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A Tale of Four Migrant Women, Told by Four More
BY Noor Gillani / Queensland University of Technology | 14-Jul-2017
In her play Remembering Palestine, Director Aleea Monsour shines a spotlight on the lives of four refugee women, and in doing so a whole generation of youth whose roots trace back to no-man’s land.
Monsour’s Brisbane community theatre project shares the personal anecdotes and experiences of female Palestinian migrants, word-for-word through a verbatim performance by a young-female Arab cast.
Although the migrant women whose stories are shared arrived to Australia at different times, and from distinct walks of life – certain universal themes shine throughout the production.
The narrative addresses topics like identity conflict, cultural alienation, a desperation to integrate, as well as a powerful longing to return home.
The stories are deeply private, yet ones which the performers say they can certainly relate with.
Performer Chloe plays the role of Fadia, a refugee who also happens to be her mother.
Fadia said that upon first arriving in Australia, she wanted to hide her Palestinian identity and denied her heritage – having no family or connections.
However with time she went from being embarrassed to being proud of her lineage.
The same sentiment is expressed by Sarah, an early childhood teacher and one of the play’s four actresses.
“I think, throughout my life, living in the west, I’ve gone through a lot of the experiences they’ve had of just trying to fit in and desperately just wanting to blend in with everyone,” Sarah said.
“And then, being very proud of my language and my heritage and wanting to hold onto that very strongly.”
Sarah and her fellow cast members identify strongly with their Palestinian heritage despite some having never visited the country.
“A lot of it is also the guilt of being away and just feeling a sense of, in a way betrayal, that I’m not there – with the people there,” Sarah said.
Two of the women the play focuses on arrived as children, and their experiences at school include being bullied, being called names and being teased for the food they ate.
Performer Nour lived most of her life in Jordan before moving to Brisbane last year, and said her experience was “probably easier” than the women who migrated before her, but that “some things don’t change”.
She said she wants the play’s audience to understand what refugees go through. Sarah agrees.
“I just believe it’s so important to share about what’s happening in Palestine, and how people have been affected and the reasons behind so many things,” she said.
Sarah said the overarching message in the play is “struggling with being different - wherever you are.”
Director Monsour said she does not want to address the political discourse surrounding migrants and refugees through her work – and hopes it remains detached from political agendas.
Rather, she envisions the project as a portrayal of the unique and potent experiences of Arab migrant women, told first-hand by them.
Even so, the performers have had to omit their last names from promotional material – fearing that an association with the play may cause problems if travelling to Palestine in the future.
Remembering Palestine runs until Sunday at the Bedouin Brew café in Rockley, Brisbane.