Palestine: Community-based theatre inspires the youth in Gaza

Community theatre has the power to bring people together. It can also help community members acquire new skills, foster community spirit and develop artistic appreciation. Basma Society for Culture and Arts uses their theatre programme to empowers young people in Gaza and contribute to the diverse cultural expression in Palestine.

Basma launched the project Empowering Gaza’s youth through theatre to address the lack of theater programmes and offerings of cultural activities in the Gaza strip. Through this initiative funded by the International Fund for Cultural Diversity (IFCD) and in collaboration with University of Palestine, the young people developed practical skills in theatre production.

To understand the current state of the youth in Gaza, Basma Society started the project by identifying and analyzed local youth groups. The resulting study – Youth Groups in the Gaza Strip – allowed the project to address the real needs and vulnerabilities of their target group. 

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Ninety students, among which 47 girls, attended a 10-week training on community-based theatre. Ibrahim Qasem, a participant with physical disabilities, found confidence in theatre script writing. “Usually, people think disabled people cannot do anything. For us, Ibrahim is a talented boy in play writing. We are glad to see that he now believes there are things he can achieve”, said Tamer Ajrami, the project manager.

Basma Society also organized five theatre tours to remote regions across the country, reaching audiences that are often deprived of cultural activities. It also provided valuable practical experience for young trainees who had just completed a professional training. Throughout the tours, the organizers emphasized theatre’s role in enhancing social inclusion and community dialogue, and advocated for culture as a tool for peacebuilding.

“Most financial support goes to food and water, while the needs for culture are forgotten. Most of the youth here have no access to education or culture. During the first fifteen years of their lives, children have nothing to do. It’s a very long period during their childhood. We have talented young people like Ibrahim. They really need learning opportunities like this,” explained Ajrami. 

Theatre education waters budding seeds of culture in Gaza

The project has given rise to future initiatives in Gaza’s theatre. Theatre education is guaranteed to continue beyond this project. A manual on theatre production and technical skills was developed by a group of theatre experts and directors. A faculty on theater and the arts will be established at the University of Palestine and taught using this manual. A theatre committee consisting of 15 professional trainees has also been created to effectively oversee and stimulate the growth of creativity across Gaza.

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The theatre education brings hope to young people with a dream in the arts. “I always knew I belonged to the theatre, but there is no theatre class in my school. This project is exactly what I was looking for, not just for the training, but also for theoretical and academic knowledge. Thanks to this project, I finally have the chance to stand on the stage,” said Lara El-Louh, a 22-year-old female trainee.

While Basma Society witnesses their effort take root, implementation of this project was not always easy. “As part of the awareness-raising campaign for our community theatre initiative, we painted five murals. The pieces provoked a range of emotions among community members, and two of the murals ended up being rejected,” said Nawal Akel, project coordinator. 

Challenges did not discourage Akel. When asked what keeps her going, the answer is easy – “Because I believe in it. I believe that we are bringing hopes and dreams to people in Gaza through this project. We provide knowledge and culture to them, and I believe those are the most powerful assets we can give to the youth of Gaza.”