهب  ريح الاستهلاكفي عالم أوربي ــ غربي ملون.

كل شئ مباح وكل انسان حر ، ولكن  على المغترب ان يتخلص اولاً من مرحلة الإندهاش  ــ أزاء التاريخ الحضاري التي تلازمه منذ خطوته الأولى  في البلد الغريب ، فالإحساس بالغربة  طبيعي ومفروض  أمام هذا المنجز الأوربي العظيم في كل شئ في السياسة وحرية الرأي والاقتصاد والمنطق الأخلاقي ، فما ممنوع علينا في الوطن  مباح هنا ، والإنسان عندنا  أبخس  رأسمال  لكنه هناك اثمن راس مال وهذا جوهر الاندهاش ا لذي يخلق إرباكا لا مثيل له لمغترب جديد مثلي . ها هي الحرية التي كنت تناضل من أجلها في بلدك  وها هو المسرح الذي كنت تحلم به . تفضل عليك أن تبدأ ، لكن كيف ؟؟.

إذن للوصول الى الحرية والمسرح  المتطور على الانسان ان يتخلص من حالة الإندهاش الحضاري وحالة الإرتباك نتيجة لأختلاف المفاهيم التي تربى عليها . ومن أجل أن يفهم القيم وقوانين الإبداع الجديدة  عليه أن يسال التالي:

هل يمكن ان يتفوق على نفسه ويقول من جديد  ها أنا ذا ؟.

وهل يمكن ان نفهم عالم الاغتراب الجديد ؟ او عالم ذلك المواطن الأوربي الذيسيشاركه تاريخه الحضاري . إذن يجب تعلم  الكثير من الأشياء الضرورية ، بدونها  لا يمكن أن تتحرك كما تطمح ولا يمكنك ان توجد  مكانك ومسرحك ولا حتى وجودك كإنسان.

عقدة التفوق الشرقي

يأتي المغترب الى بلد الإغتراب محملاً بأوهام ماضي وتاريخ ليس له علاقة بمنطق التطور الحضاري المعاصر ، وبالرغم من هذا فإنه يتعامل بكل عنجهية وعلو  مع المسؤولين الذين يرغبون  وبكل صدق ان يضعواهذا الكائن  الخرافي ــ المغترب الشرقي على طريق السلوك الحضاري الجديد وبالرغم من هذا فان التفوق الشرقي الموهوم والتاريخ الماضوي هو الذي يقود هذا المغترب في تعامله وفهمه الساذج مع المؤسسة التي تحتضنه حتى يتأهل للدخول في المجتمع الجديد  .

الابتسامة الالية  والسلوك الحضاري .

تضخيم وهم  تفوق الماضي الشرقي لدرجة تصبح ابتسامة مسؤولة مؤسسة اللاجئين  او المغتربين المهنية الدافئة والباردة  في ذات الوقت ، تصبح بالنسبة للمغترب الشرقي  ابتسامة عشق  لدرجة أنها  توحي له بأن هذه المسؤولة تعشقه جنسيا ً فقط لأنه شرقي  بقدراتهالخارقة . لذا فان الإنسان هنا حتى يكون كائن عملي وحضاري عليه ان يتخلص من أوهام الماضي واساطيره ليدخل في عالم  ومجتمع جديد .

أذن هنالك سلوك ماضوي يجب التخلص منه  من خلال  تعلم لغة التعامل والسلوك الإنساني الحضاري وهذا أعقد بكثير من   تعلم اللغة  (الالفبائية ) ، أنه السلوك الحضاري الذيلا يشمل فقط التعامل الانساني  وإنما يشمل المفاهيم الفكريةوالسلوك الاخلاقي  حتى يستطيع الانسان أن يعرف التعامل الفني والابداعي  في سوق وبزنس حضاري يسّير الاقتصاد ويعتمد على العرض والطلب في كل شئ بما فيها الفن والثقافة .

الفن والإبداع والسلعة

نندهش اذا ارتبط الفن والابداع عموما  بسوق  البزنس  ولكن هذا شئ طبيعي  في حضارة الغرب  بل هو جزء من التقدير والتقييم  للفن عموما  .

ان الدول الاسكندنافية  باعتبارها دول جديدة على  استقبال اللاجئين والمغتربين  ظلت فترة طويل لا تعرف التعامل  مع الاعداد بشرية  الوافدة واكثرهم من الدول الشرق  العربي التي كانت تتدفق طلبا للجوء والبحث عن وطن ، لكنها وبكل انسانية  توفر لهم ولأطفالهم كافة الاحتياجات اليومية والمستقبلية ، ولكن المشكلة كيف يمكن التعامل مع فنان شرقي جاهز في أن يطرح مفاهيمه  الفنية أو المسرحية  ويلح على ان يقدم افكاره وعروضه المسرحية في بلد الاغتراب هذا وفي ذهنه دائما مقولة كفافس:

( اذا كنت قد خربت حياتك في هذا الركن الصغير من العالم  فهي خراب لك  أينما حللت )

إذن عليه ان يتخلص اولا من الاحساس بالخراب الذي تراكم لديه  وهو في بلده الاول . وهذا يعني أن يبدأ من الصفر .

وبالنسبة لي قررت أن ابدأ مشروعي الاول في اغترابي الدنماركي  ، فبدأتُ  القراءة والكتابة عن أهم عقل فلسفي  وجودي وهو الفيلسوف الدنماركي سورن كيركغاردلأنه  أكد على مقولة مهمة عن الحياة وهي :(ماذا تعني الحياة سوى الدفاع عن فكرة)

فكتبت نصا ليس عن حياته الغريبة  وعن حبه الاول  الأكثر غرابة وإنما عن علاقة المثقف بذاته وبالمجتمع وكان النص المسرحي تحت  عنوان (النزهات الخيالية) وعندما تٌرجم الى الدنماركية   كنت اريد أن اراه على خشبة المسرح  ولكن بدلاً من هذا فاز بجائزة نقابة المؤلفين الدراميين الدنماركيين . وتبادر لي السؤال التالي :

كيف يمكن للشرقي ــ العربي  المغترب ان يدخل سوق العمل الابداعي ؟

منذ زمن بعيد  عندما كنت  في بلدي الاول العراق  كان اللهاث الحياتي و الابداعي  الغريب  للفنان فان كوخ(1890- 1853) يلح علي .

