A LAND WITHOUT JASMINE:
The first Yemeni Theatre Production in the UK at Battersea Arts Centre
Jasmine suddenly disappears without a trace from her university campus in Yemen's capital Sana'a. But who really knows what happened to her? Presenting the first ever Yemeni theatre production to be staged in the UK, A Land Without Jasmine is a dark fairytale which transports audiences to a murky underworld of lust, obsession and violence where nothing and no one are what they seem. An adaptation of Wajdi Al Ahdal's magical realist novel, directed by Palestinian theatre maker Mo’min Swaitat, the play is an exploration of teenage sexuality and fantasy in a little understood part of the Arab world. Featuring a cast and production team from across the Middle East, A Land Without Jasmine is a crime story like you have never seen before...
Wajdi al-Ahdal is a Yemeni novelist, short story writer, screenwriter and dramatist. He is the author of several collections of short stories and four novels, including A Land Without Jasmine (published in English by Garnet, 2012). His novel Mountain Boats was confiscated by the Yemeni Ministry of Culture for insulting ‘morality, religion, and conventions of Yemeni society’, and a campaign against the book drove him into exile for a number of years, before being pardoned by the former government. He now lives in Sana’a, where he continues to write and mentor young novelists and playwrights.
“Wajdi Al-Ahdal has written a surreal detective story that is both lucid and spare, yet strips away the deceits of Arab life and satirises illogical attitudes. It brings to mind the writing style of Haruki Murakami and his 'Kafka on the Shore'... Anyone seeking an insight into life in Arab culture should read this. It is not comfortable reading, but it is powerful, poignant writing at its best” ----Sam Hawksmoor, Hackwriters
Directed by Mo’min Swaitat
Produced by Nadia Jaglom of Sarha Collective
Osama Al-Azzeh (Nasser)
Tarek Al-Khateeb (Ali)
Sofia Aseer (Yasmine)
Mariam Balhas (Wahiba)
Sherine Chalhie (Inspector Abla Amir)
Mo’min Swaitat (The Sheikh)
Yasmine Yagchi (Yasmine/Sergeant M)
Set Design by Souheil Suleiman
Lighting Design by Andy Purves
Technician Mohammad Abu Atiya
With thanks to Arts Council England, British Council Yemen and Battersea Arts Centre for their support.
PALESTINE FILM CLUB II / SOCOTRA ISLAND OF DJINNS: Film Screening + Afterparty
Fundraiser in aid of A LAND WITHOUT JASMINE
On Saturday 16th March, Sarha and Palestine Film Club teamed up once more at Rich Mix, screening Socotra: Island of Djinns, a breathtaking black and white documentary, shot in one of the world's most beautiful and mysterious islands: Yemen's Socotra.
Several ancient texts believe Socotra is the original location of the Garden of Eden. It has enchanted adventurers from Alexander the Great to Marco Polo to the legendary Sinbad, with its dragon’s blood trees and other rare species. Jordi Esteva’s documentary looked at storytelling on the island and the widespread tales of djinns and other magical creatures told around the campfire. With Socotra having been recently annexed by the UAE, the film offers a glimpse into a rapidly disappearing way of life.
The sold-out screening was followed by the premiere of Lara Ingram and Sebastien Rabas’s Raving in Palestine, which took a closer look at the electronic music scene spanning Haifa to Iqrit, Bethlehem to Ramallah. Yamen Mekdad and Chris Menist rounded off the programme with an incredible live set, showcasing the best of their vinyl collection – including rare records from Yemen.
Yamen Mekdad is a record collector and a music enthusiast born in Damascus and based in London. His collection spans from folk to jazz and from funk to techno. He is the co-founder of London based Makkam Collective and a co-presenter of DanDana a radio show on SOAS radio.
