Back in July I was invited to represent Lebanon as a storyteller at the 2017 Jeux de la Francophonie in Abidjan.
I used the opportunity to share stories about my experiences clowning for refugees with Clown Me In and Clowns Without Borders.
I am always grateful to be given a platform to tell these stories, they are stories that are very important to me and to many others I am sure. They ares stories of human suffering, compassion and love. They are stories that need to be shared with the world. Thank you to all the artists and athletes with whom I had the pleasure of sharing these few days with, and thank you to my fellow Clown Me In member Chantal Mailhac who translated all the stories into french.
Earlier this year I had the opportunity to work with PanOptikum, a theatre ensemble based in Freiburg im Breisgau, Germany.
My relationship with the producer Matthias Rettner of Pan Optikum actually began 5 years ago when Chantal Mailhac (fellow Clown Me In member) and myself were performing Whispered Tales in Portugal. Pan Optikum were doing a huge street production so Matthias was there and able to catch our show. He loved it and invited us to work with the theatre one day.
5 years later and here we are! Matthias contacted me and asked me to take part in PanOptikum’s project entitled ‘Power of Diversity – The Crossing Lines’. I was invited to Freiburg on 3 separate occasions for 9 days each where I worked with youth and refugees to develop the piece HOCHWASSERZUKUNFT (High Water Future) which was co-directed by Sigrun Fritsch.
I had a fantastic time working with the group who were enthusiastic and great collaborators! We had the pleasure of working in the big and beautiful PanOptikum workshop space ordinarily used for building their sets. Working on a German text was a challenge for me but I thoroughly enjoyed the experience and I was able to focus more on the physical performance and stage presence. Sigrun did the rest and most of the amazing work
In February, the show was finally performed for two nights on the small stage of the Freiburg Theatre to a completely packed audience on both nights!
My final week in Frieburg, I performed Whispered Tales in two cafes. Whispered Tales is a collection of Lebanese and Syrian stories told alongside musical accompaniment and enjoyed with Lebanese coffee and thyme and oil. The performances in Freiburg were particularly exciting because I teamed up with students from UCW Freiburg. I spent three hours at their school telling them stories with students improvising the accompanying music and then three of the students offered to perform with me in the cafes!
So, together with Imelda, Donovan and Katja, we spent three hours rehearsing and then set off for our first performance. It took place in a small local café with an audience of about 40. The second night we performed at the theatre café before the main performance where we attracted an audience of 150 people! Both shows were a huge success, so thank you Imelda, Donovan and Katja for taking part and being so wonderful!
All photographs credit to Felix Groteloh
يهدف مشروع “تهريج إجباري” إلى جمع إثنا عشر مؤدٍ غير محترف (فلسطينيين، سوريين، ولبنانيين) مختارين من المجتمعات المهمّشة و المتركزة في خمس ضواحٍ من لبنان (بيروت، جبل لبنان، البقاع، الجنوب والشمال).
سيمنح هؤلاء برنامج تدريبي محترف عن فن التهريج في مدينة بيروت لتمكين قدراتهم وسينتج عرض واحد يؤدى في خمس مناطق مختلفة في لبنان بمشاركة من أعضاء “Clown Me In”، كما سينتج خمس فيديوهات مدتها ثلاثين ثانية يتم تداولها عبرالانترنت.
سيتناول عرض الشارع والفيديوهات المنتجة مواضيع متعلقة بمشاكل اجتماعية معينة يتم اختيارها من قبل المشاركين أنفسهم . ذلك سيؤدي إلى إلقاء الضوء على بعض من هموم هذه المجتمعات والتحفيز على ابتكار وإنتاج أعمال مستقبلية تسعى لمعالجة هذه المشاكل وإيجاد حلول لها.
هذا المشروع بتمويل من “صِلات: روابط من خلال الفنون” و Prince Claus Fund for Culture and Art
The project aims to bring together 12 non-professional clowns ( Palestinian, Syrian and Lebanese) from disadvantaged communities in the 5 districts of Lebanon, giving them professional clown training, devising a street clown performance together with 3 clown members of Clown Me In, performing it 5 times in public spaces in Lebanon and producing five 30sec clown videos to be shared online.
The outcome (performance and 5 videos) will tackle specific social problems chosen by the participants themselves. The performance and the 5 videos will shed light on some of these communities’ concerns in order to instigate the creation and production of future works that discuss these problems and find solutions to them.
This project is funded by “Selat: Links Through the Arts and Prince Claus Fund for Culture and Art.