ومن جديد كافحت في غربتي حتى استطعت كتابة  نص (الرحلة الضوئية ) بعيدا عن  سرد لحياة فان كوخ وقطع إذنه  وغيرها من الاسباب غير الواقعية بل الخرافية  التي ارتبطت  به ، وانما كنت افكر بأن مشكلة  هذا الفنان الذي هو اكثرنا احساساً وشاعريةً تكمن في ان عليه  الا يفهم المستحيل فقط بل عليه ملامسته ، بما معنى  أنه انتحر لا لكونه مجنونا او لكونه يأس من الحياة أو لكونه فقيرا لدرجة أنه كان يأكل ألوانه ، وانما هو انتحر لأن  المجتمع آنذاك  لم يفهمه فسخر منه وهمشه وعزله  وهو المسؤول عن إنتحارة  كما يؤكد أنتونينآرتووهذا الجانب عالجه آرتو  في كتابة (القاتل هو المجتمع ) أي علاقة الفنان بالمجتمع  . ولكن جانب مهم من أزمة فان كوخ هي ازمة الفنان والمثقف المغترب عموما في أي مكان وزمان  .

ولكن  بالنسبة لي أن  الجانب الذاتي في البحث  يؤكد  على أن فان كوخ  لم  يستطع ان يحول اللون الاصفر ( الذي يتواجد بكثافة في لوحاته ) الى نور يضيئ روحة والآخرين ، مما أدى به أن يشعر بأنه لم يفعل شيئاًوهذا هو سبب حقيقي بالنسبة لي  لأن يدعوا فان كوخ ان يتصرف بما يشاء .

ومن خلال  هذا   أردتأنا المغترب  أن أحول هذا النور الى وطن او أحول وطن الاغتراب الى نور.. الى نقاء ..الى قوة تقتل الضجر والشعور بالغربة والإحساس  بالنفي والتهميش . وكان تحليلي  لهذا وتمسكي في أن  أكتب واخرج عرض الرحلة الضوئية حتى اثبت حيوتي وفهمي للحياة من منظور الفنان   في سكون غربتي .

لا بد أن يكون  الانسان  الذي  ينتظر الموت مدخنا غليونه بلامبالاة  كما فعل  فان كوخ   وهو يحتضر  ، أن يكون صاحب رؤيا ووجد لم يدركها عصره ، ولم ندركها نحن الآن  أيضا  ، اذ هو فنان يمتلك إحساسا بعبثية الوجود وخاصة بعد  ان شاهد هو بالذات  فردوس النور ووهج النار المقدسة هذه في أحلامه الفنية فمنحته الرؤيا القدسية المنفلتة  بعيدا عن الواقع  . مثل هذا الفنان  لن يترك هذه النعمة ليرى الواقع  بعيون غيره. ولأنه رأى جحيمه  على حقيقته ، اصبح   شاهدا ملعونا على مآسي عصره فرفضه المجتمع وعده  مجنونا . ولكن هل يمكن ان يصاب بالجنون كحالة عصابية ذلك الذي رأى فردوس  الفن والجمال وما وراء الرؤيا؟

اذن فنان  مثل فان كوخيمكن  ان يصاب بنوبات  الوجد والرؤيا  ، من خلالها يمتلك سلطة السيطرة التامة على الحلم الذي يستمده  من   الواقع  بالرغم من أنه لا ينتمي اليه ، وهذا البعد هو الذي يجعله قادرا على   تحويل الواقع الخشن والمظلم الى أحلام وفن ينتمي الى  جمال خالص يحسده عليه حتى الملائكة .  لهذا فان السلطة الشمولية والهيمنة الابداعية  تأتي  دائما من رجاحة العقل والقدرة   و الخيال الذي يؤشر حقيقة  الواقع. وسلطة “فان كوخ” تكمن في رؤيته الفنية الشمولية، وهو يؤكد ( بأن المشاعر التي أعانيها تتجه نحو الأبدية ). أنه شعر بمأساة  الإنسان كونه كائناً  بائساً لدرجة كبيرة فصرخ ( يالها من حياة رهيبة مرعبة … ياالهي ،  ياالهي ماذا فعلوا بالإنسان )  لذا فإن اللون بالنسبة له لا بد ان يتحول الى نور ، لينير دواخله والانسان الاخر لان  فان كوخ لايستطيع العيش إلا في عالم أكثر انسانية واكثر جمالا  واكثر نوراً ونقاءاً واقل عنفا .

وهذا هو جوهر المشكلة الأكثر أهمية  والتي يمكن ان تقدم كعرض بصري متميز في بلد اغترابي الثاني  بعد أن ترجم النص الى الدنماركية .إذن المطلوب هو الدخول الى سوق العمل لتحقيق العرض مسرحي عن فان كوخ .

الشئ المهم هو  أن وزارة الثقافة الدنماركية  تدعم   أي مشروع إبداعي بنسبة 60% وعلى المخرج  او صاحب المشروع ان يبحث عن ال 40 % المتبقية ، وقانون الضرائب يقر بأن نسبة ضرائب المؤسسات والشركات تقل  بحسب دعمها للمشاريع الفنية والإبداعية   وهذا يسمح بإمكانية المجازفة  بعرض مسرحي مثل عرض  (الرحلة الضوئية).