Chris Menist is a writer, DJ and musician best known as the co-founder of the Paradise Bangkok label and band, alongside DJ Maft Sai. He was behind behind Dust-To-Digital’s ‘Qat, Coffee and Qambus : Raw 45s from Yemen’. Currently residing in the UK, he hosts a monthly show on NTS and his DJ sets (in Japan, Thailand, Australia and across Europe at Nuits Sonores, Glastonbury, Off Festival and Wax Treatment amongst others) encompass a broad mix of reggae, soul, african, latin and asian sounds from across the globe. As well as being invited to participate in Four Tet’s (Kieran Hebden) LP launch for Boiler Room, he recently played Nuits Sonores in France as part of Hebden’s line up, where he shared a stage with Mafalda and Floating Points. He has also been featured as part of Boiler Room’s ‘Collections’ series.
As with all Sarha/PFC collaborations, the event was held in the UK and Palestine at the same time, with our Ramallah team screening Socotra at the Khalil Sakakini Cultural Center, followed by a DJ set from BLTNM.
THIS IS YEMEN هنا اليمن :
Film Screening + Music Event
Sarha Collective & The People's Film Club were proud to present 'This is Yemen': a one night mini-festival in East London celebrating the best of Yemeni filmmaking from Comra Films (أفلام قُمرة) with Yemeni street food and vintage and modern Yemeni records played until late.
About Comra Films:
"In 2015, we collaborated with #SupportYemen and the British Council to launch Comra Documentary Film Camp with the vision of equipping aspiring filmmakers in war-torn Yemen with the skills to document the events around them and convey their stories to the world. Following its success, we ran more workshops on fiction filmmaking, editing, post-production and more.
Our team is made up of Yemen’s most established, award-winning filmmakers - from experienced fixers to Oscar nominated directors. We combine know-how and vision with local access and expertise. Our dream is to foster Yemen's culture in the most challenging of times and preserve the essence of it's past and present through film."
'This Is Yemen' premiered both the docs produced during the British Council and #SupportYemen’s filmmaking camp in Sana’a, and Comra Film's most recent groundbreaking shorts, produced in 2018 and supported by AFAC (The Arab Funds for Arts and Culture).
Comra قمرة is the Arabic term for a photographic dark room, named by scientist Ibn Al Haytham who discovered that he could develop photos using a tiny hole in a darkened space. The collective takes its name from the situation in Yemen, which in its present state resembles a dark room.
THIS IS YEMEN is a collaboration between Sarha Collective and The People's Film Club. The People's Film Club works to screen brilliant films, to encourage discussions and raise funds for grassroots organisations.
The proceeds from this event have gone towards supporting an upcoming Yemeni theatre production - the first ever stage adaptation of Wadji Al Ahdal's "A Land Without Jasmine" which will open April next year at Battersea Arts Centre.
PALESTINE FILM CLUB LONDON LAUNCH:
Short Film Screening + After Party
Sarha Collective recently held the UK Launch of Palestine Film Club - a collective comprised of filmmakers, producers, artists and others dedicated to the production and growth of a homegrown Palestinian film industry. PFC are a network of industry professionals who aim to support and inspire one another through the promotion of Palestinian cinema, both domestically and on an international stage.
In September 2018 at Rich Mix London, we brought you eight beautiful short films - the first in a programme of film screenings that will run regularly and showcase the best and boldest new work from filmmakers across the Arab world and beyond. The aim is that every screening we hold here - or in another European city - will be held in Palestine at the same time. We are taking this global!
Our lineup included fiction and non-fiction shorts from Palestine, the UK and Yemen, including a number of never-before-seen UK premieres! Our filmmakers included rising new talents who are taking international cinema into the future.
We were very lucky to be partnered with wonderful The People's Film Club who bring people together to watch great films that tell the stories of people around the world. They pair these films with speakers who understand the subjects best - filmmakers, activists, academics and community organisers - in order to start important discussions around issues that affect us all.
After the screening, we were joined by the team behind Haifa Independent Film Festival, along with reps from PFC London and Sarha Collective, for a panel discussion about the Palestinian film industry and some of our plans for the future, including a filmmakers’ exchange programme between the UK and Palestine which will be held in 2019.
