The recently concluded NAPA International Theatre and Music Festival brought some really unique stories to the limelight. There is one story that we are particularly in love with:Â Return to Palestine,Â a Palestinian production brought to life by eight extremely talented Palestinian artists.
There are many reasons why this performance was special. Firstly, we were informed by NAPA’s Creative Director, Zain Ahmed, that this is the first time Palestinian artists have ever performed in Pakistan. He also told us that the troupe had difficulty getting visas to Pakistan since there is no Pakistani embassy in Palestine.
What unfolded on stage was tragic, yet beautiful.
Whatever little we hear about the war that takes place in Palestine came to life onstage, in front of our very own eyes. The play, directed by Micaela Miranda, was about a Palestinian-American boy who wants to visit Palestine for the first time in his life, in order to learn more about his family and his country. In his journey, he encounters stereotype, prejudice and full blown abuse when he eventually makes it to Gaza. The play covers the atrocities of the Zionist regimes and how people are shot, gassed and blown up on a regular basis.
We spoke to Nabeel Alrae, one of the performers of the play.
“We made this play by collecting stories of people living directly under military occupation,” shared Nabeel. The performer added that the main reason behind doing this play in Pakistan was to meet people face to face and get to know more than what the news tells us. “I want to meet people and understand what’s going on in Pakistan. As human beings, we deserve to meet. The world is dividing us based on race, colour and religion. This is what I wanted to break. I’m also very amazed by the generosity and the support Pakistanis have given us.”
We asked NabeelÂ whether art in Palestine is usually this politically motivated, as Pakistani art is also politically motivated but at the same time, we also have room for mindless entertainment.
“I always say, we only do art to point to problems that exist in our reality. Art is a necessity, not an accessory. Art exists to show us different ways to live. It’s not to enjoy and go back home and say ‘it was fun.’ With all due respect to that kind of art too, but I appreciate art that talks about people, to the people, through the people. This is why we do theatre.