Through creativity we can change the situation for Syrian refugees in Lebanon
61 million people are right now fleeing from war, persecution and poverty. In vulnerable situations affected by violence and uncertainty, existing power and gender structures are growing stronger. In areas of Lebanon where people who have fled from Syria now live, the situation is getting more and more acute as physical, mental and sexual violence against girls and women are constantly increasing. This is why, Clowns Without Borders Sweden together with Beirut DC and Clown Me In are starting the two-year project “Creative ArTs for CHange”.
Together, Clowns Without Borders Sweden and Clown Me In (Beirut DC) will train Syrian and Lebanese people with a background in art, culture and social work. They will be given new tools and methods to apply when leading group workshops for Syrian refugees in Lebanon. In these workshops, Syrian girls, women, boys and men, will be invited in separate groups to express themselves in a safe space, to create understanding for others and get psychosocial support through creative art forms. The project is being carried out with financial support from the Swedish development assistance via the Swedish Institute.
“We are living one of the worst and biggest crisis in the world, a project like this one would open a space for us to come together, to listen and to act. The need is big in Lebanon and around the world and we all need to act right now,” says Sabine Choucair, co-founder of Clown Me In at Beirut DC.
“Creative ArTs for CHange” starts in April 2017. The first of two 5-6 weeks’ group leadership trainings take place in August-September, and then the weekly exercises for refugees starts in October 2017.
Well summer is here and we have been celebrating by spending time at the seaside!
This thursday we all went to the beach for a relaxing time hanging out in the sun and swimming in the sea. But this was no ordinary beach! This was a beach in beautiful Lebanon! And this was no ordinary sea either, it was a sea full of beautiful of treasures!
We clowns couldn’t believe our luck when we emerged from the water COVERED in wonderful treasures! Fishing nets, empty packets of crisps, water bottles, plastic bags, diapers and the list goes on. We were so pleased that we decided to go straight from the beach to the Ministry of Environment in Beirut to thank the ministers personally for everything they have done!
In reality we are of course appalled by this environmental tragedy that seems to have no end in sight. We were at the ministry of environment taking part in a sit in organised by a group entitled ‘صحة ولادنا خط أحمر‘ which was started by four women who are fed up with a government not taking the health of their children and people seriously. They organised the sit in, with an open invitation for anyone to attend, and spoke about the very serious health and environmental concerns related to the irresponsible disposal of garbage.
As clowns, we took part in this protest in our own way, sitting down completely covered in trash on our return from the beach. The highlight of the event was taking a picture with an official member of the ministry who was very happy to greet us and didn’t seem to be bothered by the fact we were covered in trash.
Paolo Gallo, Chief People & Culture Officer, Member of the Executive Committee, World Economic Forum Geneva has written this beautiful article to help us all to live a happy and purposeful life. Read it here.
He also did a great Ted x Lausanne talk entitled The Compass of Success where he talks a bit about the work we do:
Thank you Paolo for everything you do!
Please support us to continue to do our work by donating here.
We really appreciate any contribution big or small!!
In May, Sabine spent 3 weeks clowning along the Balkan Route for The Route to Connect, a Service Civil International project. With Clay Mazing from Clowns Without Borders USA they spent 3 days training 16 volunteers in clowning before setting off together.
Throughout their journey, the group met beautiful people living in shocking conditions surrounded by fences, barbed wire and a complete lack of humanity and understanding from their host governments. Sabine reported what she saw along the way in a series of facebook posts. We have gathered them all here to be read as a journal, documenting the injustice of the refugee crisis in Europe but also the beautiful moments they managed to find amidst the sadness.
Please share these stories far and wide with friends and acquaintances!
More pictures from our Clown Attack in Aitanit!
So much fun running through the streets and playing with the schoolchildren!
It’s so important to teach children about the negative consequences of littering on our environment, our health and wellbeing. Teaching them to practice responsible garbage disposal and recycling early on is the best way to engrain good habits!
HERE’S TO THE NEXT GENERATION OF RECYCLERS!
All these beautiful pictures are courtesy of Enke Hwang.
We took part in a celebration with VNG at Aitanit celebrating the recycling and up-cycling achievement of the local community.
We performed with children from the local school, played with them and taught them about the importance of recycling and responsible garbage disposal.
We also clowned around with residents on the streets and took part in the ceremony itself, performing for the municipality and attendees.
What a wonderful achievement, we were so pleased to be part of the celebrations! This shows the power of working together as a community to keep our planet clean and green and what we can achieve when we come together. We are looking forward to seeing more of this around Lebanon in the very near future!!