وللحصول على الدعم المطلوب لهذا   المشروع  والتخاطب مع المؤسسات المسؤولة والشركات الداعمة أخذ سنتين كاملتين.ولكن الجانب التقني والفني هو الأكثر أهمية أيضا ، وأعني لغة  التفاهم الفني بين المخرج والممثل الدنماركي الذي يختلف جوهريا عن الممثل العربي  او الشرقي عموماً

ومن أجل أن تخلق الأنسامبل الفني على المخرج الشرقي او المغترب أن يتخلص من كونه مخرج دكتاتور ، حيث روح العمل الجماعي  هو الذي يجعل الممثل الأجنبي يبدع  مع فهم واحترام  خصوصيته  واستقلاله  الذاتي  من قبل  المخرج . وحتى تستطيع أن تكسب الممثل  على المخرج المغترب ان يكون مقنعا وان يمتلك رؤيا  اخراجية  بصرية متميزة وان يفهم بأن هذا الممثل الأوربي هو عالم مغلق قائم  بذاته وعليه ان يعرف كيف يدخله .

وبالتأكيد فإن الرؤيا الإخراجية المعتمدة على الأسلوب الشرقي في الرقص الدرامي او الملابس والتعامل مع الأشياء والأدوات الأخرى وهي تتحول في فضاء البعد الرابع  في  البرفورمانسسيثير ويحفز الممثل الدنماركي  للشعور بأن العرض ملكه  وبهذا فأنه سيبدع ضمن المجموعة كما حدث في عرض (الرحلة الضوئية) الذي قدم  باللغة الدنماركية للجمهور الدنماركي  بعد ترجمة جيدة من قبل   المستشرقة  جونه ضاحي   من معهد الاستشراق الدنماركي . وقام بالتمثيل  ممثلون دنماركيون  وعلى مسرح   تيرا نوفا تياتر وسط كوبنهاكن .

اين الإذن المقطوعة لفان كوخ ؟

سألني  البروفيسور بيتر باسه Peter Basse   المختص بتاريخ الفن وبالذات بفان كوخ  قال  جئت للعرض حتى ارى كيف تتعاملون مع اذن فان كوخ المقطوعة ، لم اشاهد أي شئ من هذا . قلت بان فان كوخ كما تعرف  سلمها  لعشيقته ، أما انا  فكنت ابحث  عن  سبب آخر هو :

لماذا لم يستطع  الفنان كوخ  تحويل اللون الأصفر الى نور حتى يضيئ روحه وروح الآخر ؟؟.

لايمكنانتحققوجودكالاغترابيمالمتفهمثقافةالاخروتعملفيذاتالوقتانيفهمثقافتك،إذنماهيالمعوقاتالتيتمنعتحقيقهذهالعلاقة؟؟؟

مركزية  الثقافة الغربية وإلغاء الآخر

كيف يمكن ان  نخلق لغة حضارية معاصرة مع  الآخر ونحن نعيش حالة من اللاتفاهمواللاتسامحمع  الاخر الأوربي الغربي ؟ هل السبب هو هيمنة المركزية الثقافية الأوربية على المراكز الاقل حضارة والمهمشة ؟

كيف يمكننا ان نجعل الآخر الاوربي  قريب من  همومنا يهتم بقضايانا وهذا هو الجانب الآخر من السؤالأي موضوع الثقافة الغربية وعلاقتها بالشرق .

ولكن كيف يمكن ان يهتم  بما يقلقنا ونحن نواجهه دائما بروح المؤامرة ،كيف يمكن لهذا الغرب أن يحترم قدراتنا ونحن لا نمتلك القدرة على ان نجعل ما نفكر به جزء من مشروع فكري حضاري يساهم في بناء عالم حضاري مادمنا نعيش مع الاخر في قرية واحدة .

ـــ كيف يمكن أن نخلق جسور الثقة مع الثقافة الغربية المهيمنة على وسائل الاعلام العالمية والوسائل الفكرية والثقافية الأخرى ؟.

ــ كيف يمكن أن نفهم الثقافة الغربية وكيف يمكننا أن نستقبل ماهو جوهري منها في عالمنا الحضاري ؟ أي المفهوم الغربي حول مركزية الثقافة والغاء الآخر والمفهوم الشرقي حول رفض ثقافة الآخر. فإذا كانت هذه المراكز الثقافة الغربية لا تضعنا في الحسبان  فإن هذا  يعني بأن هنالك خطأً يحكم هذه  العلاقة .

ــ هل أن هيمنة مركزية الثقافة الغربية  تلغي إمكانيات الثقافات الأقل حضارة (والمهمشة) في التعبير عن نفسها ؟؟.

ــ او هل تمتلك  الثقافة  الغربية  مفهوماً خاطئاً  لما يسمى بالعولمة ؟

ــ وهل هنالك غزوا ثقافياً يهددنا ؟وهل نمتلك مفهومنا  الخاطئ عن  سمة العصر التي تفرض المفهوم العالمي الشامل للثقافة ؟

ــ أوهل السبب  في الهيمنة هو عدم قدرتنا على اقناع مؤسسات الثقافية الغربية بإمكانياتنا للمساهمة فيالتطورالفكري والفني والحضاري.

إن الثقافة والفن والفكر بأبعادهما الإنسانية الكوسموبولوتية بعيدا عن مركزية الهيمنة لثقافة ما، ستحقق طرفي المعادلة، بمعنى ثقافة تحافظ على خصوصيتها وهويتها وفي ذات الوقت  تتواصل  إنسانيا ً نحو ثقافة الآخر، وسيؤدي هذا التكامل إلى تحقيق شمولية الوعي الإنساني. هذا النزوع التكاملي بين الثقافتين هو الذي سيعطي لخصوصية الهوية تمايزها وفي ذات الوقت يمنح الفكر والفن هدفا إنسانيا شاملا.

وعكس هذا يفرض اتجاها استغلاليا يجعل من العولمة انقلاب يتسم بالهيمنة على المراكز الحضارية الصغيرة  المهمشة  فيؤدي إلى بروزسمة مميزة في الثقافة الإقليمية كرد فعل طبيعي ألاوهو:

الحنين الى الماضي الذي يبدو وكأنه يوتوبيا وأحلام غير متحققه فيصبح وكأنه حنين إلى البدائية المقترنة بحكايات وأحاديث يحاولون أن يمنحوها صفة قدسية .

