Beirut, Lebanon – The viewers burst into laughter – and almost burst into tears – as 18 youth and younger adults from round Lebanon shared their life tales and struggles with identification, sectarianism, racism, and social marginalisation.
It was the story of a younger Druze man who was bullied as a result of he was poor, a Syrian-Lebanese lady born and bred in Beirut scuffling with the nation’s discriminatory nationality regulation, a Sunni man from Tripoli raised in a Shia orphanage on the outskirts of the capital for 14 years with out ever understanding his identification – and extra.
Taarafou – Arabic for “Get to Know Every Different” – is a play that Lea Baroudi, the co-founder and director of the non-profit organisation MARCH Lebanon, says is extra essential than ever for the troubled nation. She introduced famend playwright and poet Yehia Jaber to write down and direct the play, primarily based on the 18 actors’ real-life experiences.
“After the Tayouneh clashes, the rising friction and polarisation and hatred – engaged on the bottom is necessary, however generally you want a instrument that sends a message,” Baroudi tells Al Jazeera.
“The thought was to showcase the primary points plaguing our nation, by means of the brand new era even, and take away all of the stigmas associated to areas and spotlight how necessary it’s to agree that we don’t must struggle primarily based on a sure identification.”
The play is a part of a wider social programme, and consists of group psychological assist. Baroudi and MARCH Lebanon for a decade have labored on quite a lot of community-building and conflict-resolution tasks in Tripoli and the capital Beirut.
The performances came about in Beirut’s Sunflower Theater, proper by the Tayouneh roundabout the place armed clashes between Christian Lebanese associates and Shia events Hezbollah and Amal came about final October.
“I used to be hesitant at first, however after assembly Yehia Jaber and Lea Baroudi, I made a decision to go for it,” 31-year-old Ibrahim Nazha tells Al Jazeera. The tattoo artist and aspiring rapper was the eldest among the many actors, all of whom by no means acted on stage earlier than.
Nazha shared his story about how he skilled racism in his native Baalbek, as a result of his mom was from Liberia. “They might name me ‘coal’,” he instructed the viewers.
The actors high-fived and embraced each other after one other totally booked efficiency, however each Baroudi and Nazha say it took some time to achieve that time.
“Even the youth concerned within the play weren’t all on this mindset at first,” Baroudi admits. “Some folks wished to cease, and there have been arguments.”
Nazha initially doubted the play would quantity to something.
“At first, I felt I used to be neglecting my household, and I wasn’t positive if this play will imply something,” Nazha says, admitting the lengthy rehearsals and time dedication drained him. “However one thing stored bringing me again.”
Lebanon at a ‘turning level’
Baroudi says Lebanon has been “cantonized” for the reason that finish of the civil conflict in 1990, deepening current societal divisions primarily based on sect, faith, and even area. The nation did implement a reconciliation course of, as a lot of the combatants from the conflict stay amongst Lebanon’s most influential political leaders, with enormous stakes within the financial system.
Virtually all of the performers have been born over a decade after the civil conflict ended, however nonetheless reel from deep societal divisions.
“I’m satisfied that we’re at a turning level for Lebanon,” Baroudi says. “Individuals say the issues are corruption, the political class, [no] independence of the judiciary – however for me, there are underlying issues which might be the explanations behind all of them.”
Lebanon continues to undergo from a crippling two-year economic crisis that has pushed greater than three-quarters of the inhabitants into poverty. The Lebanese pound has misplaced about 90 % of its worth, and a whole lot of hundreds of Lebanese households now want humanitarian assist.
Baroudi says the nation won’t ever get better with out folks breaking these divides and constructing ties primarily based on their frequent experiences.
Nazha echoes comparable sentiments and says he hopes the play will encourage folks to put aside preconceived notions of the opposite.
“Everyone seems to be from a unique sect or area, however we’re all going by means of the identical factor,” Nazha says. “We’re all human on the finish of the day.”