By Hannah Wilkinson
Egyptian theatre troupe El Warsha will perform their play Zawaya (Angles) at the Hakaya theatre festival in Jordan, on 10 September.
The festival, which runs from 8-12 September in Amman, is part of a wider, pan-Mediterranean project, which focuses on the role of storytelling in Arab culture. It will feature plays, storytelling performances and films.
Hakaya aims to act as a platform for storytelling in life, education, and the arts: linking organisations throughout the Arab world who share the belief that stories are essential to regional cultural development. The director of Zawaya, Hassan el Geretly, has been involved with the Hakaya project since its inception in 2007. The inaugural meeting, organised by the Jordan-based Arab Education Forum, resulted in a two year project including several conferences on the subject of storytelling, the publishing of anthologies of local stories, as well as leading to the production of Zawaya by el Warsha.
“In the Arab world storytelling is very much alive” said el Geretly, explaining the impetus behind the ongoing project, of which September’s festival is the latest manifestation. “It underpins the whole of Arab culture”. Even cultural organisations in Egypt who are more inclined towards contemporary arts are still affected by the tradition of storytelling, he argued. “Storytelling is present through the voice contained in a lot of Arab literature… present in the depths of Arab artistic expression”.
Zawaya premiered in Cairo in November 2012, and has since been performed a number of times, both in Cairo and elsewhere, including Alexandria and Minya. There are plans to tour the play in France in 2014.
The play presents five narratives of the 25 January Revolution from radically different perspectives, including the mother of a martyr, a paid thug and an army officer. The stories were largely written by Shadi Atef and the play also features original songs about the revolution.
Although the inception of the project dates to before 2011, el Geretly said he saw the continued success of the Hakaya project as being directly related to the Arab Spring. “Despite the difficulties of pan-Arabism, one factor that brings everyone together is the language and the culture that goes with it is very important”, he explained. “Since the Arab Spring the interest of each different Arab country in the others is very clear. There is a revival of popular interest in each other and each other’s countries.”