والحنين إلى الماضي من قبل  المراكز المهمشة  سببه التمسك والبحث عن الهوية والخصوصية، وهو سلوك لمواجهة غزو الاغتراب الخارجي ـ السايكولوجيالذي يفرضه التبادل السلعي العابر للقارات في المجال الثقافي أي الغزو الثقافي الذي يحرص على ان يتحول إلى أشكال ثقافية وفنية ووسائل إعلام تفرضها الأقمار الاصطناعية على الثقافة الإقليمية مما فرض ما يسمى بالقرية العالمية في محاولة لفرض ثقافة متجانسة تفرضها شركات الاحتكارات التي تعمل على إشاعة التجانس والتهميش الثقافي.ان السؤال الجوهري كما افكربههو:كيف يمكننا ان نخلق حالة من التفاهم والتبادلالثقافي بيننا وبين المركزية الثقافية الأوربية ؟؟؟

ـ  الحصانة الداخلية والتكامل الحضاري

ومن اجل خلق الحصانة الداخلية إزاء هيمنة السطو الثقافي في زمن العولمة (كما تراها  المجتمعات  الشرقية ) تتحول هذه  المجتمعات الإقليمية إلى ما يشبه الكيانات المعزولة مما يؤدي إلى العودة إلى كل ما هو ماضي وسلفي و فطري وبدائي مما يحتم نبذ وكره وحقد طائفي وقومي شوفيني على ميراث الفكر العلماني  الحديث، ويؤدي الى انحسار النظرة الكوسموبولوتية ـ الكونية للعالم  مما يؤدي  ايضا الوقوف ضد إبداع الإنسان الحضاري المعاصر عموماً. والسؤال الأهم  أين نحن من كل هذا ؟؟؟؟

سكونية الفكر والتهجين  الثقافي

اذن ماهي الحصانة الداخلية في مواجهة خطورة  التهميش ؟

بدءاً أن المشكلة الجوهرية هي أن حواضرنا المعاصرة لا تمتلك أساسا الحصانة الداخلية في مواجهة  ما يسمى بالغزو الفكرياو الحضاري  لأنها مدن متلقية بشكل سلبي واستهلاكي للفكر والتكنولوجيا الأوربية. لذا فان ديناميكية الفن لا يمكن أن توجد إلا في قدرته على إثارة الأسئلة ورفض سكونية  الفكر الماضوي  والعمل على التبادل الثقافي والفكري الحر مع الآخر.

لكن جانب من الثقافة العربية والإسلامية الذي يؤمن بقانون المؤامرة هي التي تفرض تهميش وعزل ثقافتنا عن فكر الآخر الذي يجب أن نعترف بأنه أكثر تطورا فكريا وفلسفيا وثقافيا وتكنولوجياً  نتيجة لتمجيدنا   للماضي ــ والسلفية  وفرضها علىالمعاصرة.نحنالآن بحاجة إلى أن نسأل ذات السؤال عن ماهية وجوهر ثقافتنا وفكرنا وارتباطهما  بالمعاصرة .

ـ وهذا يفرض ضرورة التهجين بين الثقافة والفكر الأوربي من جانب وبين الثقافة  والفكر و الذات العربية المتحررة فكريا من فكر الماضي ألسكوني والمحتوية على بذرات فكرية مهيأة لاستقبال الآخر بروح التكامل. وأيضا يعني التهجين بين التراث العربي التقدمي المتنور مع الثقافة  الأوربية المعاصرة  ، لأن مثل هذا الفكر  يحمل بذرة المستقبل والذي يمكن أن يمهد لعلاقة احترام ثقافي ـ حداثي ويدخل ضمن الحداثة العربية. إذن تحتم المعاصرة والحداثة، ضرورة التهجين والتفاعل بين الفكر والثقافة الغربية مع الهوية الذاتية (الثقافة الإسلامية ـ والعربية المتنورة )، وفي ذات الوقت الاختلاف والخصوصية في جوهريهما. وبالتأكيد يتم هذا من خلال التزام (النقد المزدوج) أي نقد المفاهيم الغربية والأوربية المهيمنة والاختلاف معها، وأيضا نقد الهوية الذاتية (أو ما يسمى بالأصالة، والهوية والخصوصية.. الخ) وهذا يعني الدمج الحداثي بين خصوصية الهوية الذاتية والحداثة الأوربية. وبالتأكيد فان هذا سيخلق سؤالا مصيريا معاصر ا، و لا يتم هذا إلا بقبول فكر وثقافة الآخر.

ويرافقه الكف عن اعتماد اوهام العجائز  اصحاب الفتاوى التي تهدف الى العيش في ظلامية العصور المظلمة وعكس هذا فان الفن والثقافة  العربية  لا تلتقي بقرينها أي الفن والفكر الاوربي والغربي ستستمر في الانحدار نحو الانقراض ما دامت لا تعتمد التطور العلمي الذي وصل له العالم الغربي والاوربي بالذات حتى هذه الالفية الثالثة .

وهاأنذا بعد اغتراب  40 سنة  مازلت اعيش الاحساس  بالمنفى الاختياري او الاجباري مادام  الوطن الاول واقصد العراق  المدمى  يزداد  غربة هو الآخر ومازال ينفي ذاته  متلفلفلا على ذاته جريحا يبحث عن مأوى ومنفذ ومنقذ .

بعد 40 سنه  مازلت أطمح أن أحول النور الى وطن او الأصح أحول  نور  الاغتراب الذي أعيشه الى وطن .

