Creating new networks in Palestine and Tel Aviv
36 hours into the inaugural Palestine Performing Arts Network Showcase and I’m already overwhelmingly inspired.
The showcase takes place in Ramallah in the West Bank and is linked with the IETM Caravan – an inspiring gathering of people from the across the globe – venue and festival programmers, artists managers, other network managers (like myself) and makers (and a role that was new to me, “independent programmer”) – It’s much more than a showcase.
Immediately I’ve been struck by the value of both a collective voice and different points of view. For PAC Australia there’s an interesting concept in this about not only the collective voice of a total network but the voices of groups within the network – huge value in not homogenising that voice and also the debate of different points of view, yet being unified with a broader common purpose.
A discussion that followed the first keynote, which briefly described the recent history of performing arts in Palestine, and its relationship to the socio-political situation, was fascinating and a perfect example of value of being in these international forums. The discussion wove its way through what seemed to be consistent and similar challenges in many international contexts (from Sweden, to China, Ireland, Lithuania, Saudi Arabia, Palestine and Australia). Balancing conservatism (or traditional and commercial performing arts) and contemporary art; our role in challenging popularism; the pros and cons of that; and our role in social and political discourse. There was a sense of taking some elements of the issues we discuss in Australia (e.g. like developing markets, supporting local talent, increasing the diversity of work etc) and magnifying it 100 fold in regard to the challenges in this region.
This discussion was followed by a visit to Al-Ama’ari refugee camp (pop’n 7000) and the Popular Theatre (based in the camp). A young actress speaking on behalf of the theatre said, “This place is our home where think and create and dream. We fight for beauty, freedom and justice”. It is impossible to capture and describe the sense of purpose of this organisation – it redefines the idea of access, and for me, speaks to the core of great performing arts – communication – the stories that reflect our lives and question the world we live in.
Two performances in the evening, and excellent discussions on busses in between, provided deep insight and fired synapses in unrelenting ways.
Being here is like being on an intravenous drip of ideas – a flood of different points of view, of different ways of doing things, of evaluating what we’re doing in Australia, where we are placed in a global context, and in what way we can shape practices to evolve and improve. There’s also a pretty extraordinary sense of satisfaction in what we have as an a industry (talent, skills, expertise, knowledge, resources, and most significantly freedom), the stuff we are getting right in spite of the daily challenges.
My attendance here is a reference point for where we are at as an organisation – and if it’s not too big a statement, where we are at as a nation – it provides an invaluable opportunity to stand back and ask what our role is in supporting and developing our culture and identity.
And that’s just day one!
PS It’s a weird feeling knowing that the Gaza Strip is as far away as Perth to Mandurah (Sydney to Wollongong, Melbourne to Geelong) and Syria and Beirut about as far away as Perth to Busselton (Brisbane to Byron, Adelaide to Mt Gambier) and yet the world goes on in a normal (ish) kind of fashion in Ramallah.