Towards fulfilling the dream of cultural resistence

Today April 4, is the start of The Freedom Theatre's annual celebration of cultural resistance, in memory of Juliano Mer Khamis. This day has strong symbolical value to us because six years ago, Juliano was assassinated outside The Freedom Theatre by an unknown murderer. Today is also the commemoration of the 2002 Battle of Jenin when our community held against a brutal invasion by the occupation forces.

The basic principles of The Freedom Theatre include developing awareness and re-imagining reality to create a progressive viewpoint that opposes any attempts to crush people’s dreams or place external conditions on their aspirations.

In this 11th anniversary year, we are starting new works inspired by messages that were written on the walls of the Stone Theatre.

We have continued Arna and Juliano’s dream of turning The Freedom Theatre into a national cultural movement, which is home to creative and artistic expressions of justice, equality and freedom. We ask friends from across the world to join The Freedom Theatre in this mission and to share in celebrating our anniversary. At this time we commemorate the murder of our co-founder Juliano and repeat our demand for justice. We also join our people in the refugee camp in commemorating the 2002 Battle of Jenin.

The arts have always been a powerful tool used by the oppressed against their oppressors. This is especially true in Palestine where artistic expression is an integral component of the struggle for freedom, justice and equality. We are facing the worst occupation in the world, which reveals the true face of colonialism defined by military rule and repressive imperialism, amid racist policies where divisions are based on ethnicity.

These circumstances drive the The Freedom Theatre to develop practical guidelines to frame our work and define our role in the Palestinian revolution. We consider ourselves part of a social movement that seeks to contribute to and enhance an authentic platform for cultural resistance.

Cultural resistance means different things to different people. However, even without a standard definition, we are still able to identify a set of common goals and visions amongst artistic initiatives, rooted in the belief that the arts and culture play a critical role in life and society.

This cultural approach moves as a ´soft power´ among the people. It unites us so that a collective cultural movement can become part of the next generation, and their constructive criticism will lead to a serious evaluation of the Palestinian situation.

The Freedom Theatre has continued to cultivate this principle through its many years of experience and we aim to incorporate it into everything we do, building on our analysis of the reality we live in.

We believe that cultural resistance is one tool within a larger framework of resistance. This automatically has social and organisational implications associated with the concept of change. At The Freedom Theatre we use various art forms, ranging from theatre to multimedia, to oppose the several occupations affecting us as Palestinians.

Some people argue that cultural resistance is limited to the practice of using symbolism and meaning to combat oppressive forces. However, we believe that cultural resistance also has a role to play in creating a collective identity of the ‘rebel against injustice.’ It is also a tool that can deepen understanding and promote progressive analytical thinking to evaluate policies which are based on principles of domination and authoritarian rule.

We believe cultural resistance within the Palestinian context is not a substitute for any other form of resistance. Palestinian resistance can be described as a mosaic and cultural resistance is but one stone within that mosaic; a unique stone that gives the mosaic style, meaning and direction.

In her message for World Theatre Day 2017, the French actor Isabelle Huppert said that theatre is the absence of hatred and that those who yearn to govern us should be aware of the unimaginable benefits brought about by theatre.

Today we send a message of love to all theatres and theatre workers around the world - to actors, directors, trainers, set designers, stage managers, technicians, students and audiences - and we ask you now to please make way for theatre!

Statement by The Freedom Theatre, April 4, 2017