 

 

 

 

Responsibility & Identity: Creating Middle Eastern Theatre in Today’s

America

By Kareem Fahmy

In 1961, about five kilometers from here on a balcony at the Nile Hilton, my

grandmother Zeinab Allam – at that time known as Zeinab Fahmy – met a man

named Norman Coates. He was ten years younger than her, a Canadian who was

living in Cairo on a mission from the Ford Foundation, training Egyptian CEOs in

management and business relations. My grandmother was forty years old at the

time, married, with three children – my father being the oldest. Their chance

meeting at a party set off a chain of events that has continued to reverberate

through my family and has ultimately led me here, speaking to you at this very

moment.

My grandmother ended up marrying Norman and came to the West to be with him.

In order to do so she had to abandon everything she had known. She begged my

grandfather for a divorce – imagine a Muslim woman in the early 1960s here in

Cairo doing so, and succeeding! She abandoned her children, leaving in the middle

of the night without a word to them. She was disinherited from her family and

would not return to Egypt for nearly 15 years. She made a choice, she took a risk,

she chose to live the way she wanted. She wanted to free herself from the

expectations of her society, her faith, her gender. She fled a political system and a

culture that did not know what to do with a strongwilled,

independent woman.

I never knew the full story of my grandmother and Norman until I was well into my

teens. By that point Norman was out of the picture. After twenty years of marriage

Norman left my grandmother because he was having an affair and had fathered a

child with an old mistress of his. Growing up all I knew of my grandmother’s

romantic life was that my grandfather had died in Egypt before I was born and that

my grandmother had, for a time, been married to a Canadian man and taken his

name. She was no longer Zeinab Fahmy, she had become Suzy Coates and that

was she was known as until she died five years ago.

Ever since I was young people compared me to my grandmother. We were both

freethinkers,

artistic souls, dreamers. It came as no surprise to me that when I

was fifteen she reached out to tell me that she had begun writing a book about her

life and asked if I would read the first few chapters.

Reading the beginning of that book – which she eventually completed and published

– opened up for me an entirely new narrative of my family. As a child I’d ask my

parents why they decided to move from Egypt to Canada immediately after they

got married. My father always responded: “There were better jobs in Canada and I

wanted to raise children in a place where they could have everything they ever

wanted.” But something about that always rang false. My parents both came from

welltodo

families here in Egypt, they had a tightknit

community of friends and

relatives. In Canada we were isolated. My siblings and I were the only Arabs in my

elementary school and high school. While I never felt ostracized I knew that there

was something about me fundamentally different from those around me. Every year

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at Ramadan I would have to explain to my friends at school why I wasn’t having

lunch with them.

Reading my grandmother’s book made me understand that my father had come to

Canada in large part to reconnect with the mother that had abandoned him as a

child. Though this is something he may not have admitted or completely

understood – he is after all a Muslim father, not accustomed to sharing his inner

emotional life – it was clear to me that my grandmother’s choice to leave Egypt and

be with Norman had fundamentally changed the dynamics of my family and led to

my being born in Canada. So it was because of that moment in 1961 in that hotel

just over there that I came to be standing here, visiting Egypt for the first time in

over 15 years, speaking about my work as a theatre artist.

Over a period of seven years I worked to bring my grandmother’s story to the

stage. Using her book as source material, I collaborated closely with playwright

Sevan Kaloustian Greene to create the new play This Time, which after

development and workshop at three different theatre institutions had its world

premiere last May in New York City. The play not only recounts the story of my

grandmother’s affair and marriage with Norman, but deals with the consequences

of her leaving Egypt, the harsh sting of abandonment felt by her children, and

notions of balancing regret with freedom.

Working on this play was a way for me to examine my origins, get in touch with my

culture, and honor my grandmother, one of the most inspiring figures in my life.

What I didn’t expect is that it would redefine the relationship to my work and my

identity as an artist.

In America I am referred to time and time again as an “artist of color”, “a person of

color.” This is one of the number of buzzwords that you’ll often hear within the

American theatre industry. Some of the others are “diversity”, “inclusion”. What’s

interesting for me is that I didn’t realize I was a person of color until I moved to the

United States. When I say this to my friends and colleagues in America I always get

the same response: “Oh come on! How is that possible?” What they’re implicitly

saying is “But look at your skin!” “What about your name?”

In Canada we have a concept that’s called the “cultural mosaic”: each culture

flourishes side by side by side and the peaceful coexistence of all of these disparate

cultures is what creates Canada’s society. The American analog to this is called the

“melting pot”. A metaphor for a mixed society becoming more homogeneous. The

various elements of culture melt together into a supposedly harmonious whole that

is “American.” Incidentally the term melting pot was coined by a playwright – Israel

Zangwill – in 1908, looking forward to a society free of ethnic divisions and hatred .

How do I know that the way I’m perceived in the U.S. is different than in Canada?

One of my favorite examples is this: I’ve lived in the U.S. for nearly fifteen years

now and there’s hardly a week that goes by without someone asking me “Where

are you from?” When I respond “I’m from a small city in southeastern Quebec” their

comeback is invariably “But where are you from?” as if my being Canadian is not

2

enough to define me. In moving to the U.S. I became a person of color, judged

immediately by the color of my skin and my name.

Now I’m not asking you to feel sorry for me. I’ve benefitted from being an artist of

color. I’m one of only a handful of Middle Eastern theatre director creating work in

America and a large part of my career development has depended on initiatives

that support diversity in theatre.

What I started to recognize early on in my career is that there was a certain

expectation of the work that I could, should, and would want to do. Throughout my

career I’ve directed work by writers who are black, white, Asian, Arab, South Asian,

living, dead. I’ve never ascribed to one style of work or limited myself to a

particular theatrical aesthetic. But time and time again I was confronted with the

fact that those within the theatre industry were seeing my Arabness first and my

artistry second.

And that’s where my work on my grandmother’s story comes in. After years of

resisting the pressure I said to myself: “ People want me to be Middle Eastern? Fine.

I’m going to be as Middle Eastern as I possibly can.”