After the screening, Palestinian DJs Jazar Crew came to London for the very first time to play a set. Jazar Crew is a DIY music and art collective that aims to provide a safe-space dance floor for Palestinian youth. With their revolutionary parties around the region, they have built bridges between the Palestinian underground scenes in Haifa, Ramallah and beyond. Following on from a wildly successful collaboration with Boiler Room, they have been touring across Europe and came to London from Haifa as a special treat for the PFC launch.
A Solo Show written, performed & directed by Momin Swaitat
Alien Land is a devised solo show inspired by 'The Secret Life of Saeed: The Pessoptimist', the first science fiction novel in the Middle East. Performed in Arabic with English subtitles, it is a dark comedy which looks at life under occupation and the contemporary refugee experience from a radical new perspective.
As both a Bedouin and a Palestinian refugee from the 1948 Nakba, the show is built around performer Momin Swaitat’s family history and folklore. It draws on his memories of growing up in a world turned upside down by the violence and disruption of the Second Intifada – when his neighbourhood became an overnight battle zone, schools were closed and there was widespread curfew.
Fusing the ancient Arab tradition of the hakawati (travelling storyteller) with hallucinatory physical theatre sequences, mask and mime, it is a tale of love, loss and exile which will leave audiences unsure of which time, place or universe they have landed in.
Alien Land opened at VAULT Festival in London, January 2018 and is currently on tour. Sign up to our mailing list to keep updated.
Momin Swaitat is a Palestinian actor, writer and director who has trained at the Freedom Theatre, Jenin and LISPA, in London and Berlin. He has performed in numerous shows with the Freedom Theatre, working alongside director Juliano Mer Khamis on productions such as Animal Farm, Alice in Wonderland, Fragments of Palestine and Waiting for Godot which toured in major theatres in Europe and the U.S. He has collaborated with acclaimed directors such as Thomas Ostermeier (Schaubühne Theatre) and Rufus Norris (The National Theatre), as well as writing and directing several solo and ensemble pieces in Palestine and abroad. He was recently selected for the 2017 Sundance Institute Theatre Lab and for the Arcola Theatre Residency Programme. Alien Land is his first professional production in the UK.
Lighting Design : Andy Purves
Sound Technician : Noora Said
An Interdisciplinary Exhibition about the Future of Palestine
‘Chapter 31: An Odd Piece of Research on the Many Virtues of the Oriental Imagination' was curated by Nadia Jaglom and Mai Kanaaneh. Our launch project took audiences on a journey into utopian and dystopian visions of the future of Palestine as imagined by sixteen artists. The exhibition took its name from a chapter in a satirical novel by celebrated Palestinian author Emile Habibi in which an alien invasion allows the protagonist to consider the impact of Israeli colonisation on the Palestinians who have remained behind in historic Palestine.
Included in the show were new commissions in film, sculpture, installation, photography, collage and painting made by artists living and working in historic Palestine, the West Bank, Jordan, Lebanon and throughout the wider diaspora. This was accompanied by a programme of events, including workshops, film screenings, musical and theatrical performances.
Since 1948, much of the diverse body of work that has come out of Palestine has dealt - whether directly or indirectly - with the personal and political consequences of the Nakba and Israeli colonisation. Due in part to the numerous assaults on Palestinian culture, history and identity over the years, examining and retelling the past has taken on a vital importance.
We have long been interested in considering what impact these and other narratives about past and present Palestine have had on different concepts of a near or distant Palestinian future. However, the main aim of ‘Chapter 31’ was to give contributors the freedom and space to consider the future of Palestine in new, experimental ways without having to first and foremost justify their right to exist.
At the core of the project was a wish to move away from the familiar representation of Palestinians as either militants or victims by introducing UK audiences to some of the many creative forms that the Palestinian struggle can take. By including artists, architects, performers, filmmakers and scholars in our exhibition, Sarha Collective set out to showcase the complexity of what Palestine is, as well as the range of possibilities of what it might be in the future.
We support the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement and, as such, do not accept funding or sponsorship from Israel or any organisations / individuals that support the occupation or receive funding from the Israeli government. We oppose normalization and co-existence projects which do not call for an end to occupation and Israel’s recognition of the rights of all Palestinians - within the ‘48 borders, in the West Bank, Gaza and in exile - under international law.