JANAM & The Freedom Theatre Collaborate To perform in Ten Cities in India
IN the first ever India-Palestine theatre collaboration, The Freedom Theatre (TFT) from Jenin is collaborating with Jana Natya Manch (Janam) this winter. This is a cultural exchange between India and Palestine. Many progressive and secular individuals and organisations are associating with the event. The programme includes a Janam-TFT play; a puppet performance on Palestine by internationally acclaimed puppeteer Anurupa Roy and her team Kat-katha; a photo exhibition on Palestine; the traditional Palestinian Dapke dance and poetry, songs and short performances by local artists. The Janam-TFT joint production will travel to ten cities in December-January. Well-known designer Orijit Sen has done the visual image of the jatha. This theatrical collaboration is the result of direct, people-to-people contacts, unmediated by funding agencies or governments. This event is significant in the background of the Indian government turning more pro-Israel than ever. The worldwide campaign for boycotting Israeli government and commercial institutions is gaining worldwide attention and successes, and this collaboration will help that process. The Freedom Theatre is one of the leading Palestinian theatres. Just as Safdar Hashmi was killed during a performance in 1989, the founder of TFT, Juliano Mer Khamis, was shot dead outside the theatre. The artistes from TFT will spend three months in India. They will take part in intensive workshops with Indian theatre experts. Along with actors from Janam, they will prepare a joint production, which will travel to 10 Indian cities in December-January 2015-16. “It will be a great experience for the young artistes from Palestine to share their ideas of freedom and liberation with Indian audiences,” said Faisal Abu Alhayjaa, artistic leader of the project from TFT. “Indian culture, cinema and theatre have been great inspirations for us, and we hope that this will lead to many more such cultural exchanges between our two countries,” he said. Jana Natya Manch, also known as Janam (meaning 'birth') is a group of self-trained actors. It has to its credit more than 7,500 performances of about 100 street and proscenium plays in about 140 towns and cities of India. Janam has played a significant role in popularising street theatre as a form of voicing anger and public opinion. It has done plays on price rise, elections, communalism, economic policy, unemployment, trade union rights, globalisation, women’s rights, education system, etc. On January 2, 1989, the convenor of Janam, Safdar Hashmi, died in a New Delhi hospital following a murderous attack on Janam activists the previous day by anti-social elements patronised by the ruling vested interests. Janam was performing Halla Bol in Jhandapur, Sahibabad, in support of the workers' demands led by the Centre of Indian Trade Unions (CITU). People from all walks of life – workers, political activists, artists and intellectuals – came together spontaneously in a massive, unprecedented protest against this brutal murder. Today, Safdar's name has become synonymous with street theatre and the progressive cultural movement in India. Janam's theatre is consciously political and partisan, and sees itself as a part of, and contributing to, the growing democratic movement in the country. It provides robust entertainment and promotes a democratic, secular and scientific consciousness among the people. Janam performs for and mobilises support for many socio-political causes. It also conducts joint programmes with other cultural groups on a number of issues. The Freedom Theatre is a Palestinian community-based theatre and cultural center located in the Jenin Refugee Camp in the northern part of the West Bank. Established in 2006, the theatre aims to generate cultural resistance through the fields of popular culture and art as a catalyst for social change in the occupied Palestinian territories. The theatre’s goals are to “develop a vibrant and creative artistic community empowering children and young adults to express themselves freely and equally through art, emphasizing professionalism and innovation." The theatre teaches courses in film, photography, creative writing, and theatre.