I recognized that my responsibility was to be as authentic as I possibly could be to

my experience as a Middle Eastern perso n living in America. As I said, one of the

key things I came to understand about being an Arab in America is that there are a

great number of overly simplified preconceptions about who I am, what I believe,

and what my intentions are. So as I approached the work of telling the story of my

grandmother, I started by asking myself “what are all the preconceived notions

about what a play about a Middle Eastern woman is going to be?” Sevan and I

acknowledged all of those expectations, unpacked them, and then asked “what’s

authentic to our story?”

The way I feel that This Time overcomes and subverts those expectations is that it

presents her life as it was. It’s a play about a Middle Eastern person told from the

perspective of a Middle Eastern person. There’s no outsider that comes in as a

gobetween

for the audience, there is no “Western lens.” What’s astonishing, and

disappointing, is how rare this is in the American theatre today.

What we found in developing and presenting the play is it transcended the idea of

“Middle Eastern theatre” and became about the experience that so many Americans

have: being born somewhere else and coming to the West. It was a universal story.

I’ve been overwhelmed by the number of people who have come up to me since the

show and said, “This woman is my mother. This woman is my grandmother. This

woman is my aunt.” And they’re of all different races. There is a universality in the

idea of what a person needs to give up particularly

a woman of a certain time and

place to

be independent.

By creating This Time I learned to embrace my identity as a Middle Eastern theatre

artist and learned that I have an exciting opportunity to further the narrative of

Middle Eastern theatre in America.

3

The fact is, Middle Eastern theatre is still finding its footing in America. If we look at

where we are in the history of what I call the “Theater of the Other” in American,

we can easily see that there is a long history of AfricanAmerican

plays and Latino

plays, there is a slightly lesser history of AsianAmerican

plays. We haven’t built a

history of Middle EasternAmerican

plays. Yet. Because it’s too new. In the wave of

new plays about Arabs and Muslims that came in the post9/

11 world, for the first

few years they were often overtly political and about the issues one would expect.

But when can we move past that? When can we do a play in which it is just about

the experience of those human beings? That shows the nuance and humanity of

Middle Eastern people? That breaks down the widely held prejudices that so many

Americans have about the Middle East that are reinforced by an ineffectual media

and a political system born of division? This is where the responsibility of Middle

Eastern theatre artists like me and my colleagues comes in.

There is much work to be done and it will take years, decades. We are building a

history, broadening a canvas, carving out a new space in a world that seeks to

marginalize us. The challenges are many: playwrights of Middle Eastern descent

express hesitancy at writing a play with too many Arab characters in fear that it

won’t get produced. There is a limited pool of professional actors of Middle Eastern

descent to draw from in casting, and acting training programs are not encouraging

the next generation of performers. Casting directors continue to demonstrate an

artlessness in their approach to filling Middle Eastern roles. And Artistic Directors

reject plays by Middle Eastern writers for “not being political enough.”

Fortunately theatre a

collaborative arm form is

a place of coming together and

of celebration. I hope that by the next time my Western colleagues and I are

invited here to speak with you, we won’t be discussing the challenges of creating

Middle Eastern work in the Western world, we’ll be talking about the successes.

How I Became an ArabAmerican

or,

How We Accidentally Engineered a Theatre Movement

By Maha Chehlaoui

 

I am at a crossroads. I recently left a beautiful theater company I cofounded in New York along with

Lameece Issaq and Nancy Vitale called Noor Theatre. Noor exists to develop, support, and produce the

work of theatre artists of Middle Eastern descent. I am its proud founding executive director. Former, as of

just last month. I am asked often what is next for mewhere

I am looking to go. And the truth is I am not

interested in looking forward yet. I am interested in looking back. I would like to thank the festival for inviting

me to speak with you all and experience your work and your camaraderie, and for providing me the

opportunity to begin the look back into the last 15 years that I crave.

For much of my life, I was split. One half of me lived in the world of politics and international

relations. This half was steeped in the Arab world. But the politics came to me in London where I spent my

adolescence and teenage years. One day I came home from school and told my father I had learned that

the media did not have biasa

new word I had learned. He laughed like I had told him the best joke, and

then explained the joke. Palestine featured heavily in this lesson, as you can imagine. How unjust! Also, my

teachers were wrong?! Question everything! I became a real pain in the ass. I joined debate clubs. I

participated in Model United Nations where, as the pretend United States delegate to the fake UN Security

Council, I fought tooth and nail for: (1) the end of the occupation; (2) the right of return; and (3) the right of

self determination for the Palestinian people.

Did I mention I was representing the United States?

So, it probably comes as no surprise that the other half of me was enamored with theatre.

Essentially, playing make believe. At that age, theatre was not a place of politics, it was barely a place that

acknowledged a nonwhite existence. You may recall a fi lm called Steel Magnolias. My friends and I

produced the play version when I was 15. The movie starred many famous old white women including

Olympia Dukakis, and a young and lovely Julia Roberts. I played the Olympia Dukakis character. Obviously.

So while I was split into two, half theatre obsessed, and half a rabid pretend politician, neither half

seemed to be too interested in acknowledging reality or speaking to one another.

In college, I studied bothInternational

Relations with a focus on the Middle East, and a hefty side

helping of constant theater. Sometimes the two worlds would collide. In 1995 a government building was

bombed killing 168 people. I prayed aloud “Please God let it not be an Arab.” A friend and fellow actor

responded, “Why are you worried? I don’t think of YOU as Arab.” I lacked the language to explain to him

what I know now. That is my community. That is my family. Those are my men who get vilified, accosted,

pulled over, treated as less than, sometimes, as we saw just a few weeks ago, with deadly results. I know I

have the ability to walk the streets undetected as anything in particular. People name me all things.

Hawaiian. Filipino. White. Latina. Rarely Arab. I am in fact only “half” Arab. This is my family. My Filipina

mother and her parents, my Lolo and Lola, and my Syrian father, and his parents, my Teta and Juddo. Half

Syrian, half Filipino. Siripino is the term I am trying to coin. It’s not a movement yet, but look out!

