Palestinian fashion designers (Image credit: Rajha Shakiry)
Suha Khuffash, Arts Manager at the British Council’s office in Jerusalem, writes about organising a workshop of Palestinian fashion designers to create the costumes for an Arabic-language performance of Richard II in Jericho which formed part of the World Shakespeare Festival.
It was the first time I attend a specialised workshop in my area, and I found this really useful. Actually, one of the important things I realised in the ‘fashion design’ workshop was that diversity of cultures always enriches experiences. The different culture of the trainer had a great impact on my experience, in terms of ‘different’ thoughts, and mixing her ideas with mine. Furthermore, she had great expertise in the fields of theatre and costume design.” – Rawan Hamed – Fashion Designer
When I was first approached by the Ashtar Theatre in Ramallah to support the company’s production of Shakespeare’s Richard II as part of Shakespeare Globe’s international celebrations during the London 2012 Cultural Olympiad, I was very enthusiastic. It was an excellent opportunity for the British Council in Palestine to contribute to such an important international event, as theatre companies representing 37 countries, including three theatre companies from the Arab world, had been invited by the Globe to take part.
Working in partnership and adding artistic value to our partners’ projects are the bases for all our work, providing us with the opportunity to share experiences and gain mutual benefit. I agreed with colleagues at the Drama and Dance department to contribute to the production of the play by inviting Rajha Shakiry, a British-Iraqi set and costume designer, to work with a group of ten young Palestinian designers over a period of one month. Participants learned new skills and designed costumes for the play, together with the trainer.
The students celebrated their final works by organising an exhibition, which attracted hundreds of fashion designers from different fashion schools and theatres.
A Palestinian cast of very well-known and established theatre figures opened the play in the ancient city of Jericho in April. The performance attracted hundreds of university students, artists, critics and the general public, and was highly praised by the Palestinian Ministers of Culture and Tourism and the British Consul General. We also made it possible for audiences from marginalised and remote areas to attend, by organising their transportation to the venue.
Directed by the Irish director Connall Morrison, the Palestinian version of Richard II at the Globe, with its creative and subtle links to the region’s politics and the Palestinian political context, was a huge success with fully packed venues; over-crowded discussion sessions; and hundreds of media reports, reviews and media interviews.
During a wrap around event at the globe, the actor Firas Farah jokingly commented “When Henry Bolingbroke says he is going to Jerusalem, I think – ‘how will he get a permit?’”
At the Globe’s reception for Ashtar, Globe artistic director Dominic Dromgoole hailed Ashtar’s interpretation of the play, saying “it took a Palestinian company to show us what it’s really about”.