That actor’s attempt to assuage my fear was the first clue that something was wrong. Why had he

sought to comfort me by erasing my identity? Wasn’t that problematic? And really just kind of rude? Why did

he say it like it was a compliment? To not be thought of as Arab? Also, that begged the question, what did

he think an Arab was? This white young American boy who had only left the US once, to go to London.

It turned out that this building had been bombed by a white American man, and I breathed a sigh of

relief along with every other Arab and Muslim in America. I shoved my questions about my friend’s response

away. For a while.

Disillusioned with diplomacy and statecraft at the wise old age of 22, I decided to focus on theatre. I

went to continue my studies in New York. One day I was walking alongwell

jogging really, because as

usual, I was late for rehearsal, and I heard someone call my name. I turned around, and there was a woman

some of you may know, as she is now a long time Cairo local and applied theatre practitioner, Dahlia

Sabbour. She was a childhood friend from Bahrain. We quickly realized that we were both practicing theatre

artists, And we were both totally shocked that someone we knew, from Bahrain, that was Arab, was doing

theatre. And I rememberedwait!

There is one more! Her name is Rana Kazkaz! Do you think it’s just the

three of us?!

We made it our mission to find out. We went to every Arab sounding arts event we could. We

gathered names like we were the FBI and the CIA. Musicians told us of filmmakers, who told us of actors,

who told us of playwrights… And finally, in May, we gathered in my living room. And we were so excited to

meet one another. Let’s reconvene in September, when we are all back from our summer plans and

projects, we said. Happy, and light, looking forward to swapping stories of families lost in translation

between East and West, tales of the American Dream found or lost, and all the other tropes the children of

immigrants swap with one another. Fun!

Did I mention this was 2001? So, just weeks after the World Trade Center attacks, we came back

together, as planned. Except we were in a totally different world.

In the weeks before what we now call 9/11 happened, I was in Europe. I was seriously

contemplating running away with a Polish theatre company to perform mainly in Ancient Greek. Obviously.

On September 11 th , 2001 and for many years after, so many awful, magical, unconstitutional and

unexpected things happened. One of those many of things was that I became something known as an

“ArabAmerican.”

I was being hyphenated over the Internet! It was my inbox that told me, via email,

especially from friends who remembered my political half. “What do you think, Maha? I mean, as an

ArabAmerican?”

I had never been called that or called myself that. I felt defensive. I hated being told it was

“my responsibility” to answer. What did I have to do with that violence? I preferred to think it was my choice

to engage or not. I felt angry that I was being singled out to answer this stuff, yet I found I had a lot to saydifferent

perspectives than those being widely preached, challenging questions that were not being asked,

ideas that seemed “rude” to discuss in the face of so much grief. So, I responded. A lot. And I thought,

maybe now is not the time to run off to Poland. Maybe I belong in New York. With those other actors I just

met. I bet they are all ArabAmerican

now, too. Maybe we should all be ArabAmerican

together.

So back to New York I went. The fear and grief common to most New Yorkers permeated the room,

along with a sense of urgency to “do something” – not just for New York, but also for our community that

was quickly becoming vilified and criminalized. We were now transforming into ArabAmerican

artists.

Theatrically inclined, politically motivated. In hindsight, I had been preparing for this for years, but I was only

putting the pieces together in that moment, in absolute crisis. We made a conscious choice to take on the

“ArabAmerican”

mantle. We founded Nibras Theatre Collective and I served as Artistic Director until 2005.

We cowrote

and produced a verbatim, or documentary theatre, show which I directed, Sajjil: Record. We

interviewed people from a diverse range of ethnicities, ages, and economic groups. And that story of mine

from before? Where my friend said, “I don’t think of you as Arab, Maha. Why are you concerned?” It stayed

with me. With Sajjil, the central question of our show was “What Does the Word Arab Mean to You?” And we

asked a variety of people of many races, and ages, religions, and heritages. And some of the answers were

beautifulespecially

from the Arabs we asked, who instinctively knew we needed a liftknew

that the

audience needed to hear that something positive, loving, and peaceful could come from the Arab world. And

some of the answers were not what we longed to hear. That what came to mind was someone scary and

dark, dangerous, and in need of surveillance, control, and retribution.

We did all this while still reeling from our beloved city being attacked, dealing with our community

being under fire for the very attack we were all grieving. Outside the walls of our rehearsal, there was the

Patriot Act, a gross violation of our privacy and constitutional rights. People were being beaten up for looking

Arab. Mostly Latinos and Sikhs. A thing called Special Registration was happening. Muslims from certain

countries were being told to go to Immigration and register voluntarily. And community activists and lawyers

were advising them not to, to protect them from the disorganized, unconstitutional and farreaching

actions

being taken by local and national law enforcement. We heard the rising beat of war drums. Bush wanted a

war, and he was going to get it. At home and abroad, we were not safe. It was an intense, emotionally

wrought, messy, highly charged creative process to say the least, but we made a show. A strong show. It

was cathartic for us, for our community, and for many New Yorkers of all backgrounds. And still we never felt

it was enough.

We did all this as a group who had no experience producing ( Steel Magnolias aside), some of

whom had never worked collaboratively. We came from different types of training, and very different

aesthetics. All we had in common was heritage and the shared drive to take control of the narrative about

our people. It turned out that we also shared one more thing. We all had nightmares involving terrorist and

hostage situations. There were two basic variations. In version one, we dreamt that on the hijacked plane, or

wherever, we became responsible for negotiating peace. Because we were Arab and American somehow

that responsibility was on us. In the second version, we discovered to our own surprise that we ourselves

were, in fact, the terrorist. And there was nothing we could do to change it. All of us had these awful

dreams. Every single member. I remember the day we discovered this shared trait. And we all had them

before we met, before 9/11 ever took place. That is the power of constant negative representation over the

psyche of a group of people. You don’t need to be a genius to see the weight of responsibility we felt for

things that we could not possibly control, or the internalization of all the terrorist imagery out there. That is

why we immediately felt responsible for the representation of Arabs in America. Why we still work for better

representation, and for me, now, I try my best to speak up not just for us, but for all marginalized groups. We

must humanize all representation for humanity’s sake. And so we can all sleep better at night.

Though there was a well founded fear permeating everything, the time after 9/11 was also one of

great creativity and camaraderie. Diamonds come from great pressure, after all. Everyone was on alert and

responding: filmmakers, documentarians, photographers, theatre makers, comedians.

One of the highlights of my life will forever be the New York Arab American Comedy Festival

founded by the unstoppable comedians and commentators, Dean Obeidallah and Maysoon Zayid. In a time

where New York was grieving and fearful, where we were cautiously making work that challenged

stereotypes while also hoping not to draw too much of the wrong attention, these two brought us all together

in annual chaotic hilarity to brazenly poke fun at American paranoia, our own community, our families,

ourselves. I owe the New York Arab American Comedy Festival a lot for the gift of always finding the funny.

And also the gift of an even larger community than the one Nibras had given me. We were all participating in

and building on one another’s success.

After a hiatus from artistic leadership I went on to co found Noor Theatre. I served as Executive

Director from 2009 until this past July. When we began the company the environment had shifted. We were

then in what was called a “post9/

11” atmosphere. It was not as fraught as those first few years. The

community of theatre artists was larger, more mature. Connections were being made internationally. We as

artists had made headway in New York and had relationships with larger more powerful theaters that wanted

to support our work. We talked about becoming more inclusivenot

just focussing on those of Arab descent,

but to welcome the entire MENA region. While each country is so very different from one another, within the

US we have much in common in terms of how our communities were treated, and how our home countries

are discussed on the political stage.

As artists and producers, we were also “post9/

11” and it felt different. We were less reactive. We

had slowly started to let go of the panicked feeling that we must attempt to do everything, respond to

everything. I wanted to approach producing differently than before. I wasn’t sure how. Lameece Issaq, as

Artistic Director led the way, first with her play Food and Fadwa, written with Jacob Kader. We continued

seeking quality work to develop and produce, and thought of creative ways to inspire the creation of new

work. Last year we developed a whole new way of working with our community of artists. The 48 Hour

Forum. The idea was born in 2014. It was yet another depressing news cycle. One of our board members

thought that we should host panel discussions to engage the community around some of the issues that

were on everyone’s minds. The refugee crisis. Daesh or ISIS or ISIL or whatever name death goes by now.

The “Arab Spring” and the hopes and stories that came. And went. I am standing in Cairo, I don’t need to tell

you! Violence in Europe such as the Charlie Hebdo killings. There was just so much, and we were starting to

carry the psychic burden once more.

Neither Lameece nor I were interested in hosting discussions. We are fond of saying “we are a

theatre, not a think tank.” And we were wary of becoming reactive once more, uncomfortable being told

once again that we were single handedly responsible for managing the conversation and reaction to any one

of these events. So we resisted. Then slowly an idea emerged. We ARE a theatre company. Perhaps we

should engage with these stories not with panel discussions, but with theatre. And we are not responsible for

the conversation. Everyone is! Especially in the US where as a nation we are in a codependent relationship

with the Middle East. It is not just Arabs and other Middle Easterners who should be addressing these

topics, it is everyone! And so the 48 Hour Forum was born. News is fast. Theatre is Slow. Not this Time: The

48 Hour Forum. That’s our tagline.We would have this one event annually where we would diversify the

artists in the room more so than on any other project we did.

We invited 5 playwrights, 5 directors and about 20 actors to join us. Their mission was to write, rehearse and

perform a short play 48 hours after their initial meeting. On Saturday night at 7 PM the source material would

be a news article picked randomly from a hat. The cast would also be picked from a hat. They would have a

couple of hours to talk as a team, then playwrights would write over night. They would meet Sunday

afternoon to rehearse and Monday night at 7PM, 48 hours later, we would perform.

We have done two so far. While I am no longer an officer of the company I am a proud member of

the advisory board, and an enthusiastic supporter. The 48 Hour Forum is one of my favorite achievements.

Working with Lameece is a true collaboration, and together we worked through the discomfort of being told

“you should respond” to the joy of “let’s make theatre!” We created an event that is inclusive. One where the

burden of representation is shared. Where we aim to create a room of all the colors of people, all the diverse

genders and orientations and ages. And we engage together around the topics that break our hearts and

uplift us. And together we tell the stories that matter, inspired by the news of the day. With an urgency

created through the joy of time constraints! Which is an urgency we are in control of, created internally. We

are working to no longer see ourselves as at the mercy of external forces.

In many ways, I was put together, finally. The political animal. The Arab daughter. The theatre artist.

The 48 Hour Forum allowed me to bring in the type of artists I might have been rehearsing with in Poland,

we also brought in Filipino artists! We have folks who engage with politics and those who don’t. We engage

with dark matter. And light matter. And it is driven by joy, and the desire to communicate, to commune.

Rather than the desperate need to be heard in the face of prosecution. We are owning our stories. We are

owning the means by which they are told, and how. The nightmare that I, alone and in isolation, must single

handedly save anyone from terror is gone. The nightmare of looking down and realizing that it is me who is

causing the terror is also no more. When we all had those terrible dreams, it was before we knew one

another. It was before we knew our strength. It was before we had reached out to all the many people who

wanted to swim in these waters with us.

I am not sure what’s next for me personally, but I will never stop being grateful for this journey and

excited at what is next for this artistic community, in its broadest definition

محمد سامي / مجلة الخشبة

عن محمد سامي

محمد سامي عضو نقابة الفنانين العراقين - وعضو آتحاد المسرحيين العراقيين ييعمل لدى مركز روابط للثقافة والفنون ومحرر في موقع الخشبة و موقع الهيئة العربية للمسرح

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